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Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted’s producer, chefs, and network respond to criticism of the show

After watching three episodes of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, the new National Geographic Channel series starring Fox’s reality TV star, I did not find a show to champion. My review was critical of both the concept and Ramsay’s behavior, even though it wasn’t Hell’s Kitchen-level.

Why write more about a show I didn’t like? Several reasons: First, National Geographic renewed the series for a second season before it even premiered, and was happy with its ratings.

NatGeo’s president Courteney Monroe told TV critics at the Television Critics Association press tour last week that “early indications are that this show is a hit with viewers, with Sunday’s episode premiering to nearly double the timeslot average in persons 18 to 49.” She added, “We knew we had something very special on our hands, as soon as the rough cuts of this show started rolling in, which is why we have already ordered more episodes.”

Also, I never intend for my reviews to be the final word on a show; I love talking about all reality TV, and learning more about why a show was constructed in certain ways.

The showrunner of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, Jon Kroll, is one of my favorite producers, and not just I’ve enjoyed many of his shows (from Amish in the City to American Grit). Jon has always been willing to talk with me and others, in depth, about how he puts a show together, and I appreciate his insight, and his willingness to challenge me when he disagrees with my assessment.

Besides interviewing Jon, I also asked Monroe a question during a TCA press conference, and then sat down privately with three of the people featured in the show to find out what they thought.

Transcripts of our conversations are below. They have been lightly edited (mostly to edit out human speech, likes and ums and sort ofs) and condensed (usually for repetition).

Courteney Monroe, President of National Geographic Global Networks

Monroe took questions during NatGeo’s TCA session, and I asked her about Gordon Ramsay’s show.

Andy Dehnart: When you announced Gordon Ramsay’s show last summer, there was a lot of pushback about the framing of it: about this white guy parachuting into places and in five days learning everything he could and then [competing against] a local chef. I’m wondering if that at all adjusted the way you approached the show?

And then, when you were actually watching cuts of it: In two consecutive episodes Gordon spits food out; calls it “fucking disgusting”; compares a kitchen to the Flintstones—did any of that bother you as a network, as a producer watching this?

Courteney Monroe: Certainly, the concern and criticism that was laid out prior to us filming one frame of it was concerning. But I will tell you it did not impact the way we produced the show, because that was never the intent for the show.

And Gordon—and hopefully if you’ve had a chance to watch the show and hopefully listening to the panel, he’s quite humbled in this show. And he really learns a lot of new culinary inspiration, he learns a lot about cultures, he’s quite humbled in the process. He was incredible to work with and really committed to learning everything he could and being very respectful.

So, we certainly didn’t want people to think that was the show we were making, it was never the intent that we were gonna make that show and it’s not the show that we made.

Monique Fiso, Kimi Werner, and Mick O’Shea

Chef Monique Fiso appeared in the second episode, “New Zealand’s Rugged South,” which aired Sunday; chef and spearfishing champion Kimi Werner appears in episode four, “Hawaii’s Hana Coast”; and adventurer and fixer Mick O’Shea is in episode five, “The Mighty Mekong of Laos.”

My review was based only on the first three episodes, so I had not yet seen the episodes in which Werner and O’Shea appear, as I told them before our interview began.

Andy Dehnart: I wanted to start with the original announcement of the series last summer, which resulted in a lot of criticism of this idea that a white chef, especially, would parachute into a location, meet a couple people, and then challenge a chef of your caliber to a competition to prove that he knew the cuisine better than you all. I’m wondering how you felt going into this: Was there any trepidation?

Mick O’Shea: That’s not how it was presented to me at all. If this was the context, I don’t think I would have wanted to work with it. At the time, I hadn’t seen that press release; I was just getting the information directly off the representatives that I spoke with. They just wanted to expose the cuisine of that region, and they wanted to get talented, local chefs involved, because they’re the best qualified people to share that information.

Monique Fiso: I actually did see the press release when it first came out—I’m not going lie about it. As somebody who’s known for indigenous food and being really involved in that community, a lot of my friends, not necessarily Māori, actually tagged me when the press releases when it came out. Like, Can you believe this is going on?

