x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Cookery channel Fatafeat has new shows for Ramadan

The Dubai-based cookery channel Fatafeat is hoping to improve on last year’s impressive Ramadan audience figures with an extensive rebrand and a host of new shows for the Holy Month.

Darine El Khatib, the head of the channel Fatafeat. Jeffrey Biteng / The National
Darine El Khatib, the head of the channel Fatafeat. Jeffrey Biteng / The National

Fatafeat, the Middle East’s leading food network, has announced it is to extensively rebrand in time for the Ramadan season. The new branding will encompass the TV channel, Fatafeat’s monthly magazine and all the channel’s online and social media activity, and will feature a cheerful new logo to reinforce Fatafeat’s positioning as “home of the smile”, where the channel says “the entire family can be inspired, amazed and entertained from the comfort of their sofas”.

The channel’s director, Darine El Khatib, explains: “The entire packaging of the channel will change starting June 15, in time for our Ramadan programming starting on June 28. You can expect us to be passionate, inclusive, fresh, modern and colourful. Our slogan ‘Life tastes beautiful’ is all about putting a smile on the viewer’s face and asking them to celebrate life with us.”

So what will a Fatafeat viewer switching on their TV on June 15 notice has changed from the previous day?

“The first thing will be the logo. It’s strawberry red with a smile and the smile is crucial. It will be on all the branding. There are also other key colours we’ll be going with for the rebrand such as orange, kiwi green and so on.

“Then, once the Ramadan programming starts, viewers will notice a lot of new shows, too. We’re premièring all the new Ramadan shows on June 28. One highlight will be Modern Cuisine, where we’ll be bringing molecular cooking to Arabic TV screens for the first time. Another show is On a Budget where the chef Salma Soliman teaches the housewife how to cook a complete meal on a budget. Then there’s Salt and Pepper [returning for a second season], which features essential recipes that viewers need to know.”

The molecular cuisine show sounds particularly intriguing. The concept of molecular cuisine has already been pioneered around the world by avant-garde chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, but now local audiences will be treated to a local take on the theme thanks to the chef Mohammad Orfali.

El Khatib explains further: “Chefs have started taking the basics of food, discovering what modern ingredients are made of and actually playing with the chemistry of it. In the show, for example, you will find watermelon carpaccio. If you look at it, you would definitely think it’s a piece of meat because he played with the watermelon to make it look like a carpaccio, which is a really complex thing to do. Once you taste it you would guess it’s not meat, but you wouldn’t really know what it is and when someone tells you it’s watermelon, you’re going to be surprised. Mohammad also ‘made’ cherry tomatoes that become fizzy when you eat them, as if you’re drinking soda. It’s a weird experience and it’s the first time anyone in the Middle East has done this.”

For most of the year, Fatafeat operates on a roughly 70/30 ratio of imported to locally produced shows, with Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay among the most popular subtitled imports, both of whose shows are exclusive to Fatafeat in the region — El Khatib adds that the Ramsay shows screened on Fatafeat feature the famously foul-mouthed British chef cooking with his family, where he is apparently the image of politeness rather than the ranting demagogue berating his underlings that western audiences are familiar with, so sensitive viewers can watch in safety.

The channel’s home-grown productions are made at Fatafeat’s Jebel Ali, Dubai, studio. For Ramadan, the channel will be reversing this ratio and screening 70 per cent locally produced content to make sure families have plenty of locally relevant, Arabic-language entertainment during the Holy Month. Last year, Fatafeat was the third most-watched channel during prime time among Saudi Arabian women and the channel increased its year-on-year rating by a massive 48 per cent. With a similarly appealing line-up of Arabic content ready to screen this Ramadan, there’s no reason to assume things will be any different, and with the high-profile rebranding too, the channel will be hoping to outdo even last year’s strong ­performance.

El Khatib also revealed that the channel is set to launch its first cookery reality-show competition, with the working title Fatafeat’s Next Great Chef. The show is already in preproduction and is set to launch as an eight-part series in spring next year. During the show, cooking enthusiasts from across the Middle East will compete for their chance to win the top prize — their own weekly Fatafeat show and cookbook in stores across the region.

cnewbould@thenational.ae