Commercial TV just loves an elimination cooking show.
The latest to be served up is Plate of Origin, a Seven Studios format in which ex-MasterChef judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan, team up with My Kitchen Rules star, Manu Feildel. The ‘World Cup of Food’ series pits cuisine against cuisine in 10 episodes across 3 weeks.
As Preston tells TV Tonight, the show was first envisioned by CEO James Warburton to follow the now-postponed Olympics.
“He felt that in Breakfast Seven dominates, they are really strong in News and Sport. But it’s been that primetime 7:30, 8:30 slot that’s been the challenge for them. He wanted a new show that would run post-Olympics and it would capitalise on that euphoria and interest in all things international.
“It was to be a new show rather than a reboot”
“It was to be a new show rather than a reboot of any existing show, but obviously using the team they have there: Andrew Backwell, Evan Wilkes, David Dutton have a lot of experience in Reality TV.
“Given that Gary and I are obsessed travellers the answer was immediately ‘Yes!'”
10 teams specialist in cuisines from countries such as Vietnam, France, Greece, Cameroon, Lebanon and Australia compete for glory and a $100,000 prize. At the end of the first round 5 teams progress on, while the remaining 5 face elimination.
“To my knowledge no-one’s ever take it to a full format”
Preston says the “World Cup” theme is shorthand to explain the concept of cuisine vs. cuisine.
“It’s an idea floating around that people have played with, but to my knowledge no-one’s ever take it to a full format. It’s a great idea, especially in this country, because we are so well served by amazing cooks and an incredible breadth of different ethnicities and nationalities.”
But is elimination an essential ingredient in TV cooking shows? In primetime, at least, Preston is a believer.
“If you look at the Food Network Channel, which is obviously a specialist channel, competition is the stronger area. Jamie Oliver is a rarity, Masterclass would be another one. But we want someone to barrack for.
“It’s very fast-paced”
“One of the strengths of Plate is that it’s very fast-paced,” he continues. “Big Brother was elimination night one or night two? Masked Singer, Ninja Warrior, Lego Masters, they tend to be quickly through to elimination. Punchy, short runs of 15 eps. People like that idea of knowing there’s an end in sight.”
Plate of Origin will also shoot for friendly rivalry amongst its teams to contrast with the catty behaviour on My Kitchen Rules.
“We were very clear that we didn’t want to go and do MKR”
“We were very clear that we didn’t want to go and do (MKR). As much as Colin (Fassnidge) and Manu are mates, we didn’t want to be (taking) their jobs. It’s been a very successful format for Seven. But Gaz and I love the the joyous, celebratory nature of food. We love the supportive nature of judges. We’re going to be honest and truthful and that can be hard to hear. But it’s always about the food.”
Filming at a NSW property was also tested by the rapidly developing COVID impact (originally an audience was planned) which also saw production trim its planned number of episodes.
“We played it by ear. We didn’t want to didn’t want to put anyone at risk, contestants or crew,” Preston insists.
“We took it day by day”
“We took it day by day, watching what was happening and how things were changing. When we had a show in the can the decision was made by the higher-ups that we had a show we could put to air, so let’s do the right thing. It was incredibly sensible.
“Hopefully, there’s nothing wrong with a short sharp show.”
If the show works there are plans for more courses, with no shortage of cuisine contenders.
“We haven’t even touched three of Australia’s favourite takeaways yet: Mexican, Thai and Japanese.”
Plate of Origin screens 7pm Sunday and continues 7:30pm Monday & Tuesday on Seven.