Expect drama, passion and prizes in Foodshala Season 3, the reality cookery show that will test the UAE’s culinary talents, says Shiva Kumar Thekkepat
F ormer radio jockey and now TV star Gaurav Tandon has a great sense of drama. To hear the MD of K Kompany, which produces food reality TV show
Foodshala, describe the twists and turns that he and his wife, ex-radio jockey and CEO of K Kompany, Kritika Rawat, are planning to include in Season 3 of Foodshala, he’d be a whiz at scripting a whodunnit.
“There’s going to be drama, tears, passions overflowing,” he says in an exclusive interview with Friday. “There will be cat fights and fierce contests. And of course big, big prizes.”
Season 3 will have to go some to top Season 2, which ended on a zinger of a twist. One of the finalists, Kiran Sachdev, a housewife who lives in Bur Dubai, had to choose between cooking at the finals and being at her son Anil’s wedding in India.
“When Kiran was selected, we called her and told her that she had qualified for the final cook-off, which was two days away,” says Gaurav. “That was when it hit her. ‘Oh gosh!’ she said. ‘I didn’t dream I’d make the finals. My son Anil’s marriage is fixed for that day in India. I’ve already booked my tickets.’
“While we congratulated her, we also told her as we couldn’t change the day of the shoot it would mean she would forfeit her position.”
It was a real-life drama that could rival any reality show on television. Kiran, in her early 50s, seesawed between attending her youngest son’s wedding and having one last shot at fame and fortune.
“And guess what?” asks Gaurav. “She decided to skip her son’s wedding! Anil persuaded her to stay in Dubai for the final cook-off with
two other finalists – Gurpreet Kaur and Shreekutty on Foodshala.’’
Of course the drama was aired on the show. “She did a Skype call with her sons, Anil and Umeesh, and husband, Sugno Sachdev, and was sobbing over not being able to attend the marriage. Anil was consoling her, telling her to do her best and saying this would be her shot at fame.”
The drama during the show was palpable. Kiran was excited but also partly in tears because she was missing out on all the festivities happening back in her home city of Mumbai, even as hundreds of families in Bur Dubai were rooting for her.
And the icing on the cake? Kiran won Foodshala Season 2.
“She became a star overnight,” says Gaurav. “The moment Kiran was announced as the winner, she became speechless. All she could do was grin from ear to ear before breaking down with joy.
“I remember her saying ‘I never expected to win. Immediately after the contest I was preparing to fly down to India to be with my family. But when I was adjudged the winner, I forgot everything. It was easily the most amazing prize I’ve ever won and one which acknowledged my skills in the kitchen.’’’
Kiran walked away with loads of prizes including household appliances from Emax, vouchers worth Dh4,000 from Emax, F&B vouchers from Meliá Hotel, vouchers worth Dh10,000 for Masafi products, Dh10,000 vouchers from Bayara spices and Dh10,000 vouchers from Lulu, among others. “And of course the fame – which she said was priceless,’’ says Gaurav.
“The last time we met Kiran, she said even today when she goes shopping people recognise her and come up to congratulate her.”
This is the kind of emotional stuff Gaurav and Kritika, along with celeb chef Sanjeev Kapoor – “who is an integral part of the show” – are trying to replicate in the third season, auditions for which will begin on February 8.
Gaurav, UAE-based food stylist Alexio Pasquali, who works with celebrity chefs and Friday, and chef Akshay Nayyar of Signature restaurant will be the judges at the audition, which will be held at Sanjeev Kapoor’s Signature restaurant at Meliá Hotel in Bur Dubai from 10am to 2pm.
For the auditions, all participants need to do is bring a home-cooked dish. They’ll be given time to garnish and heat the dish at the venue before presenting it to the judges, who will rate it based on taste and presentation, among other factors.
There’s good news for Friday readers: Those who take the voucher printed on page 36 will get access to a fast-track queue for the auditions. Also, one Friday reader is guaranteed to be on the show.
Shooting for the series will be from February 12 to 20, and the programme will be broadcast on Colors TV in the first week of March. While the auditions will be held in Dubai, residents from all over the UAE are eligible to participate.
“Last season we had participants coming from as far as Ajman and Abu Dhabi,” says Gaurav, who made his mark in the media scene first as a radio jockey and then as a presenter of a popular food show on an Asian channel, before launching Foodshala two years ago.
“During the past two seasons, in every episode we gave one contestant a chance to make a dish, and the chef would judge and rate it. At the end of 11 episodes we would choose the top two contestants and they would compete for the top honour.’’
So, what’s going to be different this season?
