New Delhi: The upcoming season of Mastechef India on Star Plus sponsored by Amul and Adani has gone vegetarian, making this the only fully veggie format of MasterChef TV show in the world. There’s nothing fishy about this, insist STAR Plus — which airs the Indian version of the globally popular cooking show — main sponsors Amul and power sponsors Adani Wilmar both are Gujarat based, and celebrity chef and show host Sanjeev Kapoor.
They also say there’s no chicken and egg problem — meaning it isn’t a question of whether sponsors directed the show’s producers to go veggie or producers suggested the change to sponsors first. But some executives familiar with the matter said negotiations about making the show fully vegetarian have been on.
These executives, who spoke on the condition they not be identified, said at least one sponsor was “in favour” of a MasterChef that keeps non-vegetarian food out. Amul and Adani Wilmar or STAR Plus declined to discuss sponsorship amounts. Master-Chef ‘s two corporate sponsors are heavyweights in their category.
Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which owns Amul, has a turnover of around Rs 19,000 crore. Adani Wilmar, a joint venture between the Adani Group and Singapore-based Wilmar International which markets Fortune cooking oil as its flagship brand, has a turnover of over Rs 17,000 crore.
The change to veg-only Master-Chef will be a challenge for some budding Indian chefs. Previous versions of MasterChef India have had versions of MasterChef India have had contestants wow judges with stuff like chicken pulaw, tandoori chicken pate and desi sushi. Globally, less than 20 per cent of Master-Chef culinary creations are vegetarian. All three winners of previous Indian MasterChefs created non-vegetarian dishes.
Auditions for this year’s show have started and finals will be aired from January. Official explanation for the fully veggie culinary show is “celebrating vegetarianism, which is getting popular all over the globe, and giving an opportunity to vegetarian-only cooks”. STAR Plus insisted there was no pressure from Amul or Adani Wilmar.
Gaurav Banerjee, General Manager, STAR Plus, said: “We want to debunk the myth that nonvegetarian food offers more creative options than veg food.” Banerjee also argued vegetarian food was more “inclusive” and that “non-veg food puts off people who follow a vegetarian diet”. Health, too, will be promoted by a 100 per cent veggie MasterChef, Banerjee said. “More vegetarians mean less cholesterol…the world is understanding this,” he argued.
But why drop meat, poultry, fish and eggs from this year after three years of non-vegetarian cooking in MasterChef India? Officials at Adani Wilmar, which started sponsoring MasterChef from last year, said they didn’t put forward any condition for sponsorship.
“But we are very happy with the veg-only format of the show. The world is moving towards a healthy, vegetarian way of living and the show will only reflect what people want to see,” Angshu Mallik, COO of Adani Wilmar, said. However, an official at Adani Wilmar, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, said the group was “always in favour of bringing down the non-veg content in the show and has been in talks with the channel for a while now”. This official also said the Adani Group has conducted studies that show “customers moving towards healthy, nutritious alternatives to fat-heavy meat products”.
Adani Group has recently launched a new series of branded food products that include soya and traditional flours. Amul, main sponsor, said it expected the show to attract more viewers this time. “All other cookery shows are non-vegetarian anyway, an only-veg cookery show will definitely attract more attention,” said RS Sodhi, Amul MD.
Some senior Amul who spoke on the condition they not be identified, said the show going fully vegetarian was “somewhat of a surprise” to the company. They said no extensive discussions with the show’s producers have happened on this issue.
Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, who will host the show, defended the fully vegetarian MasterChef saying it’s contestants’ ability under pressure and not recipes that’s the point of MasterChef. “We are primarily a vegetarian country. Globally too, the trend is to go vegetarian. It is more challenging to prepare vegetarian dishes. And it is said that for every non-vegetarian dish available across the globe, there is a vegetarian option prepared in our country.”
But many past contestants and other chefs in India feel the “vegonly” twist to the show is a huge gamble. One former contestant, unwilling to reveal his name, was emphatic in his critique. “Making the show completely vegetarian means promoting chefs who can cook only vegetarian food.”
Source : ET