For over seven seasons, UAE food reality show ‘Foodshala’ has successfully blended a high-stakes cooking show with intense drama, turning it into a TV ratings champions for its producers. Targeted at a mostly Asian audience, the show returns for its eighth season this week in a familiar format but with additional spices.
This season will feature returning judges Gaurav Tandon, who also produces, chef Akshay Nayyar and celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, along with a host of guest judges.
More than 2,000 aspiring chefs from across the emirates applied for a spot and the chance to walk away with Dh30,000 worth of prizes and a fashion makeover. Of those, 400 were selected for the auditions in Dubai, which was then cut down to 30 and then 12. The finalists will then be eliminated one by one as the show progresses.
Tandon and wife Kritika Rawat, who’s also a producer — the couple own K Kompany Media Solutions, which produces ‘Foodshala’ — spoke to Gulf News tabloid! ahead of the Season 8 premiere.
What can we look forward to in season eight?
Tandon: This season has more masala, more drama and definitely a lot more tears compared to any of our previous seasons. This year’s contestants that came in were shortlisted [first round] based on their food stories. So not only did they have to make a great dish but we were also looking for a great story that they could relate to their dish. This time they have literally put a piece of their heart on the plate. People are going to be glued to their TV sets and I promise you these contestants are going to become a part of the lives of our viewers.
How different will this season be from all other previous seasons?
Tandon: We try and make every season a little different from the previous one. For example, the last season [season seven] had the theme of Saath Saath [together]. We saw how two is better than one. The whole show was about team spirit, cooking together and we saw a beautiful roller-coster of relationships through the show until a mother-daughter team won the title. This year, the theme is very different and very emotional. We believe that ‘every dish tells a story’ and that’s our theme.
Were there any contestants or incidents that particularly stood out to you?
Rawat: Oh, many of them stood out. Our first contestant itself was a shocker as she flew in all the way from Gujarat, India, to be a part of the show. We have had participants coming from GCC countries but this was the first time we saw someone who flew in from India. This speaks volumes of how the show is catching the attention of food lovers all over. We had another contestant, Hema, who came on the show while her husband was in the hospital ready to undergo a surgery the same day. She couldn’t control her tears as she told us that although she loves cooking and had been waiting for the auditions for the whole year, she wasn’t going to leave her husband in the hospital on the day of his surgery and come to the auditions until it was her husband himself who told her that she must go and pursue her passion and fulfil her dream of going to ‘Foodshala’.
How difficult is it to produce a reality show especially to do with food?
Tandon: It is really difficult producing any good TV in this region especially for the Asian audiences. Due to the small market size advertisers aren’t ready to spend bigger amounts on local TV production. Due to this people are not producing quality content and this is a vicious cycle. This is when we decided to produce a show that was fully funded by us.
What is it about food and cooking that always has a captive audience?
Rawat: I think that a lot of us don’t realise how important food is in our lives. It is the most basic need of humans. We need it, we wan tit and the truth is that we all love it. Today people have started investing a lot of time, effort and money into what goes into their body and there is more information and interest in the subject than ever before because you are what you eat.
You also have a kids version of the show. What are the future plans for that?
Tandon: ‘Foodshala Kids’ is the first ever inter-school food reality TV show in the region. The kids version has actually been extremely successful. The response we got to the first season of ‘Foodshala Kids’ was comparable to the 6th season of ‘Foodshala’. Now after two seasons we are in a very happy spot. We have more than 50 schools that participate every year and this list is growing. The plans are to take ‘Foodshala Kids’ to schools all over the GCC in 2021.
Where would you like to see ‘Foodshala’ go from here?
Rawat: Foodshala has become such big brand now that its way more than just a TV show. We are working with many potential partners to see how we can take the next steps. We are exploring possibilities of many extensions of the brand like a Foodshala Cooking academy or perhaps a Foodshala Catering service that will bring the food of the amazing hem chefs that we discover through our show, to the common public. So we are right now evaluating these opportunities.
Don’t miss it!
‘Foodshala Season 8’ airs on Zee TV on Fridays at 8pm. There will be repeats on Saturdays 11pm, Fridays 3pm and Saturday at 12.30pm.
MEET THE JUDDGES
One of India’s most well-known chefs with a number of restaurants in the UAE, Kapoor does not appear in all the episodes but is the mentor and ‘maha guru’ (main guru) of ‘Foodshala’, says Tandon. He is involved in the finer aspects of the show and the top contestants get to cook for him to judge and decide the winner.
a popular TV and radio personality in this region, Tandon is the founder of K Kompany Media Solutions, a media company providing services such as audio, television, media planning and buying and digital content. K Kompany also produces 11 TV shows within the region including the ‘first Asian reality food show’ ‘Foodshala’. Starting his career as a radio presenter, he was included in the 100 most influential Indians in the Arab World by Forbes Middle East.
The chef behind UAE restaurants Mitra and Tum Tum Asia is a popular name in the culinary industry. Having cooked for the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as royalty from the Middle East, Nayyar is also behind a number of restaurant concepts in Delhi and Bengaluru. He specialises in Oriental, Modern European and Arabic cuisines.
DID YOU KNOW?
Gulf News tabloid!’ s editor David Tusing will appear on ‘Foodhshala’ as one of the guest judges on the show. The episode will be part of the show’s premiere on Friday.