Sumptuous showdown

Telly talk

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience,” said James Beard.

Food fight : The chefs from India and Pakistan, judges and hosts of ‘Foodistan’.

As a great leveller, there is nothing more compelling than food. With different food shows on air across several channels, doing something different is a challenge. For viewers exposed to a plethora of shows on food, NDTV Good Times has launched Foodistan, a 26-part series, a cook-off at an international level for 16 professional chefs from two culturally rich and fascinating countries, India and Pakistan.

The show, which airs Monday to Wednesday at 9.30 pm, has experienced and acclaimed chefs from India and Pakistan, each representing their country’s exquisite cuisine. The show is judged by Vir Sanghvi, eminent food critic, Sonya Jehan, Bollywood actress of French-Pakistani descent, and Merrilees Parker, popular British celebrity-chef and presenter, and is hosted by Aly Khan and Ira Dubey.

Based on an original format, this competition adds pressure on the chefs at each stage, with twists and turns, and with a clock counting down. Only the best chef survives at the end to stake claim to the land of Foodistan, where borders cease to exist and food emerges as the winner in this Indo-Pak clash. Each episode took almost three hours to shoot and the entire crew’s commitment was evident when all 26 episodes were shot in a stretch.

In fact, the two hosts had never worked with each other before and the rehearsals helped them get comfortable. The format of the show warranted both hosts, as the two large designated kitchens meant that Aly played the role of the food commentator while Ira was the floor reporter.

In Foodistan, the chefs share mouth-watering recipes that complement their cooking skills. They bring their valuable culinary experience that they show through their innovative cooking methods. Along with the competition, the show also aims to give a sneak peek into the lifestyles and food traditions of both these countries, which is a first on Indian television.

So, was there ever a temptation to take sides? “Nothing was set in stone, we were only there, joining the dots together and it was only mock favouritism, the judges were in charge,” says Ira. Adds Aly, “contestants, except the ones that came from Delhi, lived in the same hotel during the shoot.

What struck me was the camaraderie shared by all the contestants. At the end of the day, each chef was participating to win, and coming from the kind of background they did, they really didn’t need anyone to verify their talent. If I have to talk of taking sides, I was on the side of the chefs rather than the judges.”

The show has a unique format that manages to keep viewers glued. “We were shooting almost 16 hours a day for Foodistan and when we had a break for a couple of days, I caught some food shows airing on other television channels. To be honest, I felt they were all amateur. Here, we have professional chefs, which makes it compelling for the viewer to watch, as the choice of ingredients and the method of presentation is simply fascinating,” says Aly.

“The audience is treated to some fantastic recipes and lots of new food, especially meats. The gamut of choices and the variety of techniques that one sees, be it home food or five star food, is both enlightening and informative. The emotional and personal connect ensures that viewers continue to watch the show.”

This recently launched show has already garnered a lot of attention. If food is your hobby, passion or profession, then this show might prove a delightful watch as it takes you on a culinary journey like no other.

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