Since Bill Rancic won the original “The Apprentice,” he’s been a fixture on reality TV, and this week he adds a cooking competition to his resume.
Though it may seem like he’s milking the never-ending possibilities of the genre, Rancic is a natural fit as host of Food Network’s “Kitchen Casino,” premiering Monday, April 7.
Rancic’s abiding interest in food includes the Italian restaurant he and wife Giuliana, the E! correspondent, have in Chicago. They’re opening a nearby steakhouse and another restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Rancic understands what people want — food and gambling being pretty high up there — and wants to deliver it, which he does in this show.
“We have casino-themed challenges that basically combine your cooking skill with strategy, so if you are playing a game of chef poker you have to be prepared to bluff,” Rancic tells Zap2it.
Chefs are dealt ingredients on cards, as if they were playing poker. They can trade or hold cards, which could be as random as Cool Whip, oxtail, white bread and Kool-Aid.
“If you liked ‘Chopped,’ then you will love this,” Rancic says.
If chefs trade cards, they could conceivably lose oxtails but get chicken livers. “Then you are stuck,” he says. “Then you have to cook with it.”
Chefs will also play a slots game, but instead of lemons and 7s, ingredients they must use will pop up.
Rancic knows his way around a kitchen, has taken cooking classes and discovered he liked to cook at age 10. His grandmother taught him how to make pancakes.
He invited over all her friends in the neighborhood, and when cleaning up, found that each woman had left $5 under her plate.
“I thought, ‘This is amazing,’ ” he says, and he immediately started lobbying his parents to spend more time at Grandma’s.
Eventually, his mom found his stash of cash in his sock drawer and put an end to him making money off the old ladies. Rancic laughs at the memory of his childhood entrepreneurial skills.
What did you have dinner for last night?
“We are on vacation with our son, who is 1 1/2. He’s in a Daddy phase right now. I have to carry him everywhere. Last night, we skipped dinner. We had a late lunch and for dinner had four oversized cookies, two peanut butter, two snickerdoodles and ice cream and whipped cream.”
What is always in your refrigerator?
“Gallons of milk for Duke. It’s mostly his food in the refrigerator — applesauce, turkey — mostly food for him.”
What is your next project?
“The restaurants and the new Food Network show. For me it was exciting to see these chefs and see what they could make.”
What’s the best dish you cook?
“I cook a great fish, a great salmon. I grill it, get the skin nice and crispy. And couscous.”