About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, December 08, 2006
Great BBQ Challenge
I caught up with Lifestyle FOOD's new program Great BBQ Challenge the other day. Back in October I drove past the auditions and wondered if maybe I should have had a go myself, but after seeing what was served up, I'm sorta glad I didn't.

The concept is to find Australia's best barbequer and reward them with $25,000 and their own television show. Not too shabby, but it leads the Great BBQ Challenge into an area that is somewhat conflicted, for not only is it cooking skills on display but the contestants personality and on screen persona count for much as well, perhaps more than is good for the show.

What that means is that perhaps Australia's best barbequer may not in fact win the series, but the person who can talk and present well would seem to have the better chance. So it would probably be fairer to say that the best barbeque presenter will win the day, not the best tong wielder. This was highlighted in the auditions when all the contestants were given to cook was just a supermarket sausage and egg.

It is still early days, but the show needs to pick up the pace and find a way to inject some excitement an urgency into the format. The host, Jabba, comes courtesy of FM radio and a long stint as a VJ on Channel [V], a television music channel. I'm sure he knows plenty about the music scene, but there were times that he looked a little lost with his lack of cooking skills; asking intelligent questions about the cooking process is beyond him and it showed, especially when Ben O'Donoghue, a talented chef and cooking show presenter (Surfing the Menu, The Best) and one of the show's judges, talked in some depth about the contestants dishes.

Another judge, the livewire Julia Zemiro, who is an accomplished actress, comedienne and host of Rockwiz, did manage to put some energy into proceedings and also has some background in food through her parents owning a restaurant. Her main job is to judge the mysterious 'X-factor' of the contestants, which pretty much gives her a free reign to do as she pleases which is the perfect fit for her as she has the ability to engage and be funny at the same time.

The last judge is Mark Adamson, who has twenty years in the television industry as a cameraman, producer and director and is focused on the contestants' performance and showmanship. I'm not sure if has spent as much time in front of the camera as he has behind it and looked a little unsure at times, perhaps he will improve as the series goes on, but he will have to watch his use of the word quintessential - he managed to describe both male contestants as quintessential Aussie blokes, as if it were some badge of honour, or perhaps it's a clue to the sex of the eventual winner.

What the contestants are required to do is cook their signature dish, followed by some ingredients provided by the show, which in the episode I watched was the classic Aussie surf 'n' turf - steak and prawns. The contestants showed more flair with their choice of signature dishes, one was turkey burgers and another was a Moroccan inspired lamb dish. The judges then pick a winner from the three contestants who go through to the semi-finals and then the lucky few go on to a grand-final on Australia Day. There is also a wild card system whereby each judge can nominate a losing contestant to go through as well.

The Great BBQ Challenge is a fantastic concept, unique to Australia, that is let down in a couple of key areas. They need to find a way to inject more tension and excitement and Jabba needs a crash course in cookery. Each episode at an hour long means every weakness is brutally exposed. At one point Ben took control and the show came alive and the beautiful Julia also kept it all moving. I'm sure that things will improve, but perhaps next time less emphasis on personality and showmanship and greater concentration on the cooking could help things.

Great BBQ Challenge, Lifestyle FOOD, Saturdays 7.30pm.
  posted at 8:37 am

At 3:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does seem to be about entertainment, got to hold the audience. It's only us foodies who think it should be about the food. But there are folks who can cook and they still have personality.

At 5:04 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, you're dead right, but it just bothers me somehow. There was this guy on BBQ Showdown that was deadpan but so great, maybe they would overlook someone like that.

At 3:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I am one of the contestants and I agree with you. It isn't about the food, it's about how you look and if they can bash you into shape. What is the X factor they are looking for? Because really, honestly, Bill the winner in the first heat had no personality and was boring. The second heat found poor Bona an interesting obviously intelligent funny guy, very backyard pipped by two boring women. My perception of the show was something more along the line of getting to know the contestants personally and really build the suspense like in Top Chef or Idol. Hopefully it will get better.

At 5:22 pm, Blogger neil said...

I though the remark by one of the judges that Bona would scare small children very strange and insulting in the way it was delivered. If the show was the way you thought it might be, it could be an even better show. Sorry we don't get to see you.

At 7:12 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Hi, this is me I just became a blogger today. You will get to see me on Saturday night. I love your blog by the way. Have not had a chance to give it a good once over with 4 children nipping at my heels on holidays. I can't say alot about the show due to contract agreements. But I believe I can give my opinion of the episodes that have aired. So far I am dissapointed with how it is turning out. I am the crazy chubby red head! Hammer Hammer Hammer has now become my families favourite thing to give me grief about.

At 3:15 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi squishyness, can't wait to see you, woo hoo, way to go! Finding out about the hammer thing will be good too. Hope it all went well.

At 8:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hammer Hammer Hammer, they just don't like me, you gotta love me or hate me" was part of the preview clip they used where I was getting up the judges for this weeks episode. Balsy, Brassy, Big and Beautiful with a Big mouth. I should inject some excitement into this weeks episode. Just look out for the chubby red head ;)


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