Why do we prefer chocolates to sprouts? Do hot peppers help in weight loss? What makes a good curry? And most of all, what is the science behind the food we eat?
These are some of the questions that Sony BBC Earth’s upcoming series Secrets Behind Food tries to unearth. Curated for Indian viewers by celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, the anthology series comprises three shows: Supermarket Secrets, Food Factory Supersized and Food Detectives.
“The common thread between these three shows is that they ask the question, why?” Brar told Scroll.in. “A lot of times, we have questions around food to which we don’t find answers. So we never ask them. All these three shows ask the why behind food.”
Celebrity chefs Gregg Wallace and Tom Kerridge and BBC newsreader Babita Sharma will also be part of the series, which will be premiered in India on July 23.
The three shows set out to explore the science behind food in different ways, Brar explained. In Food Detectives, a journalist, a scientist and a chef will break down the unanswered questions associated with various dishes. The other two shows will explore the United Kingdom’s biggest supermarkets.
Brar is credited with contributing to and promoting the show for Indian audiences. “These concepts are something very close to my heart and these shows are really inquisitive ones trying to understand the science behind the food,” Brar said. “I’m helping promote the anthology and broadly adding a narrative to it.”
Brar has judged and hosted several food reality shows, including Masterchef India (2016), The Great Indian Rasoi (2014) and Rasoi Ki Jung Mummyon Ke Sang (2017). Unlike most shows, Secrets Behind Food will turn the focus on different kinds of cuisine and not just the chef, he said.
“Normally, food shows are instructional or travel-related, but there are hardly any shows that question the premise of what we need to ideally eat and why certain things are the way they are,” Brar said. “I believe it is very important to ask those questions because it opens up the whole window of scientific understanding of food cuisine and culture.”
Brar discovered his passion for food at the age of 16 in Lucknow. “I was introduced to cooking when I used to accompany my grandfather to the gurudwara,” he said. “I used to sit there and watch people cook and then somebody said it’s time you start cooking, and so I started cooking. It was also Lucknow that changed my perspective towards food. That’s the reason I am here.”
The chef has since collaborated with many hotel chains and launched restaurants in cities Delhi, Goa, Mumbai and Boston. Food has become an even more vital part of people’s lives through the years, Brar observed, and the interest in eating goes beyond the kitchen and the restaurant. “People are now a lot into food media more than they were five years ago, and that is typically because the whole idea of food has become essential to conversations, get-togethers and to going out,” Brar said.
For a television show to work, hosts need to do more than chomp their way through meals. “For me, there is a lot of reading that goes into the preparation of a show,” Brar said. “I’m about to start a show on the Indian Railways, so I am reading the right books, watching the right documentaries, reading a lot about certain cuisines. Also, cooking a few recipes, understanding a few flavours, eating at a few places that are relevant to the context are the things that go into the preparation.”