“The Taste” Takes a Final Bow

By Karen

Waiting for the season finale of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste to begin, I caught the first hour of the season premiere of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen on Fox.

Talk about contrasts. Ramsay had 20 contestants fly in to LAX, then immediately flew them to Vegas, where the winners of the first competition (the women’s team), held before a live audience of 2,500, were rewarded with meeting Celine Dion and seeing her show, while the men rode a bus through the desert back to Los Angeles.

Ramsay’s a jerk, but he makes The Taste seem quaintly low-budget.

But back to The Taste. Tony’s buddy and (Khristianne’s all-time idol), Chef José Andres, was guest judge.

Four contestants (and judges) were left: Diane (Tony), Sarah and Gregg (Ludo), and Khristianne (Malarkey). Nigella, having lost her entire team, became a roving mentor. The first competition required preparation of 3 different spoonfuls each, and would end in elimination of one cook.

Ludo devoted most of his mentoring to Sarah, tossing little snipes at Gregg. Remember, Gregg had been Ludo’s favorite spoon 3 weeks straight.

All I can say is, with friends like Ludo…

Tony gave Diane the benefit of his insight into Andres’ tastes, and agonized when it looked like Diane might be eliminated because Tony made her put tomato caviar on a prawn, which “stole” the prawn’s flavor, according to Andres.

Andres’ judging stood up to the pettiest kvetching you’ve ever heard on Top Chef. He complained of not enough “acid” on many spoons, and that a date Sarah served was “too big” for him to taste properly.

Gregg smelled victory when Andres pronounced his prawn perfectly cooked, and was stunned to be eliminated, but then he uttered the best put-down of the series…

“I’d rather lose doing it myself, than win having my hand held.”

Ludo pretended to be shocked, SHOCKED, that Gregg was gone, confirming my earlier diagnosis of Ludo’s schizophrenia.

So, Khristianne, Sarah, and Diane were charged again with creating 3 spoonfuls apiece.

Diane, superb sportswoman that she is, said, “I sure as heck don’t want to lose to a home cook.” (meaning Sarah)

And Tony said that viewers should want Diane to win “because she wants it so badly.”

In your dreams, Bourdain. In her TV debut, she wants us to think she’s a bitch. Bitches should never triumph.

As the final moments approached, I realized I didn’t give a rat’s ass who won.

Sarah cooked for Ludo’s sweet spot, and everyone declared all 3 of her spoons simple, yet well-executed.

So she came in third.

I don’t remember Diane’s spoons, but the comments weren’t all rosy, and she ended up “close, but no cigar.”

Khristianne, from the judges’ comments, thought she only had one good spoon out of 3. So she WON.

The actual judging was a blur, and I’m thinking it was deliberate to spare some judge from looking like an ass. But after 8 weeks of sitting through this train-wreck, I call a foul because viewers deserved to see which judges picked the winner.

Confetti fell as Khristianne received her trophy of 2 huge spoons on a pedestal. Tony congratulated Diane on winning — nothing.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Bourdain shared some final thoughts with Entertainment Weekly.

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15 Responses to “The Taste” Takes a Final Bow

  1. Trishia says:

    The only good things about this episode were the finalists were all female, one was a home cook, and Gregg was humiliated. His statement about not wanting his hand held was totally sour grapes. I also love that Bourdain didn’t win since, despite Nigella also being an exec producer, it’s “his” show. The transsexual seems really talented so I’m not unhappy she/he won. I would have rathered the home cook win, though because what a message that would send to the so-called professionals.

    Karen thanks for the compliment on my AB imitation. I’m good at imitating people’s ‘voice’ in print, or writing the way they talk. At my last job I had to write emails for the ceo that she would then send out to everyone, so the company had to think she wrote them.

    Wish I had a way to send it to AB lol.

  2. adele says:

    Well I know that if someone pitched a show to me, where I’d make a shitload of money, get to hang with friends and not break too much of a sweat, I’d be there — dignity be damned. And so we had The Taste.

