Richard Blais Reveals Wild Backstage Details From Next Level Chef - Exclusive

The latest cooking competition to launch on FOX is a pretty wild ride. In fact, in the words of "Next Level Chef" co-host Richard Blais, who is hosting and judging the competition along with Gordon Ramsay and Nyesha Arrington, the show is "something that's never been done before." As Blais said during a recent exclusive interview with Mashed, he's well aware you hear that a lot, that "never been done before" thing, but in this case? It's legit.

Blais was immediately attracted to the idea of "Next Level Chef." At first, he was on board not because of the core concept of the show, but because of the people involved. "I automatically I wanted to do it," he said to Mashed.  "I've worked with Gordon before, and I've worked with Nyesha before, and I have so much respect for both of them ... To be able to learn from them, someone who's excelled at their craft and every which way, was pretty special. So it was an automatic yes for me. [But] just seeing the treatment for [the show] and just looking at a rendering of it was, that it's not something that's ever been done before. I think you hear that a lot, and you see it on paper sometimes, and you're like: 'OK, it's a cooking competition that's never been done before.'"

Blais saw the set, and he was blown away: "You show up in front of this thing, this set, which was the tallest non-permanent structure in Las Vegas, and is three full stories. And almost, for me, it was theatrical to be in front of it, because it's such an effort [put into it]. And my first thought was, this show, without having seen anything else besides just the set, is award worthy just for the set itself."

The many challenges Next Level chefs face, according to Richard Blais

It's what takes place on the stupefying set that is set to make "Next Level Chef" a wildly successful show. "I love the game, the competition," Blais said. When you see the set, you're like, oh, the three levels are totally different, not just because yes, they have different equipment and you get into the culinary game that the basement only has one burner and a wobbly pan, but then small things that I'm just learning because I am in front of the camera more often, is just the lighting. The lighting on each level is totally different to set the sort of mood, and [they did] just a fantastic job."

As for the actual cooking action, Blais described how chefs working on camera have to become masters of improvisation, both in their words and their cooking, if they want to compete at a level deserving of victory. "'Next Level Chef' happens to be, probably, the toughest improv," he said. "And I've been around a lot of other cooking competition shows from every perspective. And it's really fast — the chefs have to think on their feet, they have to run to this platform and grab as many ingredients as they can to work into a dish, and there's always a clock in a competition show, but I feel like it's more intense and harder [here]."

Asked about any mistakes the competitors made, Blais responded that mostly it was not going big enough with things. "The common mistake [was] not grabbing enough things," he explained. "That's tough to have the confidence to grab extra ingredients, because you only have one shot to grab them. I think that's something early on, certainly, I think you're going to see might happen."

Another big mistake some of the chefs made? Trying to "do too much," Blais said, meaning focusing too much on presentation and flourishes, and not remembering: "That first step, which is, hey, it's got to be delicious food!"

New episodes of "Next Level Chef" air Wednesday nights on Fox.