MasterChef NZ has a recipe for success in Sunday showdown with Great Food Race.

In a television food fight to end all television food fights, two of the year's biggest local television cooking series went head to head, primetime on Sunday night on channels One and 3. It was weird and, yes, messy.

Sometimes it was even entertaining. But not very in the case of TV3's all-new The Great Food Race, which launched the first of its 13, God strengthen us, 90-minute episodes at 7pm, TV's golden spot on Sundays, which is TV's golden night.

Putting the word race in the same title as food is a pretty screwed-up thought in the first place, bringing to mind fat boys in carnival tents eating pies as fast as they can, probably for a prize of more pies.

Unfortunately, The Great Food Race isn't half that much fun. It's just another big over-egged pudding of a food contest, with new presenters and teams of couples cooking against each other - and against the clock, of course.


This show's apparently going to get much more exciting with the contestants running around our beautiful landscape in various cooked-up challenges.

It all certainly looks zoom-zoom lovely, but also cheesy, overblown and formulaic, raising memories of other endless series like The Block and, oddly, those awful Celebrity Treasure Island shows.

Zoe Marshall presents it with the required glamorous zest and the food experts are Wellington restaurant kingpins, brothers Lorenzo and Leonardo Bresolin, though apart from the wonderful names and Lorenzo's heroic moustache, there wasn't a lot of charisma immediately evident.

In episode one, it was the inevitable eliminations between eight teams of two, with the emphasis on where they came from - far too many from Hamilton. But all the generic music and the "let the race begin" nonsense quickly wore me down and I just stopped caring about the pork loin mistake or the good pud.

Over on TV One, going head on from 7.30pm, came the return of MasterChef New Zealand, which arrived shouting loudly about the excitement of their new approach involving - like The Great Food Race - teams of two.

The Great Food Race with Leonardo Bresolin, Zoe Marshall and Lorenzo Bresolin was hard to digest.
The Great Food Race with Leonardo Bresolin, Zoe Marshall and Lorenzo Bresolin was hard to digest.

Though here it works - maybe by being only an hour long and belting through its contestants with attention-grabbing speed and maybe by having an entertaining team of expert presenters in Simon Gault, (cuddly), Josh Emett (fussy) and Ray McVinnie (fierce).

I do want to hurt the scriptwriter for the calorific overload with all the "unbelievable", "awesome", "in it to win it" nonsense, not to mention whether the contestants "can handle the heat", in the kitchen of course, where the "pressure is well and truly on".

But still a jolly good local romp in the kitchen as the teams of sisters and brothers and cuzzies and a dad and daughter brought their best home-cooked meals to the MasterChef kitchen and the easily offended senses of those judges.

Sunday's first episode was more of a tasting show than a cooking show, with a lot of eye-rolling, umming and aahing by Emett, Gault and McVinnie.

The latter, a food nazi by nature, has a limited range of expression, but that works as a nice contrast to Emett's Mr Tidy act and Gault's roly-poly ebullience as the natural frontman.

There's an entertaining and good-hearted show. If only someone could think of something similar that doesn't involve food, doing up houses or making people sing.