Family Food Fight is, in some ways, the antithesis of The Block.
It has so much diversity, worn proudly on its apron strings, that this time it is the anglo Aussies who have to struggle to be heard. Instead of heated arguments, there is laughter peppered with friendly bickering, and camaraderie replacing bitchy competition.
Welcome to the Family Food Fight kitchen, a colourfully dressed shed adjacent to that other TV kitchen, but compartmentalised into 6 working spaces for a very, very noisy cast.
There are 6 teams specialising in 5 cuisines: Shahrouk sisters (Lebanese), Gibaldi family (Italian), Panayides family (Greek), Nguyen family (Vietnamese), Butler & Sheppard families (Australian x 2).
For their first test judge Matt Moran tells them to cook up a traditional family feast for a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? challenge. That turns out to be fellow judges Hayden Quinn, Anna Polyviou and Tom Parker Bowles.
All 4 eavesdrop on the families under pressure courtesy of cameras and monitor, adding various observations throughout.
As our families assemble as many as 20 dishes each, the show doesn’t hold back on cultural inclusion. The Panayides, for example, don’t begin until they have blessed their kitchen with holy water. Strategically located alongside the Gabaldis, there is friendly Italian-Greek rivalry across the benches without the need to call in the UN.
The Nguyens, which includes Maltese-Vietnamese parents, just want their 2 daughters to be self-sufficient, and preferably leave their phones long enough to learn family recipes in the kitchen. The two Aussie families (I’m not really sure what qualifies as Aussie cuisine, but there is an upside-down pineapple cake) are overshadowed in terms of personality, and potentially level of skill.
As cameras hover around our families racing against a clock (don’t they always?), there’s a LOT of shouting, but at least the music is not as overt as other brands. Perhaps because there is one big, robust challenge it also feels a little on the long side. But by the time the dishes are served, tables are brimming with colour and flavour.
Make no mistake, this is not 5 star, immaculate food. It is an abundant, oily, feast to excess. It probably tastes delicious, yet visually it doesn’t know where to stop, there is more, more, more. Rather than worrying about all the carbs and sugars at play, I’m more curious to see if the audience responds to its familiarity or feels that invested TV time must result in dishes that are works of art. Family Food Feast is more Pro Hart than Mona Lisa.
Format-wise one family will win an advantage for an off-site challenge on night 2, culminating in an elimination by night 4 (Sunday). Of the 4 judges, Matt Moran is the show’s driver, and the exchanges over the table, as they sit down for a taste test, play to the emotions behind the cooking choices.
The format is surprisingly simple, to allow character to put its best foot forward.
And that’s the best ingredient in this crowded genre: diversity showcased in a primetime show (the Shahrouks are quite the casting find). While SBS has been dining out on it for years, and MasterChef has celebrated numerous individuals, it hasn’t been prominent in Nine’s failed foodie shows.
If this makes it to season 2, the possibilities for French, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Hungarian, Spanish, African, German, Chinese, Korean, Malaysian are seemingly endless….
Family Food Fight begins 7:30pm Monday on Nine.