“It’s sumptuous, home-style food… but we wear that proudly.”
Nine's new food show may be late to the table but it's determined to find its own voice.
“I’m not going to lie,” Tara McWilliams tells me.
“One of our biggest challenges has been to try and be original with the format, the challenges we have, and the content.”
As Executive Producer of Nine’s Family Food Fight, an original format from Endemol Shine Australia, there is a lot riding on her shoulders.
“There will definitely be comparisons where people say ‘We’ve seen that before.’ So we’re obviously doing a new twist or a new take on something that you may have seen before.
“But we think we’ve managed to come up with some new format beats that you haven’t seen before.”
As promos indicate there’s plenty of colour and character from the show’s six families, who specialise in cuisines from Italy, Greece, Vietnam, Lebanon and Australia (x2).
Filmed at Melbourne’s Showgrounds (adjacent to that other TV kitchen), there are cooking challenges, eliminations, off-site challenges and a relay. To create a point of difference Family Food Fight aims for a lighter, fun tone whilst serving up hearty, accessible food.
“It’s sumptuous, home-style, bistro-type food. It’s not high-end food you will find in a hatted restaurant. It’s not food made by top chefs. It’s food where you will be thinking ‘I wish I was at their dinner table,'” she explains.
“You will think ‘I could actually cook that’ while sitting on your couch, salivating.
“But we wear that proudly. We like that it’s what separates us from the other shows. And we like that it’s food made from love. They are families calling on their heritage, and what their parents have taught them.
“We’re coming in a bit late to the food game, no question. So what’s going to keep people’s interest in watching another cooking show is that it had to be really different.
“It’s not malicious, it’s not mean-spirited. It’s high-pressured moments where you see families butting heads. There are stronger personalities trying to dominate. Everyone has an opinion. There are some families with 4 alpha-personalities all trying to take control in the kitchen.
“You can get away with speaking to your family in ways that you can’t speak to anyone else. Then minutes later it means nothing –it’s all heart and love again.”
There are 4 judges, Matt Moran (Paddock to Plate, The Great Australian Bake Off), Tom Parker-Bowles (The Hot Plate), Hayden Quinn (MasterChef Australia, Surfing the Menu) and Anna Polyviou (MasterChef Australia). During challenges they watch on through monitors to see how contestants cope.
“To me that’s where some of the best viewing comes in,” McWilliams explains.
“You are seeing the judges unfiltered, speaking their minds and commenting on the action. When they go back to judge the contestant their relationship is probably deeper than other shows, because they are seeing everything warts and all.
“What I love about it is you are seeing them react. It’s not scripted or having to keep up a façade in front of the contestants.”
The cultural aspect is seeking to be one of the show’s proudest attributes. During casting it became obvious to McWilliams that for Asian, Middle Eastern & European families, food is what brings them together. Families with Australian heritage tended to gather over sport, or drinks, or maybe the BBQ.
Family Food Fight will highlight cultural traditions as much as cuisine, in the middle of its TV competition for a $100,000 prize.
“We genuinely have families where the recipes have been handed down to them, rather than being fans of cooking shows. It’s so much a part of who they are,” McWilliams adds.
“The Italians and the Greeks were ‘friendly fire’ as to who cooked better, but there was so much love there.
“Everyone loves the Lebanese sisters. Their love for life is infectious. They are so proud of their faith and their culture. The minute I met them I couldn’t stop smiling. They were joyous.
“And I thought ‘If I’m feeling this way and their food is amazing, the Australian audience will as well.’”
Family Food Fight begins 7:30pm Monday October 30 on Nine.