Why ‘Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted’ Fans Will Enjoy the Maine Episode in Season 3
Gordon Ramsay is back for another wild season of Uncharted on National Geographic (what better way to spend Memorial Day than watching the premiere?), and one of the locations in Season 3 is special for executive producer Jon Kroll.
“Mexico was really good, Puerto Rico is really good and Iceland — those are the three that I think are super, super enjoyable,” he tells TV Insider. “Puerto Rico was a very special episode for me because I was born in Puerto Rico and I had not been back there since birth, so I drove by the hospital I was born in and it was a very personal experience.”
Kroll tells us more about what to expect this season from the chef’s wild adventures and cooking.
When I spoke with you before Season 2, you’d said that you already had a short list of places on the itinerary for Season 3. Which ones made the cut?
Jon Kroll: Season 3 didn’t go exactly as we originally planned primarily because the world and the world of travel changed dramatically. Relatively few of the destinations that we ended up shooting in Season 3 were part of the original plan. The U.S. episodes were as planned, although we added some. We had always planned to go to Texas and Maine — obviously, those are very iconic places in America with very iconic food. But we ended up adding the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina as well as the upper peninsula of Michigan and Puerto Rico to the U.S. destinations, and all turned out great.
We actually scouted a number of other locations that we plan to go to Season 4 in South America and Asia, but travel restrictions just made those really difficult, so we stayed primarily in North America and in Europe. Mexico [and] Iceland [were] always on our short list, as was Croatia. And we also did Portugal and we did Finland as well. Even though it’s in two distinct regions, they’re pretty diverse. Maine is a lot different than Texas and Finland is a lot different from Portugal. We ended up with a great deal of geographical diversity, despite the limitations that we were saddled with.
How much of Season 3 is more of what people love and how much might be a bit different whether expanding on things or because of the adjustments you had to make?
The overarching lesson from Season 3 is that it can be uncharted in your own backyard. There’s plenty of parts of America that are very uncharted. When you go to the upper peninsula of Michigan, that’s like another planet. The people are from another planet. The food is not like something you have somewhere else. That was something that struck us. Even though we love going to the Indonesias and the Indias and the Africas, the ability to find hidden gems in the Smoky Mountains and at the Arctic Circle of Finland was very enlightening for us. It was a little bit challenging from a making-the-show standpoint because we like to deliver audiences adventure and uncharted areas. We really had to do some more extreme travel, even though when we go to places like Indonesia, where we do step off the plane, it’s uncharted. Different challenges, but I’m really confident that we’re going to deliver episodes that the viewers of Uncharted are going to be really happy with if they liked our previous ones.
Preview some of Gordon’s adventures this season.
Just in Portugal and in Texas, you see two of the most dangerous scenes that we’ve ever shot for the series. The rattlesnake hunt with the blind rattlesnake hunter in Texas is a scene I will not soon forget, and my heart is still beating every time I see it. And the harvesting of the barnacles in Portugal, we were seeing Gordon just get trashed against those rocks and he just takes it. He’s a crash test dummy. You got to give him credit.
Which ones were you especially excited to see him tackle and see how they turned out?
Getting him on a lobster boat in Maine is such a quintessential American activity for that part of the world and we found a lobster boat captain who would really put him through the paces. That’s something that I like just because everyone knows him yelling at other people on his other shows, but to see those lobster boat fisherwomen boss him around was, I think, good fun for the crew and will be for viewers as well. It’s adventurous. It’s a little bit dangerous. It’s a skill he has to learn.
Obviously, we always like our rappel scenes, so when he rappels down a waterfall in the Smoky Mountains and a cliff in Mexico, that’s pretty great. And then putting Gordon in a small plane is always something that is unsettling for him and therefore guaranteed to be good television. Flying to Culebra in Puerto Rico is one of the most harrowing landings of any airport on the face of the earth.
And of course we have to talk about the food. What’s the wildest thing Gordon eats this season?
Well, he’s eaten worms before, in New Zealand, in Peru. But worms are always good because none of us really want to eat worms. We have a new policy, which is that Gordon makes me eat any worms before he does. In Mexico, we had these worms called butter worms, and I thought they tasted like hot buttered popcorn. I told him, “These worms are OK, you’re going to be fine.” I think he got a bad worm. He said it tasted like sawdust, and he was pissed at me for telling him it tasted good. I said, “Try another one. I promise you it’ll be better.” And he refused to try another one.
At which location is the most elaborate meal that he has to put together?
Different meals have different challenges. For example, in Finland, Kim Mikkola, the chef he cooked against came from one of the finest restaurants on the planet, Noma. He was the sous chef there and has Michelin stars of his own. He’s also really a ballbuster, so he gave Gordon a really hard time. Just from a competitive standpoint, the Finland cook was really good, even though the ingredients were rather simple. A lot of times our ingredients are pretty simple, like the stuff that comes from the sea in Portugal and the goal is not to screw it up when you turn it into fancy food so as to not to overdress it. What we find sometimes is that the guest chefs are the ones who overdress the food because Gordon has learned to make the locals happy, you have to keep it pretty simple and just do subtle things to elevate the food.
Where do you think Gordon learned the most about cooking?
I think Gordon learned the most about cooking in Mexico because mole is such a quintessentially Oaxacan dish, and it’s so infinitely complex. And he learned from the mole master, this guy named Jorge. I think that that was something that he will never forget as a culinary lesson because it’s a process that takes days and he went through that with this mole master. I have to say that having tasted the mole that came out of that, it was maybe the most delicious thing I’ve tasted on the entire series.
I can’t wait to see the season.
Just wait to see what we have in store for Season 4, which has already been ordered. We scouted 11 locations that we were not able to get to just because the borders kept opening and closing. We are locked and loaded for Season 4 with some of the craziest places next, in particular in South America and in Asia. I can’t be more specific than that, but let me put it this way: We are going quite literally to the ends of the earth.
Can you say one or two things that you kept in mind from Season 3 since you can’t say much about Season 4?
I think that we got our fill of America and Europe in Season 3, and I think we want to go super exotic for Season 4, so the crazier, the better. We want to do a couple of special episodes that involve him having a competitive adventure with a chef that was his protégé. And we have some other ideas for special guests that we want to bring into it that we think people will really enjoy. We’re looking to do some tricky things. I do not want a Season 4 to happen without me, so I can’t be more specific than that.
Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, Season 3 Premiere, Monday, May 31, 9/8c, National Geographic (Time Period Premiere, Sunday, June 6, 9/8c)