Next Level Chef Episode 1: The competition begins

With both MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen in hibernation for the winter, you would have thought Chef Gordon Ramsay would have enjoyed a little break. Some time to recharge the batteries. It turns out not so much as Sunday saw the debut of his newest series, Next Level Chef.

The new series take its title very literally as three teams, each mentored and judged by Ramsay and fellow culinary superstars Nyesha Arrington and Richard Blais, compete on one of three levels of a massive three-story kitchen. The catch? As you go further down the conditions get progressively worse.

The winner will walk away with a quarter of a million dollars, bragging rights and the chance to be mentored professionally by not just Ramsay but Arrington and Blais as well. And considering many of these chefs are social media and home cooks, that prize is literally invaluable.

But first, the three mentors had to chose teams. The fifteen hopefuls were split into groups of five and each sent to a different level of the kitchen along with a mentor. Arrington got the Top Level, which includes every top of the line gadget and gizmo a cook could ever want. Blais got the Middle Level, which is essentially a standard kitchen you would find in any restaurants anywhere in the country.

Each mentor is determined to beat the others and win Next Level Chef.

Meanwhile, Ramsay his group was sent to the Basement. And yes, it is as bad as you think. It looks like something out of a 1950s New Jersey dinner. Of course, that didn’t stop Ramsay from demanding perfection from the five hopefuls who were desperate to impress the judges.

A few cooks instantly impressed with how they chose ingredients and prepared them. Reuel, who cooked in the Basement, was the first pick, going to Team Ramsay. His preparation of potted meat and kale took everyone by surprise and you could tell both Blais and Arrington wanted him on their team.

The schoolyard-style picking continued with each mentor having a strategy of their own. The final two left were Courtney, a personal chef cooking in The Basement and Sergio, a home chef who cooked in the Top Level with Arrington and did an shockingly poor job on his salmon.

Arrington decided to give Sergio a second chance and add him to her team, which to this viewer seemed like a huge mistake. He is arrogant and doesn’t listen and it’s a safe bet he will be one the first to go home. Which meant Courtney went to Team Blais.

After watching the premiere a few things stood out. First, unlike Hell’s Kitchen and MasterChef, Ramsay seems to be taking things down a notch, letting Blais and Arrington enjoy the spotlight. That isn’t always the case, especially on MasterChef.

Second, Nyesha Arrington came to win. Her appearance on Tournament of Champions didn’t do justice to just how fierce and serious a competitor she is. And third, Next Level Chef is way more intense then anyone was expecting. The timer is always counting down and things are always moving fast.

This could be a really fun and different cooking series. Another new episode of Next Level Chef airs Wednesday on FOX.

What did you think of Next Level Chef Guilty Eaters? Do you think it has potential or have you seen enough? Leave a comment below and let us know or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.