GRILLING FOODIES’ DELIGHTS
With so many new food offerings hitting the small screen, is it possible viewers will have their fill?
Ben O’Donoghue considers himself a very lucky man. Not only was the celebrity chef chosen to host Seven’s big new summer reality series Aussie Barbecue Heroes, but he also narrowly avoided being chosen to host Seven’s ratings disaster Restaurant Revolution earlier this year – replaced by unfeasibly popular cat videos.
“I actually auditioned for the role and I didn’t get the job – I think I dodged a bullet there!” laughs the Englishborn Aussie chef, whose work with Jamie Oliver saw him score gigs on US and British television before his breakthrough role locally cohosting Surfing The Menu with Curtis Stone.
“Then I got a call about this concept. I had a restaurant opening (to focus on) but I liked the idea and barbecue is my kind of zone. I’ve written three barbecue cookbooks.”
Inspired by American reality show BBQ Pitmasters, the series which kicks off tonight pits nine of Australia’s best barbecuing teams against each other for the title of ‘The One True Barbecue Hero’ and $100,000 in prizes. Joining O’Donoghue on the judges panel is barbecue connoisseur Jess Pryles (an Aussie expat living in Texas) and MKR’s Texas cowboy Robert Murphy (a Texan expat living in Australia). O’Donoghue says that as with all Aussie cuisines, barbecuing has become a lot more sophisticated in recent times. “Historically, Australian barbecue was pretty two dimensional – steak and sausage – throw on some sliced onions … but it’s gone way beyond that now,” he says. “People’s appreciation of food and their knowledge has grown so much in the past eight years – and that’s partly due to the success of food reality shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules. People are a lot more aware, and media-exposed to different flavours, so their tastes have evolved and expanded.”
Over recent years the public’s appetite for food television has exponentially from niche programming to one of the most popular genres. Cooking shows like My Kitchen Rules now dominate the ratings – it’s averaged 1.6 million viewers over six seasons now.
This fascination with food shows no signs of abating, with SBS launching its 24/7 Food Network mixing its own content with programming from the US Food Network, the Cooking Channel, Asian Food Channel and Fine Living Network. It’s in direct competition with Foxtel’s Lifestyle FOOD and you can add in to the mix Nine’s latest digital channel 9Life from November 26.
Just a few years ago you’d see Jamie Oliver one night a week in prime time. The turning point was MasterChef’s first few seasons – which peaked with more than four million viewers tuning in for the season two finale in 2010.
But with so much food content currently on air, is there a danger of oversaturating the market? Restaurant Revolution went down in flames and Nine’s MKR clone Hot Plate performed below expectations. Is there still room for a 24 hour food channel, SBS’s Thursday night cooking shows, Foxtel’s LifestyleFOOD, and MasterChef and MKR?
Masterchef’s host Matt Preston thinks so.
“MasterChef’s finale was the most watched non-sports show of the year, MKR is still Seven’s biggest show and Great Australian Bake-Off has broken audience records for Lifestyle FOOD,” he says. “I think it’s obvious the appetite is still there – but having said that, the audience will still vote with their feet if the format doesn’t connect with them.”
Celebrity chef Ben O'Donoghue will host Seven’s new series,
Aussie Barbecue Heroes.