First ‘Apprentice’ rolls out ‘Kitchen Casino’

Bill Rancic expects to get lucky in his new “Kitchen Casino.”

The original “Apprentice,” the TV host and best-selling author debuts his new cooking competition show Monday on the Food Network. “Kitchen Casino” blends chef challenges a la “Chopped” with Las Vegas-inspired gaming. Chef Roulette, anyone?

“People LOVE food,” Rancic said in a phone interview. “It’s true; the way to your heart is through your stomach. People love learning, too. They do that as they watch chefs compete.”

Each episode pits four chefs in kitchen challenges that incorporate familiar games. A giant slot machine pays off in ingredients. The cooking stations spin like a roulette wheel. In a version of foodie poker, Rancic deals cards with more ingredients. Bluffing will cost these contestants; they’ve got to have serious chops to succeed in this kitchen’s “high steaks” gambles.

“It’s stressful — and magical,” Rancic said. “You wonder: Can the chefs pull it off?”

As a Chicago entrepreneur, Rancic made reality TV history as the first winner of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” Since Donald Trump said “You’re hired” in 2004, Rancic has enjoyed a busy (and visible) career as a developer, author, restaurateur, inspirational speaker, producer and TV host.

His books “You’re Hired: How to Succeed in Business and Life” and “Beyond The Lemonade Stand” both became New York Times best sellers. He had another hit with “I Do ... Now What?,” co-authored with his wife (and sometimes TV co-star) Giuliana.

“Never in a million years did I dream these things would happen,” Rancic said. “I was lucky enough when Donald Trump hired me; I was a judge on ‘The Apprentice’ for six seasons, too. Now at the Food Network, I love it. I’m just thrilled to be doing this show. It’s so different — and fun!”

For a Q & A with Rancic, read The Bee’s Feast section Sunday.