It has to be one of the more compelling cooking competition series to have arrived in a while.
BBC America’s “No Kitchen Required,” premiering Tuesday, April 3, takes three experienced and notable chefs out of their usual elements and throws them in far and remote corners of the world to cook for the indigenous people, using local ingredients, know-how and tools. New York’s Michael Psilakis joins “Chopped” winner Madison Cowan and New Zealand chef Kayne Raymond for this series that’s part culinary competition and part “Around the World in 80 Days,” as they find themselves cooking for and connecting with the native peoples in locations including Thailand, Belize, Fiji, New Zealand and Dominica.
Psilakis finds the challenge of the series invigorating and inspiring. “If you’re a cook, it really forces you to think outside of the box, because how many people cook this way, unless you’re on a camping trip?” he tells Zap2it. “Whatever [the locals] do, how they do it, with the things that they use — we’re doing it the exact same way.”
But it’s the connection with the people that makes the series for Psilakis and his colleagues. “It’s strange — you almost feel like you want to cook the best meal you can for your guide, because this guy is taking you out to hunt snakes and is teaching you lessons that his father’s father’s father taught them,” Psilakis explains. “I can cook a meal that may change the way a culture has approached their culinary heritage from the beginning of their time — that’s a pretty intense thing. So if I can do that for one person, does it really matter if I win or lose this competition in the end? I’m not sure. That’s the beauty of it, here — we are touching people.”
What are you currently reading?
“To be honest with you — there’s not enough time in the day to sit down and read here. They’re full, long days.”
What did you have for dinner last night?
“Some of the spiciest Thai food this side of the world. I have to say that I think that for the first day or so that we were here, they were taking it easy on us, thinking that we were the foreigners. Yesterday we sat down and we said, ‘Come on – I thought that there was some heat in this place over here.’ And they really handed it to us.”
What is your next project?
“I’m coming back to New York to build a couple of restaurants. I have a restaurant in the pipeline right now that’s going to be built in Astoria (Queens) and one also being built in Brooklyn. So I’m coming back to a full plate.”
When was the last vacation you took. Where and why?
“We were cooking for a hill tribe in northern Thailand. Just incredible. We had an interesting choice of protein for this particular trip, and I would probably say that it was the first time at least two of us had ever cooked any of these proteins before.”