QUEEN’S ROAD: Food shows in India often turn into vanity projects with celebrity chefs faffing around, putting up uninspired stuff and garnishing it unfailingly with a mint leaf. The requisite research, the detailing of atmosphere, an interesting context, good production values and hosting skills that hold your attention are by and large missing in Indian food shows. However, there are exceptions and so we have Aditya Bal dishing out simple but engagingly flavoured (in more ways than one) stuff on NDTV Good Times in a show called Bachelor’s Kitchen. He has a nice conversational manner, he doesn’t try too hard to impress the viewer, remains unaffected by the camera and looks like he has immense passion for anything that pertains to food, be it spices, cooking techniques or the ingredients he works with.
The biggest success of a food show is that it inspires you to cook. His deliciously glistening carrot roundels did just that. Sent me in a kitchen to caramelise my carrots in butter and sugar and finish them off with pepper, lemon juice and fresh herbs. That he is possibly the best-looking TV chef in India doesn’t hurt either, neither does his back story. He was a model who channelled his dead-end career into food and it literally took him everywhere from Goan kitchens to TV studios and across the country in his breakout show Chakh Le India.
Another chef with a great deal of integrity is Pankaj Bhadouria whose shows on Zee's Khana Khazana take viewers through meticulous recipes she has obviously invested a lot of thought in.
In the foreign food networks, a standout face is that of Rachel Khoo on TLC. It is refreshing that she is not a victim of subliminal pandering to the glamour quotient that somehow must be a part of show if a woman is cooking. Her styling is stamped with a unique character and that fringe, the stunning face and fiery red lips all blend seamlessly in her show, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London.
The most interesting thing about the show is how it is shot. From the insanely creative notebook doodles, to her walks through London’s neighbourhoods, to her cosy little apartment with its little herb garden, quaint furnishings and the way Rachel cooks with the ease of not a trained chef but someone who has the love for food in her blood. One of my favourite shows was when she replicated London’s tube stations with pastries topped with fruits.
And there are her stories from her childhood, as charming as she is. Her show doesn’t just teach you how to cook but shows you various cultural and gastronomical aspects of London and gives you a peek into the mind of a happy, fulfilled woman in love with her life. Compare this to Ravinder Bhogal’s Ravinder’s Kitchen (again on TLC) who despite cooking great food and shooting in a cosy, garden-facing kitchen you wished was yours, is stilted and unconvincing, starting from that laboured accent to the distracting styling.
David Rocco, Jamie Oliver and Curtis Stone are a hit no matter where their shows air because they have perfected the human and the creative elements of their job and even their Facebook pages are interactive, full of positive energy and give fans an insight into their lives. The most successful presenters understand that food must be treated like story-telling where punchlines are as important as the pauses and just because a camera is on, you cannot take your viewer for a ride.