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Gamification in Reality TV: The Next Level Chef


Are you a fan of cooking shows? Have you heard of the new culinary competition TV show, The Next Level Chef? If you didn’t hear yet, The Next Level Chef is a reality TV show (on Fox)is a reality TV show that stands out from other cooking competitions. It uses game elements and gamification design to make the show more exciting, engaging, and enjoyable for contestants and audiences.

This article will explore The Next Level Chef. Gamification is transforming how we experience reality TV shows.

Gamification in Reality TV: The Next Level Chef - Judges

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in The Next Level Chef

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation in The Next Level Chef

The Next Level Chef uses game elements to make the show fun and increase the contestants’ intrinsic motivation to perform well. Intrinsic motivation is the drive to do something because it is personally satisfying or enjoyable. Contestants on The Next Level Chef have three main intrinsic motivations.

  • The first is the joy of cooking.
  • The second is the desire to display their culinary skills.
  • Get the title of ‘Next Level Chef’ and recognition.

In addition, the game elements in The Next Level Chef also provide extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation is the drive to do something because of external rewards or incentives. Three rewards drive the contestants in this show.

These include a $250,000 cash prize and a 1-year mentorship. All of these help them to develop their culinary skills. These external rewards provide an additional level of motivation that makes the contestants work even harder.

Gamification Elements and Gamification in The Next Level Chef

The Next Level Chef uses various gamification elements, including competition, teams, immunity, head-to-head challenges, elimination, time pressure, surprise ingredients, rewards, and resource management.


The show pits chefs against each other in a series of cooking challenges. The challenges test the contestants’ skills and creativity, making the show more exciting and engaging for audiences.


Chefs are divided into three teams, with a mentor guiding each team. This element creates a sense of community and collaboration among the contestants, making the show more engaging and enjoyable. In the show’s first season, teams were randomly assigned. However, in the current season, mentors get to pick their chefs.


World-Class chefs Gordon Ramsay, Nyesha Arrington, and (Former Top Chef) Richard Blais are the mentors. The celebrity chefs act as mentors to the chefs, offering advice and critiques to help them improve their dishes. The mentors also judge the dishes and decide which chefs will be eliminated from the competition.


The chef with the best dish in team competitions wins immunity for the entire team. This element adds an additional layer of competition, making the show more intense and exciting.

The mentors of the other two teams select a chef for a head-to-head challenge. This challenge lasts for 30 minutes and is on the top level. The chef selected has the worst-performed dishes. This element creates a sense of urgency and adds to the challenge of the competition.


Chefs are eliminated from the competition based on their performance in challenges. This element creates tension and makes the show more exciting and engaging.

Time pressure:

The chefs have limited time to complete and present their dishes to the judges. This creates a sense of urgency and adds to the challenge of the competition. There is a time-constrained platform. Chefs must select their ingredients quickly. They must work within a set time frame.

gamification elements in Next level chef - time constraint platform

Surprise ingredients:

Chefs may receive surprise ingredients during the cooking process. This adds an element of surprise and requires the chefs to be adaptable and creative. Another challenge to the competition is testing the contestants’ creativity and adaptability.


The competition’s winner receives a cash prize of $250,000, a one-year mentorship, and the title ‘the next level chef.’ This element provides an external and internal incentive for the contestants to work harder and perform their best.

Resource Management

The chefs have limited time, ingredients, and tools to create their dishes in the show. They must manage these resources effectively to succeed in the competition. The kitchen has three floors, and they must choose the right ingredients to win.

Three-layer Kitchen Structure:

They cook within a massive metal structure built on three layers. The top-floor kitchen is state-of-the-art. The middle level is a typical working kitchen. The basement has outdated appliances, unseasoned pans, and barely functioning stoves.

Where they will compete in the following challenge depends entirely on their performance in the previous challenge.


The chefs are encouraged to be innovative and think outside the box to create unique and original dishes. This rewards creativity and adds to the excitement of the competition.

Skill-Based Challenges:

Some challenges are designed to test the chefs’ specific culinary skills, such as knife or pastry-making. This adds a technical element to the competition and allows the chefs to showcase their expertise. (Mastery)


The judges provide feedback to the chefs after each challenge, offering constructive criticism and advice for improvement. This allows the chefs to learn from their mistakes and improve their skills throughout the competition.