So, when I got a call months later saying it was about the show, I said straightway, is this the one where he’s going to come in and act like he knows better than the local people. They’re like, No, no, it’s not like that at all. I needed a lot of convincing before I said yes to doing the show, because a big part of what I do back home, and what I’m known for, is putting a lot of research in Māori cuisine and culture and representing it correctly and authentically as possible. If we were to align ourselves with somebody who wasn’t going to do that, who we didn’t feel had the right intentions, we just wouldn’t be involved.

After several meetings and chats, and discussing how this was going to go, they got me over the line in the end. It was actually scarily close to not having me over the line. But the amount of research they put in, they really took on more of what we were doing and saying, We’re the students in this situation, and they were really respectful of everybody involved in our position as people who actually know how these things go.

I was really impressed. I wouldn’t have said yes to this if I felt that it was going to do any sort of damage to my culture or to my country; otherwise, I would be out of business.

Freediver Kimi Werner with Gordon Ramsay in Hawai'i on Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted
Freediver Kimi Werner with Gordon Ramsay in Hawai’i.(Photo by Justin Mandel/Humble Pie Rights Limited)

Kimi Werner: I also didn’t see that press release, but I did already have resistance the minute I heard the name Gordon Ramsay. I said yes immediately when I found it was NatGeo, and I can be showing some of what I’m passionate about. I’ve worked with NatGeo a lot and I’ve respected the things that I’ve done with them before.

But again, when I found out, oh, the talent’s Gordon Ramsay, it did kind of take me aback, and make me think: Oh, aren’t his shows about winners and losers? His personality seems so dominating. I felt resistance toward that.

But I just went into it telling myself, don’t be too judgmental just because it’s a name that you attribute these things to. You haven’t met him. And that’s one thing I try to live by because, even as I’ve been in the spotlight more, I don’t really like when other people think they know me when they don’t.

I went into it trying to be open-hearted, but at the same time, telling myself, If there’s any moment, Kimi, where you feel like any of your values are being compromised, call it, absolutely. I guess I was a little—I don’t want to say “defensive,” but guarded going in. And then to my surprise, in a good way, I felt like—and I can only speak for my episode, because I have only my experience in Hawai’i—it didn’t feel like a competition at all. It didn’t feel to me like oh, he’s a white man coming in to show…

Monique: To tell me about my culture. I would have just been like, Hell no.

Kimi Werner: …what my culture’s about, and then challenge the locals to show us they know better. Because if there’s one thing, I think, Hawai’i’s extremely sensitive to, that’s it. We’ve put up with that for long enough. The community that Gordon got in with are really the truest of blues that would not put up with that.

I think he behaved appropriately. I don’t think that anybody felt at all challenged by him … if anything, I think maybe he was the one taking a little gruff here and there because his reputation did precede him. We knew that we don’t have to be quite gentle with him. We knew that he’s in our kitchen now, it’s our rules now. And that was empowering, but also the way that he went along with it with humility was really eye-opening for me.

Andy Dehnart: Obviously you experienced the filming, but that gets condensed into an episode, which is much less than actually happens in real life. How do you feel about the end product and how they reflect both your experience with this whole thing, and then also your culture and cuisine. Does it capture it wholly, or is it limited?

Mick O’Shea: There’s limited time, and all you can really get in are some snapshots in an hour-long program into cuisine, cultures, and stuff. In my area, I think it shows some really interesting snapshots into little tiny sectors of the cuisines, and little tiny sectors of the culture. Certainly, there’s not enough time to do an encompassing thing where I would feel, wow, they really hit the nail on the head and exposed that culture for the first time. You can’t do that in an hour.

Monique Fiso: Obviously, some editing has to come into play. But I think they did a really, really great job of showing the Stewart Island, in particular, and the bottom of the South Island—its raw beauty, and capturing the essence of it, and the people. The spirit of the people was there. Everybody on Stewart Island is pretty chill.

