Indian TV chefs battle old enemy in 'Foodistan'


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The Independent Online

India and Pakistan will go to war next week. And thousands of foodies across South Asia will tune in to watch.

Neatly bringing together two national pastimes of eating and regional rivalry, the reality cooking show Foodistan will pitch a team of professional Pakistani chefs against a team from India. Three nights a week, viewers will be able to see the two sides compete in the kitchen, in both team and individual contests.

"India and Pakistan are two nations who share a common passion for good food," said Smeeta Chakrabarti, the CEO of NDTV Lifestyle, which is broadcasting the show in India. "And this love for food is something that binds the two nations, despite the numerous differences."

The producers of the show, filmed over three weeks in Delhi, are tapping into a growing appetite among the region's upper-middle class for food, fashion and 'lifestyle' products. In India especially, the number of television programmes about food and travel have soared in recent years.

One of the Pakistani chefs taking part in the series, Poppy Agha, has her own culinary institute in Karachi and a show on Pakistani television. She said of her time in India: "I made some fantastic friends. There is a rivalry, but in this programme we all came together."

There are clear similarities between the cuisine of north India and that of Pakistan. But Ms Agha said she had been surprised by the variety of Indian food, especially the styles from the south of India where many of the recipes are vegetarian, a tradition that does not really exist in Pakistan.

Among the chefs representing India is Manish Mehrotra, executive chef at the Indian Accent restaurant in Delhi.

The panel of judges is made up of British chef and presenter Merrilees Parker, actress Sonya Jehan, who is of Pakistani-French origin, and Indian journalist, broadcaster and restaurant critic Vir Sanghvi. It was his blog that has provided some advance tit-bits.

Mr Sanghvi said yesterday that the chefs from the two countries had hit it off. "There are a lot of clichés about Indians and Pakistanis being cousins and brothers and such," he said. "After this, I was ready to believe it."