‘He’s so not woke’: Why Janine Allis’ TV show with ‘kindred spirit’ Gordon Ramsay is cooking

“This isn’t my first rodeo”, Janine Allis tells Mumbrella of her role as a business mentor on Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars. This is correct. After launching multinational empire Boost Juice from her kitchen, she appeared as a shark on Shark Tank, a boardroom advisor on The Celebrity Apprentice, and even took on the wild in Australian Survivor. And that’s just the broad strokes.

So, Allis knows what makes for good television. She also knows how to sniff out a good business idea, and — more crucially, as she explains — a good business mind. Not that it can be easily defined. “It’s sort of sometimes intangible,” she says of finding that X-factor. But she knows when it’s in front of her. Hopefully, Food Stars also has that X-factor.

So far, the signs are good. The launch episode pulled over half a million viewers and continues to pull new eyes, while the show itself mixes Shark Tank’s unicorn search with the high-pressure environment of Ramsay’s cooking shows. You’ll also think about the humble Chiko Roll in ways you never thought possible.

Janine Allis spoke to Mumbrella about business, television, and how she feels about the current business climate.

So, what’s it like launching an as-yet unproven show? 

This isn’t my first rodeo, so I think you just have to go into it, and hope the audience likes it. You put all this hard work into it, you know, your heart and soul into it, and now there’s nothing more you can do – you’ve just got to see how it goes.

Obviously, Gordon comes with a big reputation, and he’s got a big personality. Were you worried about how well you guys would work together?

I was not concerned about anything. I was hoping that we would get along well, because really the chemistry between us, and everyone, really dictates the success of the show, and look, honestly, we could not have got along better, actually.

We just found we were kindred spirits, and very similar in so many ways – and we just had an absolute ball together.

If you had to do an elevator pitch as to why you think this show will work on TV, what would that be?

I think that, first and foremost, a hell of a lot of the success of shows comes with the talent. You get someone like Gordon Ramsay, who is unpredictable and outspoken, and particularly in this area of woke — he’s so not woke, and I think it’s nice and refreshing — then you throw in the fact that you’ve got the aspirations of TV, of the businesses and their aspirations for basically success in business, so the emotional side – then you throw in the challenges, which is obviously high intensity. It has the recipe for a success.

You worked on Shark Tank and Celebrity Apprentice, which are roughly in the same vein. Do you know straight away if someone has a good product after working in the industry for so long or, because of that experience, do you need more convincing?

No, no, you pick it up pretty well. I mean, you get it right and you get it wrong, but you do have a very quick first impression of whether you think this is something that’s going to work for you, definitely.

Are there things that you see and you go, ‘I can see that being a success, but I don’t think I’m the type of person to get it there’, or will you just jump on an opportunity if it just seems like a good one?

I think, ‘say yes, before I say no’, so I think you always keep a really open mind with regard to various concepts and ideas, and then you basically just keep at it, until it’s either something that you want to do or not.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see people that are launching a product make?

I think the common mistake is not actually listening to the customer, and making sure that you’re fully understanding what the customer is looking for, and that you believe that your product is the greatest product on the planet, without actually speaking to the customer.

That, and also running out of cash. People don’t manage their money properly and get themselves into all sorts of trouble.

For the show, if you could pinpoint some of the common attributes of the people, the products, the businesses you choose, what would they be?

Generally, I’m looking for people who understand whether they have a product that the customer wants. I look for that. I look for a spark. It’s sort of sometimes intangible. You really are looking for that X-factor, but most people fail. So I’m looking for people that don’t fail.

Which is easier said than done, I suppose.

It is, but I’ve been doing it a while. You can pick it: if someone’s actually got something that you think is actually worthwhile – you can pick it.

In your early days with Boost Juice, what were some of the mistakes you made, looking back, you would never do that these days.

It’s a really hard one to answer. And the reason being, is that every single thing that went wrong, ended up being the right thing for that happened later. You’ve got to actually get things wrong to actually adjust, to make a really solid business. If you do everything right, there is no learning. You don’t evolve. So it’s really hard for me to pinpoint something that went wrong, because now it is the best thing that happened, because I’ve got systems and processes to avoid this happening in the future. And, also, no-one learns anything from things going right. It’s actually the only learnings you ever have, when things are going south.

What keeps you excited? You’ve built a massive business of your own, you’ve been on these shows, you’ve also chaperoned people through their own stuff. 

Oh, look, business is always something that always surprises you. And it’s always something to learn, like it’s never ending. There’s never a time when you go, ‘Oh, thank goodness, I now know enough.’ That’s never a time. So, for me, it is that whole experience of ‘what’s next.’ Business always seems to have that exciting surprise for me, but you don’t expect to know where it comes from.

And, how do you feel overall about the current climate business-wise? Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

I’m always an optimist, because I always think there’s something you can do. The people that go, ‘Oh, there’s nothing we can do. Poor us.’ It’s all ‘boo-hoo’. And yes, in fairness, there are macro-forces in play, at all times. But really, I think that there’s always something you can do with regard to business.

Food’s good in the sense that everyone needs to eat, and people might not buy a new pair of sneakers, or they might go to a fast food instead of a restaurant, but everyone needs to eat. So, if I can keep giving people a reason to choose me, then I’ve done my job.

I think that, one of the things I found, that was a real challenge out there was that people didn’t know how to actually start a business, or when they started the business, how to grow. And so, because of that, I’ve started something called the Business Academy, which is an online course.

So, my hope is that, anyone who does the course, in five years’ time, is one of the one person that succeeds in five – because literally, at the moment, the statistics are terrible.

It literally is four out of five businesses fail in the first five years. So I want to help get people, who do our course, to not be one of those statistics.

Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars airs Tuesday and Wednesdays 7.30pm, on Nine.


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