And again, the same as in Hawai’i, if you rock up to Stewart Island—even as a Māori, going into their territory, because I’m from a different tribe—if you’re going to come in with some sass and be like, I know so much more than you, they won’t have any of it. Because, again, colonization: the Treaty of Waitangi. There’s that relationship we have what happened there. There’s no way that you could put all of that into one show. Otherwise, New Zealand would be its own season, and Hawai’i would be its own season, and Laos would be its own season.

But it did a beautiful job at capturing what it could, and telling the stories best it could, in the timeframe provided.

Jon Kroll, executive producer and showrunner

Jon Kroll, American Grit, circus, obstacle course
Jon Kroll on the set of Fox’s American Grit.

Before our interview, I reminded Kroll that he once compared me to the film critic Pauline Kael, who was both a champion of films and also a critic who eviscerated films and performances she did not like.

Andy Dehnart: On a scale of zero to Pauline Kael, how bad was [my review], would you say?

Jon Kroll: It was pretty bad. I think that your criticisms are focused primarily on our host, who is of course a large part of our show and the point of view of the show. I am a huge fan of Anthony Bordain. I watched every episode of every show he ever did.

They are such different individuals and the point of views are bound to be different. And it may be that not a lot of people get on board both of those trains. I do think this kind of show is great for opening the eyes of the public to the rest of the world—people who who may live in their own world and not see the global village as being something to explore. And I think that Gordon reaches a very different audience than Bourdain does.

Andy Dehnart: Sure.

Jon Kroll: There are people who would watch this show who probably would not watch Bordain, and I still think there’s some great takeaways from this for them. I think it’s a good show for opening the eyes of viewers to the outside world—different viewers than might get that from Bourdain.

Andy Dehnart: I appreciate that. And I also, I didn’t want to compare to them because I don’t think that’s possible and also not fair, really. In terms of like him introducing these worlds to new people, but also coming at it with what I call his “vinegar”—there’s some edge that is critical, it feels like to me, of what he’s seeing. It’s not always embracing everything he’s doing. He’s complaining, he’s criticizing, he’s saying it’s “fucking disgusting” and only crazy people would eat it. How does that help bring people in?

Jon Kroll: Fair point. I mean, to my mind, there’s a big difference for when someone’s cooking something and when someone’s introducing him to an ingredient. So any time that he was highly critical was when he was tasting an ingredient. I think I mentioned to you there’s two different grubs that you saw. And then the third time he spits something out in the whole series is, the Laos chef tricks him into eating a beetle nut in the market, which he knows is going to be is disgusting for [Gordon].

Andy Dehnart: I didn’t get to that episode—that would have been different for sure.

Jon Kroll: In general, we want his authentic reaction and then we allow him to shade that in interview. So, for example, in the case of Peru, the worm was sold to him as tasting like shrimp and calamari. I tasted that worm. I don’t think it tasted like that. Maybe shrimp and calamari ass. He tasted it and had a visceral, authentic reaction.

But in an interview it was very important to him—and it was very important to us—to include that he says, this is such an ingenious thing to have found. Who would have thought this thing was found on the side of a mountain? And there was a time when this was a very important food source for people. I think he gives credit to the validity and the importance of the ingredient in a cultural sense, but it’s after we get his authentic reaction.

The thing about Gordon that I loved working with him was: Whatever you get from him, that’s how he’s feeling. He doesn’t sugarcoat it. And that goes for when we’re shooting a scene with him to the crew. He is respectful, but if he doesn’t think it’s working, he’ll tell you so. And it also goes for when he’s tasting an ingredient for the first time. I do think there were times when he might have been polite when someone cooked something for him, but I don’t even know ’cause he was always very good about presenting that in a polite way to those people. So I don’t think he would ever insult someone’s cooking, but I don’t think he felt bad if an ingredient was rough for him … to tell them what he really thought of it.

Laos is a really interesting one because he tastes, he tastes a few insect dishes that he surprisingly really likes. And you may have seen the clip of the gecko whiskey that he tastes; it’s been posted. He was grossed out by the fact that there were geckos in it, but he was like, this is better [than] the whiskey right out of the still.

