Chef poker ups the ante on Food Net­work’s ‘Kitchen Casino’

The Palm Beach Post - TV Post - - Saturday Evening -

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 nev­erend­ing 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 says.

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.”

Bill Ran­cic

Ste­fanie Pow­ers

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