Meet the judges of the highly anticipated 'MasterChef Tamil' which hits screens in August
After two decades of this popular reality cooking show in English, India will be the first country to dish out tailormade shows for regional audiences, keeping the international format intact
MasterChef Tamil is about to make history. After two decades of this celebrated TV franchise in English, which is now viewed in over 200 territories — come August, India will be the first country to dish out tailormade shows for regional audiences, keeping the international format intact. Produced by Innovative Film Academy and Endemol Shine India, we’ve been told to look out for all of our favourite ‘challenges’ from seasons over the years taken on by contestants from Melbourne to Miami. Except with one difference: a serious dose of star power. Actor Vijay Sethupathi who captivated us in Super Deluxe and more recently as the villain in Master is set to host the show alongside chef-judges Koushik Shankar fondly known as the ‘Mad chef’, Harish Rao and Aarthi Sampath. Incidentally, the Telugu version of the show will be hosted by actress Tamannaah Bhatia, while Prithviraj Sukumaran and Kichcha Sudeepa will host the Malayalam and Kannada versions respectively. Yes, you can say it. The kitchen just got way hotter.
Season one of MasterChef Tamil follows the competitive cooking journeys of 20 home cooks who reside in Tamil Nadu. And chef Koushik who we spoke to while on a break from shooting, clarified that geography does not define the plates which are brought to the MasterChef table. “Expect cuisines from around the world,” he shares, adding “although there are some championing Tamil food.” Apart from raving about the massive set in Bengaluru which at any given time has a crew of between 250 and 300 people, the chef who has consulted on restaurants in Chennai like Maplai and Fromage shares that working on the show has been a breath of fresh air to dig deeper into his own South Indian roots. “Lotus roots (used in Asian cooking) for instance, is actually an ingredient that has been available to us for the longest time,” he says. Meanwhile, terms in French like mise en place or breaking down the differences between a mousse and a souffle — all in Tamil — have made for quite an interesting journey. “It got me thinking,” the chef gives us a glimpse into one of their post-shoot discussions. “Kitchen in Tamil was originally kusini and in French it is cuisine. Which came first?”
With intriguing questions like these serving up food for thought en route, it’s no surprise when we find out that the show is entirely unscripted. No acting, no overacting, just natural reactions to an assortment of flavours. While we are yet to discover the personas of each of the judges on screen — we do discover in course of conversation that each of them have very different approaches to a dish. Chef Harish Rao who has over 20 years of experience with five-star brands like the Oberoi and ITC Group, for instance, is all about elevating regional plates to meet international appeal. He says, “I’m personally looking at taking local cuisines, techniques and recipes and giving them a new avatar that can be presented on an international platform.” Chef Koushik says what he is most interested in is the “thought process” that goes into the making of a dish. While New York-based Aarthi Sampath, the only chef on the judging panel who has been on the other side of the table as a contestant (she won Season 3 of Chopped with her Chicken Biryani) speaks of innovation and presentation. She shares, “I want the home cooks to look at regular ingredients with a fresh pair of eyes. And of course, it has to look delicious!”
MasterChef Tamil premieres on August 7 on Sun TV. It will be aired every Saturday and Sunday at 9.30 pm.
On the set
We spotted some head-turning installations from the promo visuals on the MasterChef set. Look out for the ‘M’ logo artfully created from glass bottles, a larger-than-life bust of a horse crafted out of metal spoons and the structure of a tree made of palm plates! Décor apart, one element that is irreplaceable in any MasterChef series set is the famous clock which has guided many a tense contestant through a pressure test. On this set, it has been given the name Vetri Mani, Tamil for ‘victory bell’.
Hosting MasterChef is one of the most exciting projects in my career. The grandeur of the show is unparalleled and I’m sure that this will set a new benchmark for culinary shows in the Tamil entertainment space. We have poured all our heart into this show and I am thrilled for it to hit the screens soon in August