There can’t be many people who saw 2019 sci-fi horror movie The Platform and thought – “wow, what a fun idea for a cooking competition”. They’d have to be the sort of individual that gets a sick kick out of kitchen-based sadism, otherwise known as Gordon Ramsay.
In the movie, a platform of gourmet food descends the cells of a Kafkaesque prison – the top level convicts getting their fill, with the lower levels left with bones and scraps.
In the Ramsay-produced and hosted Next Level Chef (ITV1, 15 February, 9pm), the contestants are split across three levels – imaginatively named Top, Middle and Basement. The upper level has the best cooking gear, the bottom mimicking a poorly equipped home kitchen. A dumb waiter of ingredients stops for mere seconds at each level, with the hopefuls grabbing what they’ll cook with, before it descends.
It is billed as the “world’s toughest cooking competition ever”, which may be fair. But too much focus is put on making life tough for the contestants – a mix of pros, influencers and home cooks – and not enough on the food.
In the semi-final, some much-needed levity was brought by guest mentor Big Zuu. “I’m a guest chef on a Gordon Ramsay programme – made it,” he joked.
While Ramsay’s regular lieutenants Nyesha Arrington and Paul Ainsworth seemed to do little but fluster and belittle, Zuu inspired.
As one contestant put it: Zuu “made me settle down, and just relax and start cooking”.
A show disappointingly high on gimmick, but low on grub.