Palate Teasers

Palate Teasers

As Indian television grows up to the next level of food programming,it’s no longer about what’s on the plate,but about plating it up

Till a few years ago,food was the prime property of housewives,who would tune in to the television and with fierce determination,jot down the recipes dished out. Chef Ranveer Brar of Zee Khana Khazana — India’s first 24-hour food channel — calls these “instructional videos designed for homemakers to sit,take notes and cook it,as it is.” It was strictly for mummies,with all the tedious chopping,cutting,steaming,frying,tossing and turning. But now it’s different. As Chef Ritu Dalmia points out,“in the last five years food as a genre has come in to its own,and seen a huge boom”.

Fire up the smoking smorgasbord of channels,and you cannot miss on TLC’s Nigella Lawson whipping up an Italian feast,Anthony Bourdain’s encounters with the weird,wild and outrageous, Heston Blumenthal decoding the language of food,or TLC’s Mixer presenting food as the ultimate art form. Closer home,NDTV Good Times has pegged its coverage on the food+ programming paradigm,which makes a travelogue out of food shows — Highway on My Plate’s (HOMP) entertaining journey on Indian highways,Seema Chandra’s Guilt Free, Will Travel for Food with Aneesha Baig,Aditya Bal’s Kachha Rasta extracting recipes from rustic India,Dalmia’s Travelling Diva,gamechangers such as Foodistan (India versus Pakistan). Of course,the popularity of Masterchef Australia is unmatched and even the desi version notched up high TRPs for the big finale so much that contestants Ripudaman Handa,Navneet Rastogi and Doyle Sarangi are now household names.

TV is waking up to the next level of food programming. “Food programming,” says Rajiv Bakshi,VP Marketing,Discovery Networks,Asia Pacific,South Asia “has evolved beyond dhaniya-tamatar-aloo and desi ingredients. The new formats are about culinary adventures,and exotic and different cultures. The hosts are younger,fitter and presentation is global in appeal,” he adds.

“To capitalise on this growing appetite,food has moved from instructional to experiential and now,mega reality formats in India,” says Amit Nair,Business Head,Zee Khana Khazana. It’s also about rousing the senses. “Through jokes,banter and quick conversations delivering a lot of food-centric information like we do on HOMP,” say the hosts,Mayur Sharma and Rocky Singh.


The audience base for food shows has also grown — from students to working professionals to young children. “Experimentation is far greater both in terms of shoot styles and content,and chefs have more defined personalities,” says Nair,adding how content evolved to suit the globetrotting Indian with disposable income and willingness to experiment.

“The industry has started understanding how to film food — we are now opening up to food styling,food photography and food cinematography,” shares Brar,whose Snack Attack and Breakfast show air on Zee Khana Khazana. “The evolution has seen additions such as travel,discovery and even challenges to make it more gripping for today’s savvy audience,” aver Sharma and Singh.

Food,points Dalmia has become a central theme to the Indian lifestyle. “People now have quick access to flavors and ingredients they were earlier unfamiliar with. These shows are changing the way India cooks and eats. People in Punjab want to taste an appam,for instance,when Aditya Bal makes it on one his trips to Chennai,” she says. Brar concurs. “Today,people plan holidays around food culture of a particular destination because of what they see on TV. But unlike the West,India is yet to explore its regional diversity in food,and the rich history of food we have,” he says.