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Contestants vie for a chance to create the chicken chain's next side dish.

Elisabeth Sherman
July 25, 2017

In the Western hemisphere, cooking shows are some of the most popular programs on television, and they come in all different types: The Great British Bake Off gave us amateur bakers battling for the approval of Mary Berry. MasterChef made Gordon Ramsay a household name. Now, it seems that KFC—a fast food chain that is perhaps becoming better known for it’s promotional stunts more so than its fried chicken these days—has seen an opening to capitalize on the immense influence and popularity of the cooking competition in an unexpected place: South Africa.

KFC Taste Kitchen, a new reality cooking competition, premiered on the Mzansi Magic television network on July 14. The premise of the show is simple: 11 teams of two home cooks compete to create sides for KFC fried chicken.

The show includes all the hallmarks of what you would expect to see in a cooking competition: Surprise eliminations, challenges that require the chefs to create original dishes (all while being timed, of course), two professional chefs who serve as the show’s hosts and judges, and hefty cash prize. 

Lentswe Bhengu, a former investment baker who dropped his lucrative profession to pursue life as a chef, is one of the judges. He previously co-hosted The Great South African Bake Off, but got his start cooking African dishes on a web series.

“I’m a professional chef, so understanding and critiquing food is something I’m familiar with,” he told IOL news. “I was always an honors class drama student in high school, so presenting is second nature to me.”

Bhengu co-hosts the show with Chef Lucia Mthiyane, and the pair doles out the kind of biting criticism and hard-earned praise that makes a cooking competition such a satisfying watch. Despite its origins as promotion for KFC, this show is just as tense and exciting as any of the equivalent you might find in America or Europe.

From the clips that are available to watch online, you’ll find that there are mass eliminations, immunities, and second chances in the KFC Taste Kitchen—the kind of drama that only headstrong and ambitious chefs can produce, elevating what could have been just another KFC stunt to a show that might actually be worth watching.