Saturday, May 17, 2014

KARACHI DIARIES: MASTERCHEF Comes to Pakistan


Published in Economic Affairs / May 2014 P-20

Last year ‘MasterChef Australia’ S04 contestant came to town. Amina Elshafei, described as an ‘unassuming young lady from Sydney’, had been brought in by the Australian High Commissioner’s office and spread the joy of fusion cooking as part of her good-will mission. Around the same time unconfirmed rumors that MasterChef was headed to Pakistan were floating around. By April 2014, the rumors had officially been laid to rest.


‘MasterChef Pakistan’ is set to go on air by 3rd May 2014. The press conference in AVARI (Karachi) threw together an elegant presentation topped off by a divine hi-tea. The MasterChef franchise is already a household favorite, and makes everyone a judge of culinary prowess, and the lead authority on cuisine. Sidra Iqbal, the host for the evening, had also noted this amusing trend, listing Pakistani food as the ultimate source of drama.


His Excellency, the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Peter Heyworth while talking about the original MasterChef and its growing popularity in Asia remarked on its tendency to bring contestants together despite the stark looking premise - slice & dice your way to the top.
‘MasterChef Australia’, which expanded its viewership, also gave people something / someone to root for, he observed; everyone had favorites. Its Pakistani counterpart comes arrayed with sponsorships, and potential.


A Reality TV import inevitably ups the ante and raises the bar. The winner gets to walk away with a cool 5 Rs. million cash, a cook book deal and the title of ‘MasterChef Pakistan’. It is admittedly an ambitious undertaking, and he for one was keen to see who will take the crown.


Along the way came some sneak peak footage of auditions in major cities and a look at the judges - Khurrum Awan Executive Assistant Manager food & beverages Mövenpick Hotel, Chef Zakir and Chef Mehboob.


The project got off the ground 9 months ago, had a grueling 18 hour schedule, and unearthed a talent pool supposedly worthy of the MasterChef universe. Ahmer Khan, Head of Programming at URDU1 first clarified that he and his team had actually lost weight during production, and shared some interesting misconceptions about their own countrymen (& women). It had something to with Pakistani’s love for food which was restricted to eating, and not cooking. Or so they thought. The goras disagreed; prepare to be amazed by your own was their sage advice. And they were.



Ahmer & co. would discover people who could cook beyond traditional handis / niharis, and were skilled in creating items they hadn’t come across in local restaurants. The team was impressed by the talent discovered in their own backyard, and promised great things in store for the viewers.



Mohammad Urwa, the 7UP rep. in a speech / product placement pitch, explained how well matched these two brands were and hoped that MasterChef would change the way reality cooking shows are perceived in Pakistan. The quest to find the elusive MasterChef will also be a test of the producer’s ability to adhere to the exacting standards demanded by Reality television.



‘MasterChef Pakistan’ is a production of Shine360 and URDU1 and has been sponsored by Ariel, Knorr, Shan Foods & of course 7-UP. The event was managed / moderated by Sidra Iqbal, PR provided by Fathma Amir - Statuspro 360.