    I was glad Khristianne won; she seemed skilled and passionate about her cooking but sorry Malarkey got a trophy as well. But you’re right, Karen, this was a cooking competition where we never got to know the cooks and hardly saw much cooking. However, I think it may be back next year despite lackluster ratings. As I think I said before, it’s only 8 episodes and makes a perfect mid-season filler.

    Now I eagerly look forward to Parts Unknown. I don’t think I’ll be wanting to visit many of the places Tony goes, but I look forward to learning about them and seeing those fabulous Zero Point Zero production values. Now we need a Bourdain book.

  3. catsworking says:

    Trishia, who knows? You may already have. ;-)

    I agree with you on the finalists boiling down to women. It was almost a given that Bourdain’s team COULDN’T win because it would have eliminated all debate about the strings in the rigging showing.

    I noticed everyone calling Khristianne a “she” in the final, and I think Tony once said her name to rhyme with Ariane, rather than just “Christian,” so I think they were as confused about her as I was.

    In the end, this person with enough expertise to become Charlie Sheen’s personal chef, and the means to have frequented Andres’ restaurant 20+ times beat out everybody else. Big surprise–NOT. But I was OK with her winning. As I said, I really didn’t care. No loyalty built there. But I know I’ll never waste energy clicking the remote button to watch Ludo or Malarkey do ANYTHING.

    Yes, Gregg’s parting shot was loaded with sour grapes, but I think he was entitled to them after the way Ludo crapped on every male on his team the whole series. It was particularly galling for Gregg, who had been Ludo’s fair-haired boy of the immunity challenge for 3 weeks straight.

    Adele, I hope you are wrong about the renewal, but maybe they’ve already been promised multi-seasons. They’re just lucky it ended as Hell’s Kitchen cranks up in their time slot. After the tepid Taste, I’d rather watch Ramsay be a douche than Ludo. (Saw Ramsay on CBS This Morning today, BTW, and he was actually humble. Weird.)

    Tony venturing in to dangerous places for Parts Unknown should be interesting. I just hope he doesn’t go too far and turn Ariane into the next Bindi Irwin.

    Unless things have changed, his next book should be the novel he’s been working on for years. I’ve been wondering about that myself. I could really sink my eyeballs into some good Bourdain fiction right now.

  4. chinagirl says:

    The only thing left to say is “glad it’s over”!!!!!!!!!!

  5. catsworking says:

    You said a mouthful, chinagirl!

    The graphic novel was one thing, but Bourdain really pushed his fans’ loyalty to the limit with The Taste. Let’s hope ABC doesn’t put us to the test again.

  6. Trishia says:

    http://www.comingsoon.net/news/weekendwarriornews.php?id=101619

    I didn’t know about these screenings in NYC – not that I would have gone to AB’s lol. But good know they do them regularly. Goodfellas is one of my fave films, but not because of the food. I’ve always wanted to be able to slice my garlic like Paulie did with a razor blade.

    Also I was flipping this morning and caught a 2002 cooking channel ‘Molto’ episode with AB as a guest (remember when Mario Battali would have 3 guests sit at a counter while he cooked?) Holy crap has AB aged!! Mario doesn’t look much different.

  7. catsworking says:

    Trishia, I don’t think I’ve ever seen all of Goodfellas.

    If you watch No Reservations from just a few years ago, you’d say Bourdain has aged. Like many of us, he’s whizzing through his 50s and they’re not being too kind. Even though he’s stopped smoking, I’m sure the drinking, mostly bad (albeit tasty) diet, irregular hours, and sun exposure aren’t working in his favor.

  8. chinagirl says:

    Trisha you don’t even have to go back to 2002 to see how he has aged!! Along with looking older I think he is loosing his edge. It will be interesting to see how he does on his new CNN show. I think his time in front of the camera is up and he should stick to writing!!!

  9. catsworking says:

    What I’m wondering about his new CNN show is what he’s going to DO. On No Res, he mostly wandered through the streets looking cool, eating and drinking everything in sight, and proclaiming most of it “really good.” In some episodes, he would make a halfway meaningful connection with a few locals, but not always.

