Jonathan Renouf : Extreme Science to extreme nature
Jonathan Renouf has a bit of a record when it comes to producing documentaries on science and natural history, with shows including the critically acclaimed How Earth Made Us and Wonders of the Universe, among others. We spoke with Renouf about two new shows that he is the Executive Producer of — Chef vs Science and Steve Backshall’s Extreme Mountain/River Challenge. Incidentally, he’s also an avid photographer, but that’s just a way for him to unwind.
How have you seen science and nature programmes evolve over the years?
The world has changed a lot. The single biggest change is, choice —when I started, there were very few TV channels. Now, that means we have to think about programmes that are going to have an impact.
Is Chef vs Science a show for kids as much as it is for adults and homemakers?
The show is for everybody with an interest in cooking. There are a lot of cookery shows on TV, so we wanted to think of it as an art form. It is creative, about flair and imagination. But in reality, it is actually like an experiment in chemistry. The premise of the show is using science in cooking techniques. Also, the tussle between the chefs is exciting.
How does cooking match up to Steve Backshall’s Extreme River Challenges?
The pleasure in Chef vs Science is more about fun than an adrenaline rush. The enjoyment is relaxed as they’re not risking their lives! But adrenaline is a big factor in Steve Backshall’s show. These are things that have never been done before, at the edge of what humans can possibly do. From extreme science to extreme nature, you sound like an extreme kind of person! (Laughs.) I’m only organising the show. Personally, I am quite careful and cautious about risks and my job ultimately is to ensure that everybody comes back home safely. A lot of preparation goes into the show.
Tell us about the thrill of exploring uncharted territories like the Tepius in Venezuela, Cameia National Park and Angel falls.
The point is to choose places where people haven’t been before, and this gives them the thrill to explore. When you offer this surprise, they will experience something they never have before. Not just in terms of television, but individually too.
How much of this can be tried at home?
(Laughs.) None of this can be tried at home! They take months of preparations. But if you wish to, my advice is, be sure to plan in advance, and learn all you can about the place.
Chef vs Science – The Ultimate Kitchen Challenge starts on October 28 & Steve Backshall’s Extreme Mountain/River Challenge starts on November 18 on Sony BBC Earth.