He eats both stinkbugs and toe biters, which are sort of giant cockroaches in Laos and he to compare the toe biters that are just roasted as being sort of like a crab- or lobster-type flesh to them. So he’s complimentary of local ingredients when he thinks so. But when he’s grossed out by them, he says so.

Look, I am the canary in the coal mine, so I have to eat and do everything that Gordon’s going to do on the scout, or on the preproduction days, before he does. So if I’m grossed out by something and he likes it, I’m surprised. Generally I know how he’s going to react and I’m ready for it. But I try not to tip him off because I want to be able to see how he responds. And I really appreciate the fact that even when he isn’t as overt and might say, Well, that’s interesting. I know that it’s an authentic reaction for him.

Andy Dehnart: Gotcha. I’d love to dig into some of the deeper production stuff I love to talk about with you. Just to one more thing about this structure, and my criticism of it: Did you come on after it was announced, or were you involved from day one?

Jon Kroll: I came on after it was announced and the who-ha about the announcement came up.

Andy Dehnart: Did that criticism, that the world doesn’t need Gordon Ramsay going and spending five days with someone and competing against them to show them that he’s better at their local cuisine than they are, did that at all come into play? Did you adjust? Did that criticism have any effect on the production?

Jon Kroll: I guess in looking at how that process played out, I can see how some people had that reaction to the initial announcement, but I do think people jump to a lot of conclusions.

The vision for the show was always going to be what we ended up doing. So the reaction to the announcement didn’t change anything. We just made the show that we were going to make all along. The one thing that did change is that his relationship with each chef is highly unique. So with Virgilio, who is a fellow Michelin-starred chef, the competition felt right.

With Joy [Ngeuamboupha], the chef from Laos, who is an unknown chef, but who runs a cooking school that’s dedicated to really carving out a niche for a Laotian cuisine, he’s a more understated character.

For Najat [Kaanache],the Moroccan chef who tried to get a job with him, and who started to give him shit from the outset, it was okay for him to be, Whoa, she’s coming on a little strong—I’ve got to make sure I show her what I’ve got. So the competitive element is something that we learned over the course of it really needs to be shaded and adjusted to the chef.

But the competition is never him versus the other chef. It’s the other chefs setting the local standard, and can he measure up to it? I do think it got a little more heated with Virgilio because these are two celebrated chefs who have celebrated restaurants and have a lot of accomplishments and don’t want to look worse than the other one.

Andy Dehnart: I definitely felt that: In Morocco, there’s basically no competition even mentioned—obviously he talks about the job issue, but it’s not the same kind of challenge established at the beginning like in Peru.

Jon Kroll: Well, sometimes when you do a series without a pilot, it’s like fixing the 747 while it’s in flight. So there were constant calls back and forth to NatGeo and to Studio Ramsay as we met some of these people and learned about them. And we said, you know, Najat’s feisty and she’s going to give as good as she gets or you know, he’s going to have all you can handle with Monique because you know, she’s tough as nails. And Sheldon [Simeon], the chef in Hawai’i, is kind of a hang loose guy—they’re going to bro down a little bit more.

What I encouraged the network to do—and to their credit they allowed us to lean into—is to really shade each episode according to the other chef and let the relationship with them take its natural course as opposed to forcing anything.

And I think that that’s really coloring how we look at season two in terms of really coming in with a point of view. We think they’re going to have this kind of relationship and we need to allow that to happen because that’s the real version of what this is going to be. But if they throw us for a loop and it gets more competitive than we think, we’re going to go wherever it takes us.

Andy Dehnart: Are [the chefs] people that he knows beforehand?

Jon Kroll: No, he had never met Virgilio before this. He had never met any of the chefs before until the day of.

Andy Dehnart: I don’t want them to hammer this to death, but am I just totally out of the wrong place to argue that this is problematic for a white British chef to parachute in and be, like, I can do your stuff better than you can in five days after I’ve done three things and tasted some stuff? Doesn’t that feel a little—it just feels like it’s not honoring them, it’s honoring him.

