REVIEW: “We’ve never matched anything in our lives.”

As with Eat Well For Less NZGanesh Raj’s penchant for exposing a potentially fatal flaw in the show he’s on comes to the fore on Snack Masters NZ (which debuts on TVNZ 2 tonight, Wednesday, at 7.30pm, with episodes also available on TVNZ OnDemand).

A format that’s already proved to be a massive hit in the UK, and somewhat controversial in Australia, each week it challenges two top chefs to recreate an iconic foodstuff. Not elevate it, reinvent it, or deconstruct it (which, to me, would make for much more engrossing viewing) – simply try and knock one out as they would in the factory, or the fast-food restaurant.

In Britain, the “snacks” have included Kit-Kats, Monster Munch, a Snickers bar and Wagon Wheels, while here we’re promised such Kiwi delicacies-cum-staples as KFC, a Big Mac, Licorice Allsorts, Chips and Dip and a dairy / service station pie.

Channel 4

Snackmasters has proved to be a hit in the UK since it first debuted in 2019.

* Cracking the snack code with Snack Masters NZ
* Recipe: Boysenberry ripple ice cream
* Tip Top’s Boysenberry Ripple scoops supreme ice cream award – again
* Tip Top a popular Kiwi brand dating from the 1930s
* How they make it: Trumpets, still a Tip Top favorite after 52 years

Cleverly, the makers have at least started out with perhaps the most uniquely New Zealand product of their line-up – the Boysenberry Trumpet (whose international rivals / equivalents include the Cornetto and the Drumstick).

Despite constantly reminding us that he has no intention of replicating anything, Raj has every confidence that he can defeat his fellow Auckland restaurateur Dariush Lolaiy in the two-day challenge. That’s probably because the latter runs a game restaurant and admits that he doesn’t usually even order dessert when he’s eating out.

Tip Top's experts dissect one of the Snackmasters NZ contestants' “Boysenberry Trumpets”.


Tip Top’s experts dissect one of the Snackmasters NZ contestants’ “Boysenberry Trumpets”.

But Raj hasn’t counted on Lolaiy’s wife Rebecca, who is determined to set him on the right path – and up with the right equipment. While Raj initially struggles along using a crepe maker to craft a waffle cone, Lolaiy employs a waffle maker. Then, when it’s ice-cream time, he brings out the big guns – a Pacojet (although, for a long time, it looks like being more than a hindrance than a help).

For much of the show, we witness both camps undergo a series of trial and error experiments, as they attempt to get all the elements right. These are regularly overseen by the bouncy, erudite and peppy co-host Kim Crossman (who has a terrific knack of turning up at key tasting moments and, in this episode at least, annoying Raj more than once by reminding him that his goal really is to “recreate the infamous Boysenberry Trumpet ”). I would really like to know why it is infamous, by the way, Kim.

Dariush Lolaiy and Ganesh Raj nervously await the verdict.


Dariush Lolaiy and Ganesh Raj nervously await the verdict.

She appears to have drawn the short straw though, because her co-host Tom Sainsbury is the one who gets to front Snack Masters‘most interesting part. It is he who gets to step inside the hallowed Tip Top factory and find out a few of secrets of how the Trumpet is put together.

This of course provides the company with the opportunity for a whole lot of product placement and lift the veil just enough to give viewers a taste of the magic. Let’s be realistic here though, there’s no way we’re going to learn what McDonald’s special sauce really contains, let alone the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices. Yes, they’re allowing the cameras in, but they are definitely controlling the narrative.

That said, it was fascinating to learn a little about the history of the near 60-year-old novelty ice-cream, that their flavoring isn’t vanilla, that boysenberries added are frozen, not fresh (or tinned) and the importance of the “chocolate plug”.

Snackmasters NZ hosts Tom Sainsbury and Kim Crossman get into the swings of things.


Snackmasters NZ hosts Tom Sainsbury and Kim Crossman get into the swings of things.

After the history, construction and science lessons, it’s off for the final battle – the two chefs given two hours to try and impress a panel of three – company employees – sorry, experts. The Tip Top trio certainly knew what they were looking for – nut and ripple distribution and most definitely no soggy cones – but it didn’t seem to matter how long the ice-cream remained solid.

In the end, Snack Masters NZ offers fun, but forgettable entertainment, a great opportunity for prime time exposure for the participating companies, a little bit of a sociology lesson and the chance for the reputations of a few top chefs to founder on failing to “recreate” a mid-level meat pie or fried chicken.

I’m not sure Ganesh Raj will return to the show, but I wonder if he’ll have a boysenberry ice-cream with waffle cone on his menu next summer.

Snack Masters NZ debuts at 7.30pm tonight, Wednesday, on TVNZ 2. Episodes will also be available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand.

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