We all caught some mouth-watering drama when UAE-based reality cooking show Foodshala came back on to TV screens for its ninth season last month. Now another home-grown show, Weekend Out, readies itself to air on Saturday, and it’s dishing out some equally engaging visuals for foodies.
“The format of the show, like the name suggests, is all about your weekend out,” food critic for show, Gaurav Tandon, says. “Which means it’s a guide to shopping, travelling, the outdoors, cinema options, or eating out.”
That last element, incorporating a food/restaurant review segment, has year by year enjoyed a huge surge in popularity. As opposed to Foodshala (where Tandon serves as judge), which makes cooking a competition with home cooks pitted against each other to create elaborate masterpieces, Weekend Out tracks restaurants around town to tell you where you should be dining out. Tandon has reviewed more than 1,500 restaurants over each episode, and refreshingly, it’s not all about fussy, high-profile dining. “The criteria is only good food,” says Tandon. “That could be a five-star hotel or a hole in the wall.”
Over the past few years, Weekend Out has also started dipping into food and culture internationally, charting some unique experiences into a travel guide – “if you want to know what it’s like feeding reindeers in Finland, we’re your kind of show,” says Tandon. “Hint, you actually take a biscuit in your mouth, and the reindeer comes and takes it from your mouth!”
The new normal
COVID-19 constraints and event cancellations have meant the team have had to get more creative with both the shows this year. This spawned a new segment on Weekend Out, focusing on helping new and small businesses that can’t necessarily spend on advertising. As for Foodshala, which would usually see auditions of anywhere between 700 to 1,000 people every year battling it out to make it to the top 12, this year needed a new normal. “So we decided that if you could not come to Foodshala, we were going to bring Foodshala to you,” says Tandon. “We invited people to join a Foodshala Masterclass, which would feature judges and celebrity chefs Sanjeev Kapoor, Akshay Nayyar and me. Two recipes would be taught in each masterclass. We then created the Foodshala box of happiness - 300 such boxes were created and sent out to people who would participate in two masterclasses. The whole concept turned out to be a massive hit.”
Foodshala’s kept viewers hooked through the years with some engrossing food - think chicken gajjar halwa (carrot pudding) “as weird as it sounded, and it took the participant to the next round,” says Tandon. The stories are equally interesting.
A participant has gone on to start her own restaurant after winning top prize in the show. Another decided to miss attending her son’s wedding because she wanted to participate in the finale. This year promises more delicious bites of heartwarming food and binge-worthy entertainment.
Catch the Weekend Out premiere on Saturday November 14 at 7.30pm on Sony TV, and Foodshala Sundays 8pm on Star Plus Middle East.