Con­sum­ing PAS­SION

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

Friday - - Front Page -

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

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