As host of “Kitchen Casino,” Bill Rancic guides chefs through mounting cook-offs. (Todd Plitt)

As the first champion on “The Apprentice” and a reality-TV star, Bill Rancic has gotten pretty good at split-second decision-making and keeping his cool on camera. Those are skills the chefs on Food Network’s new show “Kitchen Casino” (premiering at 9 p.m. today) would do well to copy if they want to win this gambling-themed cooking competition. Rancic, the show’s host, will guide contestants in a series of high-stakes cook-offs (the final champion gets $30,000). But as a restaurateur — and as the guy who preps wife Giuliana’s meals — he’s no stranger to the kitchen himself.


What do cooking and gambling have in common?

They’re like America’s two loves! Americans love to gamble, and they love to eat. On the show, that translates into rounds like a kind of roulette, where chefs might not wind up finishing the dish they start out making.

Do cooking competition shows create better chefs?

I think they do, because the pressure is on. Chefs have like 30 or
40 minutes to create a dish. It teaches them to think on their feet and quickly produce things.

Why do you think we love to watch competition shows like this and “Chopped”?

Kitchen competition shows are so action-packed. They just get your adrenaline pumping.

The show has such quick-moving contests. Have there been any mishaps?

We’ve had fires, and in one episode the paramedics came because someone moved a little too fast with a knife. And some dishes just weren’t edible.

I understand you’re the cook at home?

Yes, I cook at our house, and Giuliana does not. I love to experiment. I do a lot of Italian food, since we own an Italian restaurant [RPM, in Chicago]. I also love to grill, where I do a lot of fish.

Aren’t you opening a restaurant in D.C.?

Well, since Giuliana is from Bethesda, we have roots in the area. Her mom and dad are still there. We believe in D.C. There’s just this incredible amount of development happening.