The challenges in each episode are often themed around a specific cuisine or cooking technique. For example, in one episode, the teams are challenged to create dishes that highlight the flavors of the Chinese.


In Next Level Chef Season 2, a new twist has come to the competition. The judges revealed a Next Level Immunity Pin. The best dish in each kitchen, awarded by each judge, received the pin. The cook who receives the pin can avoid the elimination cook-off altogether.

The Octalysis Framework

Yu-kai Chou, a gamification pioneer, developed the Octalysis Framework, which explains how to design human-focused design. The Octalysis Framework consists of eight core drives that motivate human behavior:

Octalysis Framework
  1. Epic Meaning & Calling
  2. Development & Accomplishment
  3. Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback
  4. Ownership & Possession
  5. Social Influence & Relatedness
  6. Scarcity & Impatience
  7. Unpredictability & Curiosity
  8. Loss & Avoidance

The Octalysis Framework and The Next Level Chef

The Next Level Chef uses the Octalysis Framework to design a gamified cooking competition that engages and motivates participants. The competition is designed to trigger the eight core drives and provide participants a fun and rewarding experience.

CD 1 – Epic Meaning & Calling:

The show taps into this core drive by framing the competition as an opportunity for the chefs to prove themselves as the “next level” of culinary talent. The chefs are presented with challenges that push them beyond their comfort zones and require them to use their skills to the fullest.

CD 2 – Development & Accomplishment

The show features a series of challenges requiring chefs to develop new techniques and overcome obstacles to succeed. Each challenge builds on the previous one, providing the chefs with a sense of progression and accomplishment as they advance through the competition.

CD 3 – Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback

The chefs are free to be creative and encouraged to experiment with new flavors and techniques. They receive feedback from the judges and mentors, which helps them to improve and refine their skills over time.

CD 4 – Ownership & Possession

The chefs take pride in their cooking and the dishes they create and strive to make them the best they can be. They are invested in their creations and take ownership of their successes and failures.

CD 5 – Social Influence & Relatedness

The chefs interact with each other and the mentors, forming relationships and connections throughout the competition. They learn from each other and support especially their teammates, creating a sense of fellowship and shared experience.

CD 6 – Scarcity & Impatience

The show uses time limits and limited resources to create a sense of urgency and pressure for the chefs. They must work quickly and efficiently to complete their dishes before time runs out.

CD 7 – Unpredictability & Curiosity

The challenges presented to the chefs are often unpredictable and require them to think creatively and adapt to changing situations. The chefs are challenged to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and try new things. Also, incorporating surprise elements into the challenges leads them to unpredictability. Contestants must be prepared to adapt to unexpected ingredients or constraints, keeping them on their toes and forcing them to think creatively on the spot.

For example, in season 2, episode 4, in the middle of the competition, the platform started to move. But this time, something was different. The platform was carrying 15 types of ginger, and all the contestants were required to incorporate it into their dishes.

As the contestants scrambled to come up with ideas for their ginger-infused creations, some of them noticed something else on the platform – a gift of scallions! With renewed excitement, they began brainstorming how to incorporate ginger and scallions into their dishes, hoping to impress the judges and make it to the next round.

CD 8 – Loss & Avoidance

The chefs face the risk of elimination at every stage of the competition, creating a sense of loss and avoidance that motivates them to work harder and do their best.

The use of gamification in Next-Level Chef can have several potential positive effects. Contestants can be more engaged and motivated to win the competition and receive the reward. Additionally, viewers can have a more exciting and entertaining user experience as they become invested in the competition’s outcome. Moreover, gamification can create an effective learning environment for contestants, providing them with a structured and challenging context to develop their culinary skills.

Overall, “Next Level Chef” is an excellent example of how gamification elements can be incorporated into a real-world competition to motivate and engage participants.

The show utilizes the Octalysis Framework to create an exciting and challenging experience for the chefs. This provides an enjoyable show for the audience.

The second season of Next Level Chef is underway. It will be interesting to see how the show evolves in the future. They may incorporate more gamification elements into the episodes.

For more information on the Octalysis Framework, read my article“Octalysis Framework: A Guide to Human-Focused Design”.

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