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Exclusive: The World Cook's Emma Willis and Fred Sirieix promise 'Olympics of cooking!'

 Fred Sirieix and Emma Willis stand in the studios of The World Cook's UK headquarters, with a wall of ovens behind them in the background.
Fred Sirieix and Emma Willis stand in the studios of The World Cook's UK headquarters, with a wall of ovens behind them in the background.

The World Cook season 2 is arriving on Prime Video, and a new batch of both professional chefs and home cooks are set to take on some huge culinary challenges in a variety of scenic international locations.

Produced in association with travel company TUI, the season begins with its first heats in the show's UK headquarters, where hosts Emma Willis and Fred Sirieix offer words of encouragement and occasionally even advice to the assembled cooks before the chefs serve up dinner for the judges — twice Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar, and professional cook and former Great British Bake Off finalist Crystelle Pereira. Those who impress the judges advance to the international stages of the competition, but those who fail to impress have to pack their suitcases and return home.

Last year, we were invited to the show's UK headquarters to watch (and smell, but sadly not taste) the action up close — and during a break in filming, Emma and Fred told us what's on the menu in season two...

The World Cook interview with Emma Willis and Fred Sirieix

How excited are you both to be back for a second season?

EMMA: "I mean, I'm stoked. Fred is very much the professional, and I am the amateur who loves eating food, so I feel like I've hit the jackpot with this show! But I like to learn along the way — Fred has taught me loads, especially how to carry a plate, put it on the table, make sure it's in the right position..."

FRED: "You're a great waitress."

EMMA: "I didn't even think about the food facing the right direction, but when it's presented, it has to be right."

FRED: "It doesn't matter because this is a culinary competition, but it's the professional in me! I can't even put a plate down the wrong way, because even though we don't judge it, I know it. It's pointless, but we still do it."

EMMA: "No it's not! Because that's part of the industry where a lot of the chefs come from — although not all of them are professional chefs, some are home chefs. But yes, I love food, and I love people, so this is a lovely little spot for me."

You hadn't worked together before the first season. Have you enjoyed co-hosting The World Cook?

EMMA: "We do get on really well, don't we Fred? And that's not just a pretence because you're a journalist! [laughs] It's real! And it's so nice doing a second series. We hadn't met each other before the first one, though we had met on Zoom. You're always kind of feeling your way through a first series — what will work, what won't, what you'd like to do differently if you get the chance again, and more often than not, you don't get the chance again because shows have one chance, and if they don't make it, they're gone. But this was fantastic, and we got the opportunity to do it again, and now we're doing it bigger and better than the first time. And this time Fred and I actually now know each other really well!"

FRED: "The first series was easy because Emma is a real pro, and I like to work with pros. The whole team here is absolutely incredible, it runs like clockwork, and that's not the case with all the productions that you work on, so it's really good in that way. And we were already really clear with the first series, this is about positioning The World Cook as the go-to competition, as something that people around the world will look up to. This really is the Olympics of cooking!"

A contestant explains his dish to judges Crystelle Pereira and Atul Kochhar, who are sitting at a dining table in the studio with some of the other contestants
A contestant explains his dish to judges Crystelle Pereira and Atul Kochhar, who are sitting at a dining table in the studio with some of the other contestants

What changes have been made for the second season?

FRED: "For the prelims, instead of having all 16 chefs on one day, we have them over two days — and the two sides don't meet each other. We are elevating and making the competition more difficult, in terms of the search for ingredients, the techniques, the things we're going to ask of them and the breadth of styles of cooking that they are going to have to do."

EMMA: "They all cooked against each other last time, but like Fred said, because they're over two days — this probably won't make much sense on paper, but think of it like everyone on the right sticks together, and everybody on the left sticks together, and they only meet towards the end of the competition. So that's quite interesting, because some haven't seen what other people are capable of — whereas last time everybody was watching everybody else and knew what was going on. This time they don't know what they're going to be facing."

FRED: "The other thing is that our judges are each going to mentor half of the contestants throughout, and help them develop. They are still going to meet chefs in each country where we are going to go, and learn the techniques, ingredients and the cuisine of that country, but they are going to be mentored."

EMMA: "It feels a bit fairer this year, because the judges will be with them throughout the whole competition. In the first episode last time we had one set of judges, then we had different judges on every week, and in the final those judges hadn't seen or tasted anything they'd done before. These ones stay for the whole competition."

And of course you're not just in this studio, are you?

FRED: "Last year we went to Mexico for the final, and we were with a chef called Benito Molina, who is the top, top chef in Mexico, he's amazing. He took us to some incredible places, we met incredible people and had beautiful food. We learned so much and we had a good time, but for the contestants, it's incredible. What a culinary journey for them! This is going to be the same, going to different countries: Emma is travelling in the quarter finals, so she is going to Turkey and Iceland."

EMMA: "And then we're both going to Croatia and Crete. And then we are all going..."

FRED: "Don't say where we are going for the final."

EMMA: [deadpan] "I mean, it's all right..."

FRED: "Thailand."

EMMA: "We're going to Thailand for the final! Amazing. I could absolutely do a happy dance right now, I'm so excited!"

Fred Sirieix and Emma Willis standing on the beach in Thailand
Fred Sirieix and Emma Willis standing on the beach in Thailand

Do you find yourselves getting quite attached to the contestants as the process goes on?

EMMA: "Yeah, I think you do. When you watch them cook and you see their passion, you can feel it — and the ones that don't go through, you see their disappointment and how devastated they are, and the excitement and relief of the ones that go through is also very obvious. But the further you go along in the competition, you spend more time with them — you travel, you hang out with people and you get to know them. Fred and I both work on things that involve lots of people, and you just want the best for them, so it's very hard not to get attached when you're doing something that means a lot to the people involved."

Emma, we saw you stirring a contestant's gravy in the kitchen — do you find yourselves helping out occasionally?

EMMA: "It's the second series, so I'm starting to feel a bit more comfortable in the kitchen! And Fred keeps telling me that I'm very good at carrying a plate!"

FRED: "We should open a restaurant together."

EMMA: "I know, we should! Although, I haven't mastered the multiple plate thing."

FRED: "I've been trying. Yesterday I said, 'here you go, three plates', and she was like, 'nah, I'm not doing it'."

EMMA: "I think if there wasn't a lot at stake, I'd absolutely give it a go. But if I drop their food for the judges, I don't think they're going to be my friend! So no, I'm not trialling it this week!"

Emma Willis hosting The World Cook season 2
Emma Willis hosting The World Cook season 2

Did you take any culinary inspiration from season one? Did you try out any of the dishes at home?

EMMA: "I would love to try things out, but I cook for my children, and they just absolutely wouldn't eat it. I mean, they'd probably eat some of it. There's so much time and effort and love that goes into this, and when you're cooking for your children, I would put time and love and effort into it. So if they went, 'I don't really like it', I'd be so cross! I'd be like, 'sit there and eat it! I've just given my everything to that meal!'"

FRED: "When I'm cooking at home, it's like I'm being judged on The World Cook every single time. My kids are like, 'this is very good, I like this, I don't like that' every day."

EMMA: "They're very honest, children."

FRED: "We could do a World Cook with kids — World Cook Juniors!"

EMMA: "Come on Fred, let's make it happen!"

  • The World Cook season 2 launches on Prime Video on Saturday March 16. Season 1 is available now