The genre has only continued to grow since, with television moguls coming up with more engaging and trendy concepts to keep their audiences glued to their TV screens.
Along with a general rise in healthy living awareness, reality cooking competitions became huge hits, from Masterchef to The Next Iron Chef and Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. While cooking shows have always been a television staple, producers are now heating things up in the kitchen by challenging chefs, or sometimes members of the public, to put their skills to the test by battling it out to create superior dishes. With all the melt-downs and back-stabbing, these shows have become some of the most watched programmes on television.
They have also inspired a mass of followers.
While many of the shows are alike in several ways, each one has its own unique twist that sets it apart. Chopped, an American competitive cooking series first broadcast in 2009, puts four chefs up against each other to compete for a large amount of money. Their challenge is to take a mystery basket containing four ingredients and turn it into a meal. The task is divided into three parts: contestants need to create an appetizer, entree and dessert. They are also given access to a fully stocked pantry with various spices, ingredients, fruit and vegetables.
Due to the show’s global success, Food Network has announced a South African version of the show, celebrating African varieties and products. A sneak peak behind the scenes involved sitting in an ice-cold studio (the food must be kept fresh), watching as the chefs cooked their hearts out. In the episode that was being filmed at the time, chefs were given Kobe-style beef, brie cheese, green asparagus and amadumbe – the latter a proudly South African ingredient.
Tension ran high as the clock ticked slowly – every second counts. Stress-related slip-ups are a real factor, as the entire crew gasps when one of the chefs drops his meat onto the floor and is forced to deviate from his original plan. One thing’s for sure: this is not staged or rehearsed. It is real people, with real sweat, real tears and, occasionally, real blood. The medics on site are called onto set numerous times, dressing wounds caused by speed chopping.
Chopped South Africa will follow the same format as the international version, with over 40 chefs going plate to plate in the upcoming season. With four chefs in every episode and one “chopped” after each meal, the contestants will battle it out each week for a cash prize of R40 000.
Denvor Phokaners presents the show alongside a panel of judges that includes local food celebrities Jenny Morris, Siba Mtongana, David van Staden, Lindsay Venn, Rebecca Hurst and Reuben Riffel.
The production of Chopped South Africa follows closely on the heels of the success of Food Network local projects Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco, Siba’s Table and Reza’s African Kitchen.