All The World’s a Kitchen
- Sivaram Srikandath
Story Dated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 13:46 hrs IST
To borrow from Shakespeare, all the world, it seems, is a kitchen, and all men and women, cooks. At least in the world of television ! You simply cannot switch on your television these days without tuning into a newly launched food channel or running across yet another wannabe celebrity chef.
The Indian love affair with food programming on television can be traced back to 1993 when Zee TV began airing the program Khana Khazana. Described as the longest running show of its kind in Asia, it is hosted by the good humoured Sanjeev Kapoor, and is truly the mother of all Indian cookery shows. The program is immensely popular and is broadcast in more than 120 countries. While some viewers might find Kapoor's cloying geniality and saccharine manner a bit much for their liking, he is unarguably, the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is at once a chef, a TV host, a restaurant consultant, an author of cook books and CD-ROMS, and a successful entrepreneur who has launched his own ready-to-cook line of meals, in addition to being a partner in a TV food channel.
Just as King Louis XV is reported to have famously remarked, "Apres moi le deluge" so too, after Sanjeev Kapoor came the deluge. A plethora of cookery shows, both on Indian and foreign channels were on offer to satiate the taste buds of the Indian foodie. The globalized Indian became familiar with unfamiliar cuisines and became acquainted with exotic new places as a variety of cookery shows took us on a gustatory romp across the globe. Celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain added a wicked edge like they had never seen before to food programming, while glam dolls like Nigella Lawson with her generous cleavage and the curiously accented Padma Lakshmi spiced up the evenings for a lot of male viewers who were otherwise inclined to dismiss cookery shows as something that real men do not watch ! Chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Julia Child and Emeril Lagasse became household names in India as local audiences began to tune in big-time to cookery shows. And then came reality shows like Top Chef, Iron Chef, Hells Kitchen and the much- imitated-but-never-equalled MasterChef Australia which added the melodrama of soap opera to the otherwise staid genre of food programming.
And soon enough, local television channels began offering home-grown cookery shows for an audience that seemed eager to lap it all up. In 2007, NDTV, together with Vijay Mallya's UB Group launched a lifestyle channel, NDTV Good Times targeted at the young, urban Indian, and that had as one of its USPs a wide range of cookery shows. Then came the first dedicated food channel from Zee TV , aptly called Khana Khazana in December 2010. Barely a month later, in January 2011, Sanjeev Kapoor in association with Malaysia's Astro Television launched his exclusive food channel with the unimaginative name FoodFood ! And reportedly, the Alva brothers have their food channel called Food First up and running fighting for their piece of the ad revenue pie The Indian television industry is growing at an annual compounded rate of around 13% according to the Price Waterhouse Coopers Entertainment and Media Outlook 2010, and the food and beverages category accounts for 14% of the total adspend on television. Brand strategy specialist Harish Bijoor says, "it is obvious that these (food channels) will be able to attract the attention of targeted and focused marketers, " and the challenge would be "the ability to stand out from the clutter of other channels, the ability to create new properties that are unique, and the ability to churn up celebrity chefs."
Thus, the desperate race to try out new formats and to create celebrity chefs.
The latest attempt comes from the folks at NDTV Good Times,( a channel that can normally be counted upon to deliver watchable shows) with their late night (10pm) offering Love Bites With Joey. The show features the former super model (a fact that is deliberately highlighted during the show and in the promos - but why, oh why?) Joey Matthews, cooking mostly continental food in the kitchen of her posh South Delhi home in Panchsheel with a dog in tow for the cute factor. The producers of the show have got the back story down and proper - Mallu girl with memories of food involving deceased maternal grandmother's kitchen(one of three!) in ancestral family home in Kerala; student life in Delhi; then travelling the globe as a "super model." I guess the channel is subtly trying to promote Joey as a a desi version of Nigella with a good measure of Padma Lakshmi thrown in!
Now, I am not quite sure whether the Amazonian Joey has what it takes to be the successful host of a cookery show, what with her disturbing accent (that sometimes slips) and her odd, disconcerting stare. After watching the first few episodes, I must say that I have to give the show a thumbs down . Joey has neither the cool poise of a Padma Lakshmi nor the lubricious appeal of a Nigella, and indeed, comes across as a gauche gate crasher at a party intended for the blue-blood. Her attempts at dishing out the naughty oomph factor with mono-tone, tongue-in-cheek comments like "I love subtle seductions" and "Beat them till they are stiff," fall flat, particularly when accompanied by her glassy, beady eyed stare, which to be quite candid, can unnerve the viewer. While the food presented on the show ain't half bad, it is the inane banter and the crude attempt at raising sexual temperatures that gets to you. And also the constant chirping about "what we super models eat !"
It is still too early to talk about the popularity of the show, and whether it will be a hit or not is anyone's guess. For, as it said, de gustibus non est disputandum - in matters of taste there can be no dispute!