Gordon Ramsay, the notoriously snide mega-chef, stepped outside of his range on Sunday night after the Super Bowl, acting as a mentor to a San Francisco-based chef in the Season 2 premiere of Fox’s Next Level Chef. Tucker Ricchio prepared the best overall dish on Sunday night’s episode, which, according to Fox, reeled in 15.7 million viewers— capitalizing on the Super Bowl’s overflow audience and making it the most-watched cooking show in television history.
A San Jose native and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Ricchio gained a national reputation through her work with a Bay Area startup called Truffle Shuffle, which provides home cooks with luxury meal kits that they can make while zooming with chefs like Ricchio.
The season premiere introduced audience members to Ricchio’s charismatic personality and low-key sense of humor. In an Instagram reel she posted before the episode aired, Ricchio expressed her excitement about competing under Ramsay’s tutelage.
“It’s an absolute pleasure and privilege to be chosen—hand-picked—by Gordon Ramsay, so we are representing Team Ramsay all the way,” she said.
Ramsay hosts the cooking competition show with Eater video host and chef Nyesha Arrington and British chef Paul Ainsworth. The three master chefs lead their teams in a weekly competition for a chance to win a one-year formal mentorship and a $250,000 prize. Named for its three-level set, the show is staged in an ill-equipped scullery with shoddy pots and pans on the bottom, an average kitchen in the middle and a state-of-the-art cooking lab up top.
The 31-year-old Bay Area chef, who goes by Chef Tuck, came up in the restaurant industry in San Francisco, working under chefs like Suzette Gresham at Michelin-starred Northern Italian restaurant Acquerello. In a YouTube video she posted to her channel, she acknowledged that women have historically been excluded from Michelin-rated establishments, calling them “a boys’ club.” During the season premiere, Ricchio said she hopes to inspire young gay women in the restaurant industry.
Ricchio's team began the episode in the middle-level kitchen. By the end of the night, the judges had named Ricchio’s scallops the best overall dish, describing them as beautiful and wonderful. Lucky for Ramsay, as her win saved his team from elimination. Now they're on to the top level.
Pressure’s on, Gordon.
Sarah Holtz can be reached at [email protected]