“This year we’ve decided to go a step further,” says Gaurav. “There will be a cook-off in every episode, which means we will choose 12 people, including a Friday reader, at the audition, and two of them will compete against each other in every episode. After the first six episodes, we will have six preliminary winners.
“During the next three episodes, these six people will form three pairs and there will be cook-offs between them before the run up to the final. So it’s going to be much tougher and more exciting for both participants and the audience.”
Gaurav also promises “a very big twist in the semi-final, which I can’t reveal right now, but viewers and participants are going to be zapped!”
Foodshala started off as an idea where the producers wanted to bring a reality element to a local production.
“There’s very little local television production that’s happening here,” says Gaurav. “That was how we got the idea of making the first reality food show based in the Middle East.” Chef Sanjeev, who was a judge during Season 2, admits that he was overwhelmed by the response the show elicited.
“I have known the producers, Gaurav and Kritika, for a while, and when they shared the idea of bringing a show of this scale for the UAE market, I loved it. Also, my executive chef, Akshay Nayyar, had been involved from day one. I have always supported new and
‘There will be cat fights and fierce contests. And of course big, big prizes’
fresh ideas, and that’s why I support
Foodshala,’’ says Sanjeev. “The beauty of this concept is that it’s a show for the aam aadmi [common man, in Hindi]. It’s a one-of-a-kind show where the foodies of the UAE are getting a chance to be on TV and showcase their talent.
“Because of its simple format and its connection to common people, the viewer ratings of this show has been very high,’’ he says.
Foodshala, according to Gaurav, strikes an emotional chord with its audience because it takes women participants out of their kitchen on to centre stage.
“Most women feel that they have always been taken for granted by their family and friends as far as their cooking is concerned,” says Gaurav.
“When you go home and have an evening meal, you don’t think ‘she’s done an extraordinary job’, it’s just a meal for most of us. But the women have put in a lot of effort and it’s sad that they have not got any recognition for it.
“So when we put them on this platform of Foodshala it is like she’s been put on a pedestal. She’s suddenly being lauded as a great cook, and what’s been taken as her duty is suddenly transformed into a gift that’s treasured and admired.
“She finally feels she’s done something of value, of achievement. This is why even the men are so passionate about having their wives, mothers, sisters, or even themselves on the show.
“Last time we had a male contestant too – the contest is open to all. Many had auditioned but only one made it to the show.”
Chef Sanjeev is also excited about Season 3, and can’t wait to get the audition round underway. “Last year, for the auditions, people made dishes from various cuisines from around the world,’’ he says.
“Some of the cuisines were uncommon like Lithuanian. One came with a cepelinai, which are big, zeppelin-shaped [that’s where they get their name from] dumplings made from potatoes stuffed with meat. I wasn’t surprised to see that people are so aware and eager to experiment with lesser-known cuisines as well.
“At the competition, though, it was mainly Indian dishes. This was also because they were fighting for a place on the menu at my restaurant Signature. So, in keeping with the concept of the restaurant, people made Indian dishes with a modern touch – be it in the presentation, style of cooking or flavours.’’
Gaurav says the standard has improved from Series 1. “It is clear that people are now making an effort,” he says. “Going the extra mile when preparing dishes for the audition round as well as during the contest. For instance, if they are making a biryani, they are experimenting with different kinds of garnishes, different styles of plating... They realise that judging standards are very high.’’
The prize money, apart from the popularity, is something that is sure to have people lining up, though Gaurav is not yet ready to say how much. “In the previous season, a total prize money equivalent to Dh100,000 was given away,” he says. “This season, Geant will give away Dh15,000 worth of shopping vouchers, equivalent to a full year of shopping. Emax will give Dh15,000 in vouchers; Splash is planning a huge gift. These are just a few of the prizes, the full list will be ready towards the time we launch the show.’’
Foodshala’s production values are extremely high, says Gaurav. “We’ve invested a lot in this show. We have an eight-camera set-up, which has never been done on Indian television shows produced in the Middle East. Shows here usually get by with one camera. We flew in DoPs [directors of photography] who had worked on
MasterChef India to work on Foodshala. So our budget is quite high.
“This season will be even bigger in terms of production values, prizes and drama. It’s going to be an edge-of-the-seat thrilling season for contestants and audiences alike.
“Now that two participants are going to be cooking-off in every episode, there are bound to be cat fights! That is going to be one of the highlights.
“Last year in the final, one of the three was a 25-year-old, and she made a comment that she was not stressed out as she had nothing to lose as she was only 25. The other two participants, in their late 40s, saw red, and took her to task. This time, expect a lot more!”
Gaurav, Kritika and Sanjeev expect this season to be enthralling
Season 2 winner Kiran (centre) with Shreekutty
(right) and Gurpreet
Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is looking forward to
Foodshala Season 3