It is a veritable feast out there on Indian television. There is Masterchef Australia and USA, celebrity chefs from Angela Lawson to Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsey to Jamie Oliver and their Indian counterparts, Sanjeev Kapoor, Madhur Jaffrey et al. If cultural historians were to dissect the last two decades of television history, they will find it to be an era of oral and visual gratification. Food has become a fetish, and watching others cook is now a vicarious obsession. Clearly, there is a huge audience for these shows, judging by the number of food-related programs and their sponsors. Television has made chefs into celebrities—witness the huge media coverage of Nigella Lawson’s public spat with her husband. In India, Vikas Khanna is treated like a movie star.
What explains our insatiable appetite for food shows? The trend coincided with rising affluence in India and the growing aspiration for a better lifestyle. Food, an important element, was dressed up and given more exotic avatars. The best way to do that was to find a telegenic chef and put him/her before a camera. With the arrival of designer kitchens and imported cooking ranges, studios were transformed into dazzling sets for food shows, adding to the appeal. The last two decades have also coincided with the growth in consumer spending on exotic fruits, vegetables and ingredients. Affluence also meant foreign travel and a growing appreciation for cuisines from around the globe. The result has been that TV has transformed the behind-the-scenes pot-stirrer to a culinary rockstar and Indian audiences can’t seem to get enough of them.