'MasterChef' cooking for Fox

Gordon Ramsay to co-produce, star in cooking reality series

Foodies, get ready for a culinary "American Idol."

Fox is expanding its line of Gordon Ramsay reality shows by giving a series order to Reveille's "MasterChef."

Ramsay will co-produce and star in the program, in which nonprofessional cooks compete to create perfect dishes. The project is based on a Shine TV format that's popular in the U.K. and Australia. The show joins Ramsay's other titles on Fox -- "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares" -- and should keep Fox stocked with the temperamental chef's reality fare nearly year-around.

"A huge reality format that works great in other countries plus Gordon Ramsay guarantees success," Fox president of alternative Mike Darnell said. "Gordon is like our 'CSI.' "

The "MasterChef" format has aired in several incarnations in the U.K., with the earliest dating to 1990. The Australian edition premiered this year and has been a ratings powerhouse, its finale ranking as one of the country's most-watched programs in a decade.

"This is a huge, nationwide search for the best amateur chef in America," said executive producer Howard T. Owens of Reveille. "It's about people who are lawyers, construction workers and stay-at-home moms but whose real passion is to make great food. This is their shot to prove they have what it takes."

The details for Fox's "MasterChef" are being worked out, but the show will most closely resemble the Australian edition. In each season, contestants from around the country audition by creating a dish for a panel of three judges to earn spots as semi-finalists. The remaining contestants compete each week via team-based and individual cooking challenges until only one remains.

"'Hell's Kitchen' is about finding a head chef that can work in a restaurant," Darnell said. "This is about creating the perfect dish, and the contestants can be plucked from anywhere."

Since Fox is ordering relatively few episodes (between 12 and 15) compared to the Australia edition, which was stripped six nights a week, the format is expected to evolve over the coming weeks.

Scheduling has yet to be determined. One possible scenario is Fox will air a late spring edition of "Hell's Kitchen" that will bleed into the summer and then, out of "Kitchen," unveil "MasterChef."

"Hell's Kitchen" is the network's second-most-popular reality series after "American Idol," yet it's more versatile than the singing competition -- Fox has aired "Hell's" all over its schedule and at different times of the year, and the show always performs competitively. Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" has been a more modest performer and is expected to return sometime next year. Fox also has a live cooking special coming up with Ramsay called "Cook Along."

"Because we've had such success with cooking reality, we're the best place to make this into a big show," Darnell said.

Shine International will handle international distribution for the format, which was originally produced by Shine TV. Owens, Mark Koops and Elisabeth Murdoch will exec produce for Shine Reveille. Ramsay, Ben Adler and Pat Llewellyn are exec producers for Ramsay's One Potato Two Potato.