SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The first locally commissioned series for the Food Network (DStv Channel 185) was launched with a Moroccan feast at Lekgotla in Sandton on 12 June. The show will see South African celebrity chef Jenny Morris, also known as The Giggling Gourmet, travel to North Africa to sample the food and the culture. Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco will air every day at 3.30pm and 8.10pm, starting on Monday 16 July with a double bill at 8.10pm.
Managing director of Food Network Europe, Middle East and Africa, Nick Thorogood, noted that Food Network has firmly established itself on the DStv satellite pay-TV platform, because South Africans are passionate about food. “Our viewership is up 20% year on year in South Africa and we have the highest daily reach of any lifestyle channel on DStv,’ said Thorogood.
He added that they’ve worked to engage with South African viewers, and learned that they particularly love food programmes with fabulous, strong hosts.
“We met Jenny almost exactly a year ago. We trawled the country for chefs but no one really wowed us. Within two minutes after meeting her I knew we would sign her, and within five minutes I was in love with her. Jenny takes an idea, authors it, and takes you on a journey with her,’ said Thorogood.
Morris noted that the Food Network is like a family who have listened to her and given her what she loves – food, people, culture and travel.
“In Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco nothing is rehearsed, nothing is pretentious. I cooked Moroccan food, but I never tried to teach the Moroccans how to make their own tagine, I just gave it my own twist,’ she explained.
“I loved cooking in Morocco because they use a lot of earthy, beautiful, fresh ingredients, and especially fresh herbs. On one occasion I walked on a mountain of thyme – I wanted to roll in it,’ said Morris.
She is also full of praise for the locals with whom she interacted through her cooking. “The Moroccans are all about generosity of spirit. They are kind and have a wonderful sense of humour.’
There were, however, challenges to the shoot in Morocco earlier this year. Morris and the crew got attacked by bees while she was collecting fresh honey to make a Moroccan rice pudding for a village elder and his wife. “I got stung on my foot and the director got stung about 20 times on the side of his face, but the honey was delicious, so it was worth it,’ Morris added.
The only experience she doesn’t want to repeat, is riding a camel.
Food Network UK head of commissioning and original content Sue Walton added that they shot on a wide range of locations from Marrakech to the coast and the Atlas Mountains. “We shot in some very remote places, and the roads weren’t always the easiest to drive on. At one place our minibus couldn’t go any further and we had to walk the rest of the way to our destination – donkeys had to go and collect our bags. But no matter how remote, we always got a warm welcome and food was at the heart of life wherever we went.’
She added that the 10-part series was filmed by a small production team from UK company Sweet TV, who had some experience filming in the same kind of environment. The show will be seen in more than 85 countries around the world, and Walton noted that it is being subtitled or translated into nine languages.
While Jenny Morris Cooks Morocco is produced by a UK production company, Thorogood noted that they are now working with South African production company Rapid Blue on Reza Mahammad’s next series.
(Report by Linda Loubser)