It’s become South Africa’s most successful television format since the Afrikaans game show Noot vir Noot. Justin Bonello and Peter Gird’s reality cooking show, The Ultimate Braai Master, has started screening on the UK’s Travel Channel.
As a result, “South Africa’s toughest outdoor kitchen” is being broadcast to a potential audience of over 100 million people in 280 territories, subtitled in 22 languages.
Along with their hit show Charly’s Cake Angels, picked up by the UK’s Food Network, the open-fire cooking challenge is currently showing almost everywhere in the world except Australia and America. And now a US network is interested in licensing the Braai Master format and sending American contestants to South Africa to create the show, which the duo will produce.
Bonello and Gird – a chef and a commercials producer – started their company Cooked in Africa in 2006 after Bonello’s six-year stint with BBC Food, hosting his own outdoor cooking shows.
Of the 22 reality formats they’ve developed, it’s Braai Master that is really paying off. Regular South Africans with cooking skills must travel 8 000km across the country, facing off in open-fire cuisine challenges. The winning couple receives R500 000 and a car. It’s Amazing Race meets Master Chef.
The format’s secret ingredient is that it pays for itself. It ropes in big-brand products and places them within the show without compromising itself too directly.
SABC3 will launch its third season in September this year. But Cooked in Africa owns the rights to the show and has sold its South African characters on to global networks.
“The level of interest internationally is amazing,” says Gird. “We say every person loves to make a fire, sit around it and cook food. It taps the psyche of all of us. Plus we’re shooting in the most beautiful country in the world.”
The breakthrough happened after Gird met with Travel Channel’s MD, Nick Thorogood, in London. Thorogood also bought Charly’s Cake Angels for his Food Network.
Jacqui Biess, owner of the famous Charly’s Bakery in Cape Town, says Cooked in Africa approached her to make a reality show about “the crazy craziness of the bakery and the people who run it”. The show’s star bakers have become overnight sensations in more than 20 countries. Their shop is attracting visitors from all over the world, and “yesterday”, says Biess, “someone tried to persuade us to open a bakery in Libya”.
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