Q&A | Monica Narula
NDTV Good Times started the year with the launch of Foodistan, a show with a home-grown format where chefs from India and Pakistan competed with each other. Recently it has launched Love Bites With Joey and the 12th season of Highway On My Plate called HOMP Adda, where Rocky and Mayur review hostel food and canteens across the country.
“We did not want to get into pure instructional cookery shows, nor did we want to buy pre-existing formats like Top Chef, MasterChef. We want to work on original Indian cooking shows,” explains Monica Narula, vice-president, programming, NDTV Lifestyle Ltd. It’s been a constant challenge for the last five years to create concepts and source new cooks for shows. From shows that focus on reviews (HOMP Adda), themes (Vicky Goes Veg), travel (Chakh Le India—Kachcha Raasta) to a Nigella Lawson-like homestyle cooking show with model Joey Matthew, Narula tells us why NDTV Good Times will never do a Khana Khazana and why its yet to be launched show Fat Man will not be a Rakhi ka Swayamvar in disguise. Edited excerpts:
Foodie nation: Rocky (right) and Mayur from HOMP Adda.
How did you zero in on Joey Matthew for the show?
For the last three or four years, we have only been concentrating on male chefs. We did do a series with Ritu Dalmia based on her book, but that was a short series. We made a concentrated effort to look for a female chef and found Joey. In fact, I saw her at one of the cooking classes conducted at near Zaza store (in Delhi) and that’s how she was contacted. Her recipes are not intimidating like a professional chef’s tend to be. Eventually Joey wants to open her own restaurant and for her, Love Bites With Joey (currently on air) is a way to try out recipes that will make it on the menu.
Is Matthew going to be the Nigella Lawson of Indian TV?
No, that was never the idea. Joey is not a professional chef, just a trained cook. She has taken a couple of classes here and there—at restaurants, etc. The problem is that there is no one like Joey on Indian television, so people are comparing her to Nigella.
Canteens and hostel food—can Rocky and Mayur really be honest in their reviews or is this just an overdose of nostalgia?
The idea of this season of HOMP Adda (currently on air) is that Rocky and Mayur try out food that the students recommend rather than stuff that is hated in the hostels and canteens. This is not really a review show in that sense. That’s why we have done away with the report card and marks here which used to happen in the earlier seasons. This season is not really supposed to be a critique of the food, more a way to include students in the show.
How are you finding prospective brides who want to cook for Bikramjit Ray? Will this be NDTV Good Times’ version of ‘Bikramjit ki Barat’ or ‘Swayamvar’?
Fat Man, as the show is called, is scheduled to go on air in mid-August and will have 13 episodes. Bikram’s friends and family are suggesting or introducing him to prospective brides from different communities. The focus is on community cuisines around wedding time and that is what the women will be expected to make for this 40-something foodie bachelor who is being badgered by his family to get married. So there will be food from the Kayasth, Baniya communities and more. The fate of each prospective bride/community food will be sealed at the end of that episode and, no, there will be no swayamvar at the end.
What about the new seasons of ‘Chakh Le India—Kachcha Raasta’ and ‘Vicky Goes Veg’? Any new thrust planned for these shows, which will go on air around August?
We never wanted to do pure instructional cookery shows like Khana Khazana. Each show has a travel theme or a specific concept.
Chakh Le India—Kachcha Raasta concentrates on regional Indian food. After the first season, we want to go beyond butter chicken and dal makhani. Aditya’s (Bal) cookbook based on this concept is ready and this season of the show is timed to hit the screen when the book will be released in end-August.
The 13 episodes of Vicky Goes Veg this season, which starts in end-August, will concentrate on making veggie dishes based on what you can find at your local sabziwala (vegetable vendor). The idea has been to take vegetarian food beyond aloo (potato) and paneer (cottage cheese).