Jon Kroll: If you phrase it like you just did, you’re absolutely right. I don’t think that any of our locals or chefs felt like that’s what we were doing. And to the extent that it feels like that in the cutting of the show, that’s something that we need to adjust in the editorial. Because really what it’s about is: Can I measure up, can I learn something about this country in five days? Not: Can I master it?

Andy Dehnart: How did you find them? How did you go about researching both places and people that you wanted to have Gordon meet as part of this when you were in pre-production?

Jon Kroll: Well, one of the great things about doing this show with NatGeo is they have this amazing research department that works with both the magazine as well as the network. So, initially we got suggestions from them. We got suggestions from Gordon because we wanted to go to a lot of places he had not been.

We wanted a diversity of experience and diversity of terrain, so that every episode felt different. We wanted to do only one cold weather episode because nothing grows when it’s snowing. The Alaska episode is a very different episode because of that. We had an early team that was looking into a lot of locations, and the wheat and emerges from the chaff.

The ones that pop [do so] because we have a good chef, we’ve found some good adventures for him to have, because this is a very visceral and physical show. It’s adventure to get to food. So you have to have that cactus at the edge of the cliff.

Some sort of culinary tradition is very nice to be able to lean into. In introducing the show to America, to have Alaska and Hawai’i was important because those are still American but have some exotic flavors to them. And so we wanted to have episodes there. I think we can be a little more adventurous in season two.

So there’s just a lot of different checkboxes. What I can tell you is flight and travel time on the first season was not one of those checkboxes and I am imposing that in season two as being a very important part of it because we were exhausted. (laughs)

Andy Dehnart: It was all back to back filming?

Jon Kroll: We shot the Peru episode in December and then looked at what we had and had some discussions and just treated it like a mini pilot, and then we shot the next five in a row.

Andy Dehnart: Wow. Was it five days in each place or a little buffer on each side?

Jon Kroll: We have a little bit of advance time before Gordon shows up to shoot the beauty shots and do a lot of our drone work and everything. What we want to do is just have everything so that when he walks into these situations, we’re ready for anything.

Working with Gordon reminds me of the old Spencer Tracy [story] where he walked into a scene and the director of photography said, If you take one more step, you’ll be right in the perfect light. And he said, You follow me. Gordon never says that, but we never know what he’s going to do. So we shoot every scene 360. We don’t stop, we don’t adjust lighting, we don’t do anything. We just walk in and follow him and do whatever he does and shoot it as a documentary.

Andy Dehnart: In terms of the things that he’s doing—you said you were doing some of them yourself, like rappelling off a waterfall and whatever else. How were those found? And talk me through the decision to do those kind of adventurous things. You’re in more rural and remote locations instead being in the city and exploring culinary traditions. Obviously in Morocco, that was not the case.

Jon Kroll: The name of the show is Uncharted, and you could argue that nowhere is uncharted, but certainly you can argue that the capital city of a country is not uncharted. In Morocco, we started in Fez because it’s got the Medina. We actually talked about starting the Peru episode in Cusco, but there were just so many more interesting things outside of there.

The show is Uncharted. We want to try to keep it as open air and away from large buildings and cities as possible. We’re willing to make exceptions, but if I go through the episodes, I really think that Morocco’s the only one where we really start in a major city and then we quickly get away from there. I think I read something—and I don’t know who if it was in your article or someone else—where they said, Oh, they’ve gone out into the rustic things instead of explored what’s in the city.

Andy Dehnart: That wasn’t me, but I did read that. [Note: In The Washington Post, Tim Carman wrote in his review, “Ramsay’s pursuits focus almost exclusively on the rural, the indigenous and the preindustrial, at the expense of a country’s more sophisticated takes on cuisine. Conscious or not, Ramsay’s decision to deal with old cooking cultures, each essentially untouched by the modern world, carries a whiff of Western superiority. It’s not the best look for a middle-aged white dude in the 21st century.”]

