Gordon Ramsay might not be the first name that pops to mind when you think of television gameshow presenters.
However, that might all be about to change, as the celebrity chef and Hell’s Kitchen star swaps the stove for the studio as part of new high-stakes BBC One game show Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance.
A concept that can only be described as a crossover between the James Bond movie Goldfinger and hit series The Chase, Bank Balance sees Ramsay, 54, guiding pairs of contestants through the game as they risk it all to win the £100,000 jackpot.
Requiring a combination of general knowledge and strategic thinking, the show revolves around a central game pyramid that’s tentatively balanced on a point.
With contestants having to answer a dozen rounds of questions, each correct answer sees the pair pick one of 12 different-sized stacks of gold bullion to balance on areas of the board.
If they get too greedy early on, the table could quite literally turn, with one false move resulting in the players losing everything.
Ahead of the show’s launch, we discover more from the game’s creator and presenter, Gordon Ramsay.
How did the concept for Bank Balance come about?
I go back to September 2019 when we were working on this sort of balancing game, this stacking game, and there was this tiny little pyramid that was sat in the front of my lounge and it was constantly getting knocked over. The one thing that stood out was the level of excitement, balancing these tiny little cubes across this pyramid.
Did lockdown help with the creation of the show?
We had so much more time on our hands. The level of development became way more intense because we got some great ideas, some crazy ideas. So, this was literally given birth across lockdown because we were on it 12 hours a day, five days a week.
When we came out of that first lockdown, I’ll never forget it – on the 4th July 2020, we got into a studio in one of the basements of the restaurants and started building out this pyramid, this sort of platform. And that’s where it all started.
Did the format change over time?
We sort of ripped it up and started again about 14 times. There wasn’t sufficient jeopardy, so we started thinking about, you know, how do we make it more exciting? Because balancing those bars is one thing but going up against the clock is completely different.
Did you find yourself championing contestants?
Trust me, there’s nothing wrong with telling those contestants ‘I want you to do well, I’m here to help you, I can’t answer the questions for you but I’ll be really p****d if you don’t win because there’s some big money at stake’… And then when you think of some of these things they were hoping to do, hoping to get out of situations due to financial restrictions. These are real people who are experiencing some very awkward, difficult, traumatic times and 25 grand, 10 grand, 15 grand, £100,000 – that’s life-changing money.
How did you handle the pressure?
I love that kind of pressure. I didn’t go up there all cocksure about becoming a phenomenal gameshow host, I wanted to be me. I think, off the back of that level of support from the BBC and not being in a straitjacket, I needed room to breathe, and so there’s something pretty dynamic about being given a show at 9pm stripped across 10 nights on the BBC.
Are there any similarities between the kitchen and a prime time gameshow?
If you’ve got 25 chefs in a brigade and you’ve got a four-minute countdown, you’re bringing that dish together, you’re depending on every corner of that kitchen to come together within four minutes. This is no different. This game is packed with jeopardy because you’re up against the clock.
If there’s one thing Bank Balance has taught me to be, it is decisive and that we can’t walk around with our heads in the sand across this lockdown. Decisive and stand by your convictions.
Are you missing the kitchen?
Well, I haven’t missed the food critics. But no doubt they’re coming back. What I miss more than anything is the atmosphere when you open those doors, walk into a restaurant and sit with someone you haven’t seen for a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, and you’re breaking bread, you have a nice cocktail and there’s amazing food. That’s what I miss. And then the smiles – the smiles on their faces. There’s something quite unique and content about being in that arena.
What are you most looking forward to post-lockdown?
Getting back to see my neighbours in Cornwall. And guess what? I’ve invited Joe Biden for breakfast. Wait till you see who I’ve got coming for breakfast. Big Joe! You know he’s coming down for the G7? He’s coming over for breakfast. They’re going to go crazy!
Gordon Ramsay’s Bank Balance launches on BBC One on February 24 at 9pm.