DS: MasterChef has had more than 60 local adaptions broadcast in more than 200 countries. Why do you think it’s such a successful format?
I think MasterChef works because food and cookery are universal. It takes any form of cookery — baking, fine dining, home cookery, Asian, Italian, French, or whatever you choose— and it adapts beautifully to every single country. So, you take the idea of people who love cooking, but are amateurs, put them through a professional competition and see who wins and loses. It's interesting because often the people who are not the best cooks go on to win because they have that sort of imagination and drive. So, it really digs out hidden skills in people. It's less about can you cook five dishes in 10 minutes. It's more about do you have the taste, the skill, the determination, and that ability to develop as you go.
DS: How did Dubai’s Masterchef restaurant come about?
Well, we've been always looking about opening a MasterChef restaurant. The advantage of being international is that everybody has their own different take of MasterChef. So, you might love MasterChef UK. I might love MasterChef Australia. Someone else might love MasterChef US. You know, there’s so many different variants that it allows you to sort of bring those all together. What I love most about Dubai is the fact that you can experiment here. The people are willing really to try new and different things.
DS: It’s taken two years.
Duncan and I first met about two and a half years ago and started talking about the concept. There was no obvious answer to what would be the dishes on that menu. We came up with a solution of tying it to the winners. So, we work very closely with the different winners along the years: we’ve taken 10 winners from Australia, 10 from the US, and 10 from the UK. And they’ve worked together to create the menu. So, when you're presented with a dish, you have a lovely story behind each one that connects it to the TV show. If it goes well, we would love to replicate it elsewhere.
We have MasterChef now in 60 different territories around the world. So, we have 60 different local versions and we broadcast in over 200 markets. Last year, we won a Guinness World Record for the most travelled food format to hit the 60 mark.
DS: Do you plan to bring any of the TV shows here?
I hope so. We’ve brought some of the TV shows before. We filmed in Dubai. And definitely, I see this is an opportunity to be able to come ad film here and actually take over the restaurant and have a challenge where you could have a dinner, cooked as part of the competition.
DS: Coming to Endemol, you guys have created a lot of great international formats. How do you come up with a concept?
It’s a lot of work, you know. You can’t sit down with the development team and say I want to come up with a format. We are constantly brainstorming different ideas, but also revisiting ideas that we thought were great two to three years ago and somehow have never got off the ground. I’ve really learned to never assume because a broadcaster says no that you wouldn’t get the idea off the ground. Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board and start again. But other times, may be it was just not the right time for it.
DS: What’s your approach to localisation in different territories with your formats?
I think this is a real balancing act between what you don’t change, and being aware of local customs. We have a team of flying consultants who talk to broadcasters and production companies about it. If they need to change something, they understanding why, is it for budget or cultural reasons, and then consider the changes; rather than just saying yes or no.