Jon Kroll: Other people are saying, you’re calling it “Uncharted,” but you’re going to places where there’s lots of people and everything, so it’s kind of like damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

I think from our standpoint, we wanted to get away from big cities and away from airports and away from tall buildings as much as we possibly could. And yet not be unwilling to go to those places if they’re crucial to the story. The Medina in Fez is I think a thousand years old or something like that. So even if it is in a city, it’s got this ancient tradition and it’s a great place for him to start his journey. But then we got him out of there pretty quickly. So that was a very conscious decision in trying to make the show feel uncharted in a world where nothing is truly uncharted anymore.

Andy Dehnart: You bookend the time with chefs. Why have these other people versus just have the chefs walk Gordon through the entire episode/experience?

Jon Kroll: We wanted a chef who could represent all of the culinary traditions in its most pure form of the country, and who was very knowledgeable about the culinary traditions of that country.

Let me give you a specific example. For Gordon to do the show with the old woman cooking in the hut in Peru as his companion would have been a very different show, because it’s very difficult for him to find a lot of connecting points for that person.

So we felt the proper structure for this show was he meets the chef that knows all about the country, the chef sends him on his way to meet people that he has to discover for himself without a guide—or in some cases he needs a guide to help him translate or something like that.

But in general, he meets people along the way who don’t know who he is, who don’t care who he is, who don’t care about his Michelin stars. And they introduce him to things and show him things. And then at the end the chef can see what he’s learned and comment on it a little bit. We liked the bookend approach to it. We did talk about having the chef appear throughout the whole thing, but in the end it was a conscious choice to have it bookended because we just thought it was interesting for him not to have a guide on the rest of the journey.

Andy Dehnart: Does the chef actually help you lay that out or do they recommend people?

Jon Kroll: Yes.

Andy Dehnart: Literally, they’re saying, here’s the three things you really should do?

Jon Kroll: Yeah. We have extensive discussions with the chef as to the things that they think that [Gordon] needs to do to understand the country. And if we discover something, we ask the chef whether that fits into the culinary tradition. We use them as an expert to help us.

Andy Dehnart: One thing I noticed in the credits and was just curious about was the list of Culinary producers. What are culinary producers doing? Are they traveling with you? Are those people who are local?

Jon Kroll: We don’t have Gordon for our scouts things like that, and because the culinary aspect of this show is so important, it’s very important when we go to these places that we start to identify ingredients and activities and things for him to do and what we call the small cooks.

Those are things that are opportunities—we would have many fewer of those if we just waited for those to happen when Gordon was there. So we bring a culinary producer with us to figure out those things so that we have—not just discovery ingredients, but tasting of them on the spot and in an interesting way and using different techniques, such as in New Zealand, using the kelp to enseal the fish. … In the Morocco episode, they make a nomadic pizza, the kind that the nomads make on the fly wherever they go.

Andy Dehnart: Oh yeah: That was wonderful. I think I mentioned it in the piece, but the pizza scene was one where he was very complimentary and it was almost surprising.

Jon Kroll: Certainly for season one, it was really valuable to have a producer who’s dealing with kind of the adventure and activity and dealing with figuring out who would be contributors. One thing we’ve learned from this season is there’s a huge difference in Gordon’s experience as well as in the viewer’s experience of his journey. When we have contributors who are a little more dynamic, who are a little bit more—who will rip him a little bit.

So, we’re actively looking for more people like that in the next season that can do that. They don’t have to be English-speaking. We found some people who were happy to give them a hard time because they don’t care who he is.

One of the beauties of this show is he faces some of his harshest critics because they’re not impressed by his stars. In some cases at the cook he gets his ass handed to him about how he prepares something. And to his credit, Gordon said, when they don’t like something, I don’t want you to cut it out. I want that to be part of the show. That’s part of the experience of this show.

Andy Dehnart: It sounds like you’re in pre-production for season two.

Jon Kroll: That’s correct.

Andy Dehnart: We’ve talked a little bit about what might change, but what else are you thinking about doing to adjust for, or just improve on what you’ve done?

