The Telegraph
Thursday , December 6 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
CIMA Gallary

Govt gravy for MasterChef
- Bid to woo tourists & promote indian cuisine

(From left) MasterChef Australia judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston

New Delhi, Dec. 5: Forget lamb rack with tartar sauce, tuck into mutton barra with chutney on MasterChef Australia. And wash it down with a little help from the government of India.

In a bid to promote Indian cuisine and woo more international tourists, the government is trying to get foreign cooking game shows to shoot in India. Yesterday, the plan got an Aussie tang when Australian tourism minister Martin Ferguson met his newly appointed Indian counterpart, K. Chiranjeevi.

“The Australian delegation wanted the Indian government to fund a few episodes of MasterChef Australia, which will be shot in various locations in India and will be about Indian cuisine,” said a senior official.

Which means, though the show’s official sponsor is Tourism Australia, the flavour will be distinctly Indian.

Chiranjeevi, sources said, has given in-principle nod to the proposal. The government will sponsor the air tickets — both international and domestic — for the entire team and help them get clearances. What remains to be worked out is how many episodes will there be. And, of course, where they will be shot.

While that is certainly food for thought, why all the sizzle?

Simple. The annual footfall of tourists to India is now a little over 55 lakh, which is only a fraction of the number of people who travel across the globe. The bulk of these 55 lakh come from the US and Canada, which together send about 11 lakh tourists to India.

Australia is one of the top 10 tourist-generating markets for India as far as inbound tourism is concerned. And one way of increasing the flow is food. Spicy, tangy Indian food, to be more precise.

“Currently, Italian food is ruling the roost internationally but we want India to replace it. Food is a major factor in attracting tourists. And if we can make it click across the world, we can woo more tourists, too,” said a senior official.

In July, a staple from the south, the masala dosa, had hit headlines when Viator, a travel blog based in the US, claimed that it was one of the top 10 dishes to try before you die.

Masala dosa shared space with BBQ ribs from America, Peking duck from China and tappanyaki from Japan.

The tourism ministry is also in talks with a US-based series — Celebrity Chef. At least 13 episodes of the show will be shot in locations across India showcasing a variety of Indian cuisine. The show’s producers have held talks with the ITC group, which will sponsor their accommodation.

“A television series will always have an audience even if it slides from number one to number three position,” the ministry official said.

The tourism ministry had recently pushed the home ministry into easing tourist visa rules. Now a person on a tourist visa can visit India within two months of his or her last visit, which was not allowed earlier.

But how to make them keep coming back? No prizes for answering that.