Get ready for interesting ingredients, a heated cook-off and judges trying their best to outdo each other – all this and more is coming to local TV screens with the launch of Chopped South Africa.

The announcement that a local version of the hit cooking show will be produced in SA was made on Monday. Chopped SA will feature three judges and four chefs in each episode. TV personalities Jenny Morris and Siba Mtongana; director of The Hurst Campus, Rebecca Hurst; and Executive Chef at the Southern Sun Cullinan, Lindsay Venn, comprise the panel of judges. DESTINY was privileged to visit the set located in Auckland Park.

The show will be presented by TV presenter and entrepreneur Denvor Phokaners, co-presenter of the SABC2 travelogue programme MooiLoop! Each episode of Chopped SA will see four contestants cook up a storm with an ultimate cash prize of R40 000 up for grabs.

Producer Sue Nell says it took eleven months to negotiate a deal for the show to be shot in SA. An excited Nell says she cannot wait for the show to air.

“I’ve always been fascinated by these fast-paced reality shows. I approached Food Network in the United Kingdom, we had a short meeting and they said let’s go with it. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for (laughs). We found out that if we do this show, it has to be an exact replica of the US show.

“The only thing we did differently is that we didn’t put out a search for chefs the way they do in the States. The first round, we decided to identify 60 chefs and whittle them down to 30 for the programme,” says Nell.

A mammoth task lay ahead as Nell and her team worked to put the technical aspects of the show together. This included finding a studio to shoot in and decorating the set to ensure it was a duplicate of the US Chopped. The show’s director, Eugene Naidoo, says there were several technical challenges.

“Our biggest technical challenge is trying to deliver the show based on the technical specifications that are required of an international show. SA is not equipped with the type of camera equipment that is specified.

“There are only two or three suppliers in the country that could actually give us the equipment to produce the show. It’s not just simple HD. It’s high-quality HD, shooting at a very high bitrate to the point where we generate 2600 clips a day. This takes a lot of work and editing from our side.”

According to Naidoo, the fact the show will go out to over a hundred countries means there were at least nine channels of audio that had to be put down. A considerable amount of time also went into the design of the show, says Naidoo. Viewers can expect to see 10 jam-packed shows. Each will feature chefs pitting their skills against each other using unique ingredients. Chopped SA will have a South African flavour by showcasing traditional food and the high standard of culinary skills the country has to offer.