There’s a new cooking show on our channels and no, it’s not yet another phoren one. It’s Love Bites With Joey on NDTV Good Times. And the channel’s launched the show at the right time – while saliva glands still seem to be in over-drive and we are nearing depression that Junior Masterchef is winding up and waiting for regular Masterchef to start. It’s also timed cleverly at 10pm so it doesn’t clash with either Masterchef or Top Chef.
Going by the promos, what I gathered was that Joey Matthew, one-time model, was going to take us grocery shopping and then cook up some home-style easy recipes and then feed her culinary creations to her friends. And she had her dog on the set, which always wins brownie points for me. Did it look suspiciously like a desi Nigella? Yes it did. Nothing wrong with that, if she could pull it off.
After watching the first two episodes, I can say what stood out immediately was the setting. For once the host wasn’t cooking in one of those standard issue NDTV studio kitchens which all look the same, just in different colours. So Maria Goretti had a red one, Vicky Ratnani had a mauve one, Aditya Bal has an indigo one. It’s like Veneta Cucine had won a bonanza account with the channel and Karen Anand might jump out of one the cabinets while Vicky’ was sautéing his broccoli.
Joey cooks in her apartment, and it’s nice to see a well-decorated and normal kitchen. So when she bakes, she bakes in the kind of oven most of us have at home instead of those fancy giant modular ones you usually see on these shows. The other thing that stands out is how beautiful the food looks. Even if her cooking expertise doesn’t seem to be all there, this is by far one of the slicker and more attractive looking food shows I’ve seen out of India. There are no harsh lights or weird-angle shots of the food. There’s no glaring lighting or over-the-top music or strange voice-over. It’s easy on the eye and the food, most importantly, is made to look scrumptious. I loved how the cheese was bubbling on the pizza in the oven and how the chillis curled up slightly.
In the first episode, Joey cooks a trio of dishes – a chocolate pavlova, a sea bass with vegetables and a roast pumpkin soup. The second episode was dedicated to a variety of pizzas. Both episodes actually had some really good recipes with normal ingredients, the kind you can find in your neighbourhood. Also, I cook, so I can spot a fake recipe from a mile away, and hers were spot on. The roast pumpkin soup especially looked delicious.
But Love Bites with Joey has only one Achille’s heel and that is its Amazonian host, Joey.
The one thing going for Nigella or Donna Hays or Kylie Kwong or even Anjum Anand is that there’s a certain warmth about them. Even if they are shooting in a set that is pretending to be their home kitchen, the fact that they love and know their food seeps out of the TV screen. You can make that out from the way they toss their pasta and baste their chicken and especially when they talk about the food they’re cooking. They don’t say strange things like, “Don’t want flabby arms that say hi before you do”.
Joey’s fine while she’s looking away from the camera and cooking her food. It’s when she looks into the camera that a strange chill goes down your spine. In the first episode, she had an odd habit of looking up in a surprised bird-in-the-headlight manner. Like she was shocked to find a cameraman hovering over her. And there’s a strange glint in her eye when she says “Trust Me” – that reminds me a little of Narendra Modi’s glassy stare. Also, she can’t do sexy. She’s so manly that when she mouths lines like, “Beat them till they’re stiff. The stiffer they’re the better” or “The boys always want a little more to eat” – it’s more unnerving than alluring. She does have mammaries to be proud of, though. And if you saw the first episode you’d know what I was talking about. I watched in fear while the egg whites were being beaten, certain that one of her breasts might pop out at any moment. There are slow-pan breast shots which I think are meant to reel the male audience in and remind you of Madhuri Dixit in her heydays. Only in a larger version .
She did seem to be more at ease in the second episode though. For one, she was covered and the girls were kept in for those 30 minutes. She seemed more natural, although still stilted while telling us the origin of Margherita pizza. But at least. She was almost endearing at certain moments, like when she said she used to pronounce the word “crisp” as “crips”. Maybe there is a little girl hiding inside the bigger scarier one.
What kept my interest going and made me tune in for the second episode though was there was a finesse about the programme as a whole. You don’t get shocked into attention as with Foodistan’s music or lights or shouting host Aly Khan. Here I was able to focus on the food. A little scared and distracted by the host, but maybe I’ll grow to love her as well.
Should you watch the show? You should, for sure. I will be. Just for the recipes and to enjoy some food porn and a slick cooking programme which has been made in India and is sans histrionics, bright lights and modular kitchens. And if you’re not frightened easily – Joey’s great too, in her own special Children of the Corn-way.