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Fresh, Fast Showcase of Australia's Best Innovative Design

A recent resurgence in cooking programs has reconfirmed the genre as an enduring household favourite. But if best known food formats bring to mind dreary Delia or feisty Floyd – think again.


Local, modern programs are fast paced, fresh and showcase the best of Aussie talent and produce. One of Australia's favourites, breathing new life into culinary TV, is undoubtedly The Best in Australia, a remake of the BBC's popular The Best. So what are the challenges in making great food TV? What does it take to bring a show like this to fruition? Life n Fork went behind the scenes with producer of The Best in Australia Alun Bartsch, to find out.


Alun and his wife marian head up mago Films, a production company that makes international documentaries as well as food-based lifestyle series for both the Australian and international markets. According to Alun, the company aims to make original, innovative television that inspires and excites but most of all, entertains. "In the case of The Best, it was originally a BBC idea, and even though we've used the core elements, the Australian version is completely different. It's fast-paced, fun and full of larrikin Aussie humour," he says.


Getting a world class show like The Best off the ground takes a lot of time and money, and requires a small army of specialists. Producing a series begins with around three months pre-production. This is when all the research and preparation takes place.


Next there is three weeks of filming. Involved at this stage are cameramen, the director, the producer, sound recordist, make up and hair artists, two production assistants, a food economist and two assistants (who source all the food and pre-prepare it), set designers, scaffolders, lighting directors, an on-set editor and last but not least, the talent – foodie favourites Anna Gare, Ben O'Donoghue and Darren Simpson.


A question Alun often gets asked is if there are rehearsals and whether or not the show is scripted. "There are no rehearsals," says Alun. "As the writer I create scenarios for the day's filming and myself or the Director might seed the conversation if we'd like it to head in a certain direction. Though overall the vibe is very spontaneous and the presenters converse naturally."


You might be surprised to hear that each one hour episode of The Best in Australia takes two days to film, and on average around 20 hours of footage is filmed to produce one hour of television.


Alun says, "On the first day we record all the banter, gags and pranks. The food is prepared and photographed – then the crew eats the food! There's much competition to be one of the crew as we get to eat some of the best dishes in the world. "On the second day the cooks prepare the dishes again, this time for the judges, concentrating on the dish rather than the dialogue."


"We film our close-ups on this day, for example the bubbles in the rich broth or a steak searing gently on a grill - we refer to these shots as 'food porn'. The dishes are then taken into the judges and we film their comments." After filming, it's into post-production for about four months. "Here we work with composers, musicians, editors, sound mixers and sound foley (where we put in all the cooking sound effects separately) plus colour graders, graphics people and mastering, among others," says Alun.


With a title like The Best, it's not a surprise to see the three cooks using state of the art equipment in the kitchen set, with Le Creuset products featuring especially heavily. Alun says, "Le Creuset is a perfect fit for us as it's pure quality, works like a dream and looks great on camera."


"Plus as The Best in Australia is seen around the world, every kitchen item we use must stand up to international scrutiny and reflect the quality of our brand."


The Best in Australia is on Foxtel's Lifestyle Food channel

Last modified on Tuesday, 11 October 2011 13:39
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