Jon Kroll: I think we’re trying to look at things that worked for us. In Peru, they climb the ladder to get to this beautiful place of where they can see the Sacred Valley. While we love that scene, it would’ve been nice if they were climbing to an ingredient. So I think that we’re really trying to enforce adventure leading to food. In most cases, that’s an adjustment we made mid-season, and I think we’re going to continue that.

I think our biggest adjustment we can make in season two is that we tie each stop along his journey to the theme or North Star, as we call it, that we establish at the top of the episode with the chef and the final meal. So for example, Peru was the first episode we shot, but I think it would have been a little bit more elegant in terms of, Oh, this is what this has to do with altitude. That is our north star, and this is how it relates to the final cook.

In Peru, there’s the fewest ingredients that he finds along the way that make it into the cook. So he uses the mangos, he uses the potatoes, but he doesn’t use the Guinea pig. He doesn’t use the worm, he doesn’t use some of the other things. We really want to make the episodes feel like a more coherent through line.

That’s all storytelling on our part that we need to improve as producers. So that’s the biggest change we’re making. I think that gets better over the course of the first six [episodes]. But going into it now, knowing what we want, we have the benefit of knowing what works.

Andy Dehnart: In terms of the final cook, are you gathering together everything he’s encountered along the way and being, like, Okay, here’s your mise en place of Guinea pig and grubs and whatever else, and go to town. Or is he planning along the way? How does that come together?

Jon Kroll: He has an idea going in about some of the ingredients he may encounter and what might be done with them, but there are constant adjustments that are made when he tastes things for the first time. That’s all done once he’s in the country.

We have to be very nimble as producers to adjust to him. This show would be a lot easier if everything was preordained. But one of the beauties of it is Gordon likes to be spontaneous and it keeps us on our toes and we have to be nimble as producers to be able to adjust to that.

Andy Dehnart: I always appreciate reality and reality TV, even when the reality is not the reality I love.

Jon Kroll: It’s one of the beauties of it—he doesn’t mind. He has no hair, no makeup, no assistant. It’s just him. He walks off the plane and he’s willing to start shooting the moment he steps off the plane; he doesn’t need any downtime. And he’s really, really good with the crew and, and grateful for how hard they work, and generous with them. And that’s something that was very gratifying to me because how the crew is treated is one of the most important things to me.

Andy Dehnart: Is it a big crew or you have to be pretty nimble to move around in these places?

Jon Kroll: The way we did it in the first season was we had about eight people who went to every place, and then we met up with seven or eight people who were leapfrogging each other. And then between eight and 10 local people in various capacities who help support the process: drivers, fixers.

We’re looking at: Can we make ourselves even smaller? Shooting 360, you end up with a lot of crew in the shot if you’re over-crewed. So we’re looking at each position in terms of, can we have some people feel fulfill multiple roles? I did some shooting in the first season and I, may end up doing more because I’m going to be there and I’ve got a camera in my hands at all times.

It’s taking me back to my roots: You know me from doing shows where I have 200, 300 people working for me. This is a lot more adventurous and fun, and much more indicative of where I want to be at this stage of my career.

Andy Dehnart: That’s awesome. Well, congrats on the second season of it and I will continue to watch and I will revisit it.

Jon Kroll: I appreciate it. I’m repeating myself, but he reaches a different audience and we want all audiences to be exposed to the world. I read your article—painful as parts of its were, I get where you’re coming from with it. You made the comment that he makes it all about him.

I don’t think that that’s an unfair comment, but I think when viewers tune in to see Gordon Ramsay, they want to see something through Gordon Ramsay’s point of view. So he doesn’t disappear into the background. It’s very much driven by his point of view. I think that’s what viewers want to see who tuned in for a Gordon Ramsay show, and I think that we delivered that.

That’s very different than some other hosts who might kind of disappear into the scenery a little bit. He’s always going to be there front and center. I personally, I think it’s what gives the show its unique point of view. You may not always like that point of view, but I think it’s an interesting one, a different one that people haven’t seen for a show like this.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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