Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Hills on a Plate weaves tasteful tale of state’s culinary flavours


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, March 24: In what can be categorised as an unexpected fusion of culinary mastery and cultural immersion, the debut of the first episode of Hills on a Plate – Meghalaya left the watchers curious, redefining perceptions of regional cuisine. The exclusive screening of the inaugural episode ahead of English singer and songwriter Calum Scott’s performance captivated viewers, eliciting whispers of awe and astonishment at the emotional journey woven through the simple yet intricately detailed flavours of Meghalaya.
Produced by Rockski EMG and Meghalaya Tourism and filmed over two years, the seven-episode series promises to showcase the culinary treasures of Meghalaya to a global audience. The series is set to go on air on JioCinema in the first week of April.
With known names like MasterChef fame Nambie Marak and Tanisha Phanbuh as contestants, alongside world-renowned chef Sarah Todd and jury members Ardahun Passah and William Diengdoh, the stage was set for a culinary extravaganza unlike any other.
Reflecting on her pivotal role as a judge, Sarah Todd shared her profound connection to Meghalaya’s culinary heritage, describing it as a harmonious blend of her culinary journey and aspirations. With a decade of experience in the industry, Todd’s expertise provided a unique lens to appreciate the innovation and tradition interwoven in Meghalaya’s cuisines.
Speaking to The Shillong Times, she said, “Having woven through the culinary landscapes of India and abroad, the anticipation of how contestants would interpret Meghalaya’s diverse palette was exhilarating. The challenge lay in encouraging these bright minds to push culinary boundaries without estranging the soul of traditional Meghalayan cuisine. This balance became the essence of our judging criteria. The chance to witness and nurture this fusion in the Northeast, a region teeming with culinary and cultural richness, underscored the significance of my role in this culinary narrative.”
The series made the contestants push their boundaries with the traditional cuisine while still feeling at home, and at the same time, evoking a sense of healthy competition.
For Jason Manners, the Executive Producer of the series, Hills on a Plate signifies the culmination of years of dedication to promoting Meghalaya’s culinary legacy on a global scale.  He said, “Our foray into media production with Hills on a Plate is a culmination of years of groundwork and strategic planning. By addressing pertinent issues while promoting celebrity culture, we hope to amplify Meghalaya’s culinary heritage on a global scale.”
The balance between innovation and tradition was one of the essences of the series.
Moreover, Hills on a Plate – Meghalaya transcended the conventional cooking show format by weaving the state’s untouched beauty and rich cultural fabric into the culinary narrative. Nambie Marak, the 1st runner-up of MasterChef India season 8, who is also a contestant, gave credit to the rigorous training she had gone through while filming the series, which helped her in her MasterChef journey. “I have been part of this series for more than a year now, and MasterChef happened recently, so I was trained well, which helped me on the bigger platform,” she added.
With contestants like Artet Kharsati, Ivan Suting, Daei Suchiang, Nambie Marak, Tanisha Phanbuh, Uttam Thangkhiew, and Adonijah Lyngdoh, each bringing their unique outlook to the kitchen, the stage had to be set for a culinary spectacle like no other.
For Tanisha, braving the temperamental weather of Meghalaya proved to be both a challenge and a cherished memory. From cooking through heavy downpours to battling high humidity and heat, contestants persevered, serving up plates of food for the judges amidst nature’s whims.
The unique format of the show, spotlighting the region’s diverse ingredients and cooking techniques, inspired contestants like Artet, Ivan, and Adonijah to take part. Emphasising the incorporation of local flavours and traditions into dishes allowed them to immerse themselves in Meghalaya’s rich culinary heritage.
Behind the scenes, the journey from concept to execution was marked by challenges and triumphs. Manners spearheaded the endeavour, navigating obstacles with the expertise of industry veterans Kamki Diengdoh and Tyrel Lyngdoh. From procuring essential equipment from Dubai to managing logistics with Bollywood line production experience, the team worked to bring the vision to life.
Manners also added, “With Sarah’s enthusiasm for our local cuisine and her interest in establishing a presence in Meghalaya, the show serves as a platform to showcase our state’s culinary prowess to the world. Her favourite kind of food is Indian food and we wanted her to know about our food in the hills as well. She already has a restaurant in Goa and has expressed interest in opening one in Meghalaya as well. We might have to rekindle that conversation with her.”
Through meticulous casting processes and collaborations with local talents, the show aimed to not only entertain but also elevate Meghalaya’s culinary landscape to international acclaim.
The screening of the series also saw the distribution of cheques worth Rs 10 lakh each to all the top-five contestants of the series, by Vijay Kumar D, Commissioner and Secretary of Department of Tourism, on Wednesday.
The screening also had the likes of chef Jason White present in the audience to gather feedback for the series before it went on air, and the feedback seemed to be great with White stating that he could already connect with the characters.


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