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‘Masterchef India 4’: The secret recipe

MUMBAI: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food,” said George Bernard Shaw, and it is this love that runs through ‘Masterchef India’, the only cooking reality show on Indian television.

Modelled on its British original, the Star Plus show has inspired many to don the chef’s apron and hit the kitchen. Now in its fourth season, the show has evolved over the past five years and introduced several new elements to connect with the viewers.

Masterchef6The channel handpicked Colosceum Media as production house for the show from a number of firms that pitched for the task.

This season, the set has been designed as a Spanish villa, complete with benches, bougainvilleas, and wooden window frames all around. In the corner of the room is where the best performers sit. In the centre are the workstations, above which hangs the imposing clock, dreaded by many contestants.

Even a few months back, the set was just an empty floor, informs a production executive. It was designed and finalised by Kunal Bhandula only one month prior to the show.

The Spanish villa houses two rooms: One that stocks all the equipment needed for cooking, ranging from pots, pans, and spoons of different shapes and sizes to mixers and grinders. The other room is a melange of colour and aroma, stocked as it is with fruits and vegetables, spices, curd, butter, oil, wheat flour and rice.

Meat of any kind is conspicuously absent from this assortment of ingredients because the show has recently turned vegetarian in order to become more incMasterchef5lusive.

In this connection, a Star Plus official informs that once a lady from Indore, who was shortlisted for the show, declined the invitation because her orthodox Jain family did not like the idea of her preparing food where non-vegetarian food was being cooked.

“The Delhi auditions attracted more than 1,000 hopefuls. People made a beeline to get their dishes tried,” recalls an official.

Speaking about the work that goes into the show, Colosceum Media CEO Lalit Sharma says that a whole lot of things have been tried since Season 1, out of which some worked and some did not. “Right from food to talent to creativity to logistics, we have tried and tested a lot of things. All these have made us grow in experience and expertise.”

 Judges speak

  • Chef Sanjeev Kapoor: One dish that stood out this season was the chocolate and turnip cake that a female contestant had prepared as part of a task. Turnip is generally considered a boring vegetable, but she just blew us away with her ingenuity.
  • Chef Ranveer Brar: Before the start of the show, I was told there would be a small video interview. It was all right because I had been doing TV for a while. Then I got another call from the channel about a workshop they planned to do. This time too, I agreed. It only struck me on the second day of the workshop that I would actually be a judge on the show.
  • Chef Vikas Khanna: The show has changed our mindset about food and I had a great experience. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is like my elder brother but he is always on the lookout to pull my leg. It’s great fun on the set.

Hours of daily meeting went into the conceptualisation of this season. 50 chefs were hired to help design the tasks and support the show from behind the scenes.

“While having khichdi for lunch on the set, a chef once told us about the goodness of khichdi—how delicious and tasty a dish it was, how it was made with desi ghee and pickle, etc. This gave us the idea of replicating the simplicity and delicacy of khichdi in the current season,” says Sharma.

Pulling off the show takes a lot of effort. Once a season is over, the production team have to start working on the next immediately as it generally takes about six to eight months to put ‘Masterchef India’ together.

Chef - Ranveer Brar, Sanjeev Kapoor and Vikas Khanna
“We constantly refurbish the jury panel because after a while it gets monotonous for viewers. This season, we replaced Chef Kunal by Chef Ranveer,” tells a team member.

The Indian version of ‘Masterchef’ also picks up some elements from the international version. One of these is storytelling. It remains true, however, that what works for one country may not work for another.

Chef - Ranveer Brar 02Sharma explains, “We keep in touch with the format creators and tweak things based on our requirements.”

“We like to emphasise a contestant’s motivation for coming to the show, because this helps to create a bond between the viewers and the contestants. Viewers are familiar with the judges, but the contestants need to be introduced properly so that viewers can connect with them,” adds judge and well-known chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

One of the biggest responsibilities is borne by the food team. They research the challenges, tasks and ingredients, and try out everything.

Masterchef1The camera team, who are just as untiring in their efforts as the others on the set, operate 12–13 cameras and conduct a technical shoot one day prior to the actual shoot.

The show currently employs a crew of about 150–200 people. The equipment and ingredients are brought on the floor one day in advance of the shoot based on the task.

Just before the shoot, the set turns a veritable den of activity as production personnel rush to get everything in order. While some brief the judges on the task of the day, some others lean over the burners to make sure they work fine. All this while, someone places the spoons and knives in order on the counter.

The shoot generally takes about 12 hours and involves everything from theMasterchef3 contestants chopping vegetables and getting the masala and other ingredients ready to the actual cooking, judging, elimination, and additional tasks.

Everything is planned based on what the contestants are going to cook. The judges contribute by telling what is possible in terms of tasks and what can be done.

Kapoor states, “Despite the set formula, there is a lot of Indianisation to make the show appropriate for Indian viewers in terms of food, sensibilities, body language, and more. When we design a task, we see that it is innovative and has a degree of difficulty and relevance. We also work on the strengths and weaknesses of the contestants.”

Chef Ranveer Brar, who is on the judges’ panel, states, “It is about having fun till you taste the food. When we taste, we become part of the reality TV aspect of the show. The auditions are most interesting. We had heard shayaris about food; we had people proposing to Vikas, besides many other crazy things. If we were to make behind-the-scenes Chef - Ranveer Brar 01footage, we would have another 11 hours of content, which could aptly be called ‘Masterchef Comedy Classes’.”

This season, the fun is being cooked outdoors too as the team is travelling to locations like Kerala and even Dubai for tasks.

Additionally, the channel has designed special Masterchef fairs in multiple cities to encourage aspiring home chefs to showcase their culinary skills in live cook-offs.