‘We’ve all the great ingredients to succeed’: We take you into the kitchen for the new season of Ready Steady Cook

The atmosphere on set is electric. Miguel Maestre is a perpetual motion machine, bouncing on the spot between segments, running down to the audience to hype them up, cracking jokes about his ‘fake’ accent, about how he is actually Michael from Bankstown, about how people in his neighbourhood yell out to “Magoo from The Voice”.

These are clearly running gags — a floor assistant offers up the same ‘Michael from Bankstown’ joke half an hour later to members of the audience, while Miguel’s mark on the studio floor is two pieces of criss-crossed masking tape with ‘Magoo’ written on it in marker pen.

I’m at Ten’s inner-Sydney headquarters, watching the filming of what will be episode 17 of the first series of Ready Steady Cook, one of a number of classic Australian variety shows being rebooted as part of Ten’s nostalgia-heavy production slate for 2024.

Already, we have seen the return of both Gladiators and Family Feud on Ten. Ready Steady Cook debuts tonight in prime time — the first time it’s been on screen for over a decade — while Wheel Of Fortune, also set for prime time, will come later in the year.

Fans of the original Ready Steady Cook will be pleased to note very few format changes. The major differences have to do with the new 7.30pm Friday time slot, and are mostly cosmetic. Whereas the old series aired in the early afternoon, with the budget and set such a timeslot commands, the 2024 Ready Steady Cook is supersized for prime time. The set has been given the shiny floor treatment, the kitchen equipment is better, and the studio audience is larger.

Maestre stops himself from referring to the original series as “pedestrian TV”, but notes it was “a little bit more rough cut during the day”, pointing to the crowded daytime schedule, and less turnaround time in production.

“It was a little bit more [of a] basic kitchen”, he explains of the original set. “I mean, we have every single bit of equipment available in the kitchen. That gets the creativity of the chefs, to cook better recipes. We’ve got a new element of a ‘pass’, like in a restaurant,” he says, referring to the long bench at the front of the sound stage. “So it’s almost like a restaurant element in the front, where chefs bring the food. I think the diversity of the chefs is a great element. And, the audience is, like, four times bigger. So the element of the audience, that almost ‘fifth element’ of the audience, is very powerful.”

The sense that Miguel is putting on a show for the audience in the room, and not just those at home, is best demonstrated by an angry ‘shhh’ a lady in the crowd directed at crew members nearby who dared to hold conversations about the technical aspects of the production while Miguel was cracking wise. The sense that Miguel could breach the fourth wall at any point and climb into the crowd is palpable; indeed his continued engagement with the audience — both when cameras are rolling, and when not — gives the room the sense of live theatre rather than that of a staid TV production.

However, the glossy television elements are never far from mind.

“I mean, we have an onion chopping camera,” Maestre enthuses, in regards to the step up to prime time. “That’s a pretty big deal, too.”

There’s also an extra competitive element for each show’s finale. “The format is obviously true to the original,” explains Rachael Brand, the show’s executive producer.

“We have elevated quite a few areas: one of those is the set and the styling, bringing it into that contemporary Friday night space, but it is such a well known and loved format. So we haven’t messed with the format that much.”

One element added for prime time is the Chef’s Challenge. In the original, the final challenge saw the chefs work together on a final dish together. Such friendly collaboration wasn’t going to cut it in the big leagues, so now it’s chef vs chef vying for the Bronze Ladle, a new novelty trophy in the mighty tradition of classic TV novelty trophies.

Maestre admits the show gets “very chef-y” during the competitive end, which Brand agrees is the case.

“The meals that they create and the dishes and menus they create in ten minutes is phenomenal,” she enthuses. “It blows you away. And I think that extra element of competition in the prime time format will have our audiences loving it.

“It’s really gamified that segment, because every episode is new; it is genuinely a surprise for the chefs what that challenge will be, in the Chef’s Challenge. And they are so competitive! We love it because they’re so into it. That’s one of the things that we saw: our contestants and our chefs are genuinely there to win.”

“When the timer’s on, it’s game on,” Maestre adds.

When I spoke to Brand and Maestre during the week, it was still a few days out from tonight’s premiere episode, and edits of the shows were beginning to come through for review.

“To see that energy and warmth that we experienced in studio come across on screen is brilliant,” Brand says.

I asked whether there was any doubt the in-studio energy would translate onto the screen, to which Maestre is almost offended.

“Oh, come on! You know me – are you serious? I’m the only talent in TV that has to be told, ‘Please bring a little bit less energy, thank you very much’,” he laughs.

“Normally, it’s the opposite. It’s like, ‘Oh, can we do that piece-to-camera again? A little bit more energy, please. More fiery.’ I’ve actually got told the opposite. ‘Can you please relax a little bit? Everyone’s going to have a heart attack in here.'”

I quickly recant any suggestion that energy could be a problem.

“Energy’s definitely not a problem for our amazing host, Miguel,” Brand confirms.

“Miguel absolutely shines in this format. He has this incredible ability that we’ve seen for so many years on TV, that he can bring people together. He can make people laugh, and he makes people feel comfortable in his presence. That’s what we see when we have these real people, our contestants, on. While there’s lots of energy, there’s a lot of balance, too, in that we hear their stories.

“We hear about their connection to each other. Sometimes it’s their connection to food. Same goes with our chefs. In the Chef’s Challenge, we do have a different tone. We get to know our chefs, how they got into food, things about them that are unexpected. We learn that Hayden Quinn worked in Miguel’s restaurant many, many years ago. We hear about why Khanh [Ong] got into food, and how he’s always dreamed about being on Ready Steady Cook.

“We do have these moments of real humanity amongst the energy and the beautiful chaos that we have in studio as well.”

As for unforeseen production challenges, there have been quite a few.

“We’ve had lots of unforeseen challenges,” Maestre deadpans. “We like to use truffle every day, but sometimes it’s not in season.

“People are straining the pasta without a bowl underneath. That happened a few times. Olive oil boiling over the pot, that’s kind of a challenge.”

The perils of cooking television aside, it was fairly smooth sailing.

“We were so lucky to work on a format that’s so nostalgic and loved,” Brand explains. “Anybody who worked on it, or got asked to work on it, jumped at the opportunity. You actually heard people many times a day on the set, and I’m actually not exaggerating, say, ‘How great is this?’ ‘This is just a dream.’ It was just such an amazing crew to be a part of.

“There were things we were worried about. Hitting deadlines. Will we fill 120 seats in the audience every day? We had people that we had to turn away. It was amazing, the nostalgia of it. We have people in the crew who worked on the original. We have chefs who were on the original, contestants and audience members, people coming back to sit in the audience because they have such a love for it.”

So, now the preparation is done, all that’s left to do is wait for the customers.

“It’s like when you open a restaurant,” Maestro reasons. “You’ve got a menu that tastes delicious, the chairs look great, you got the nice art, decor ready, the menus look good, and you just can’t wait to open the doors for people to try your food.

“I think it’s the same feeling. I think we’ve all the great ingredients to succeed on a Friday night.”


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