    So now he’s going into all these dodgy countries. What’s he going to do there? The old format seems shallow and pointless to put it kindly, or foolhardy and arrogant, to be blunt about it. And if the premise is, “Watch Bourdain being cool as he searches for a good meal (and restaurant people to hang out with) amidst war, revolution, poverty, famine, and chaos,” then I’d agree it’s time for him to dust off the keyboard and move on.

    After all the missteps on The Taste, nothing would surprise me now.

  10. Trishia says:

    “I don’t think I’ve ever seen all of Goodfellas.”

    whaaaaaaaaat?! It’s a classic! It’s like Annie Hall. A must see. I’ve seen it at least 11 times. You need to get on that, Karen. lol

    It’s interesting bc when I look at AB circa 2002 vs. now I actually think he looks better now. It’s so unfair how men improve (at least many of them) with age and we just get old. It’s also unfair how men can be hideous and reaaaally old and still on TV while, if AB was a woman, he’d have to just stick to writing at this point. Look at John Cusak in the 80s and now – see what I mean? He’s way better now.

    I think even if a country is really dodgy and dangerous, he can still do his ‘thing’ of finding local people to eat with in their homes. But naturally he won’t be able to totally avoid the serious stuff, like in the ‘Nam episode of NR he touched on how these people were nice despite resentments toward the US for the war.

    Hopefully this new show will be like the NR he did in Mozambique, less joking and eating, more politics, history and some of the harsher realities. He got slammed for not being snarky in that epi, but seriously how can you be snarky watching people live in an abandoned hotel with no facilities? That and the south american one where he saw kids picking through landfills are actually 2 of my faves. I get so bored just watching him eat since 90% of it isn’t going near my mouth in this lifetime.

    He has a new blog on CNN.com where he says his travels taught him that people are basically nice at heart. It smacked of promotional drivel and was slightly naive, and it’s scary that this type of attitude may cloud the new show. Does anyone else resent this TV phenom of people suddenly becoming ‘experts’ – AB didn’t go anywhere other than the Carribean until he was, what, 45? And yet now that he’s been given the chance to travel anywhere he wants for free, he’s lecturing the rest of us on how to travel ‘correctly’ and acting shocked that most Americans don’t have passports. It pisses me off.

  11. catsworking says:

    I’ve started watching Goodfellas many, many times, but never get to the end. Is it really long? I usually like Mafia movies.

    I hear ya, Trishia, on men getting better with age, while women just get OLD. It’s a travesty. You’re right that Bourdain isn’t totally going down the other side of the hill yet, and maybe he’s one of the lucky ones who never will. Having his hair and being tall and thin helps him a LOT. Look at Zimmern.

    I haven’t seen his CNN blog yet, but I guess it’s to be expected he’d be plugging the show for all its worth. Look what he did for The Taste, in spite of the reality. He had no choice.

    Like you, I feel burned out on watching him eat. But I guess having the resourcefulness to get TV networks to send him around the world and foot the bill makes him an expert at something. Just the sheer number of miles he’s logged does it, even if they were in only a few years.

    Have to say I do agree with his attitude about American travelers. As a frequenter of cruise ships, I think they’re a magnet for stupid, ugly Americans. A few hours of those hordes in port is probably about all the locals can stand. Bermuda actually controls the number and timing of ships it allows in.

    As for the Americans who don’t have passports, it’s probably a blessing they never leave home and the rest of the world shuld breathe a sigh of relief, although the insular thinking gets some nut jobs elected to public office.

  12. Trishia says:

    Oh I agree with you there. I have never cruised and have no desire to bc of the people, as well as the stomach viruses and potential for feces to flow down the halls. Nothing ruins a landscape more than a cruise ship, and when I’m someplace where ships come, I always ask what days the ships are in port and where the passengers go so I can avoid that herd of cattle (wait, that’s an insult to cows).

    In Dubrovnik, we saw an insanely long line of people and then realized it was passengers waiting to board the tiny packed boats to take them back to the ship. So basically they are in a place for maybe 4-6 hrs and at least one of those hours is wasted waiting in line. We rented an apt. It’s a night and day different experience. I also think it’s disgusting they’re allowed to dump their sewage into the ocean as close as 3 miles from shore. The best thing about ships is they don’t usually stick around long.

    My issue with AB’s ‘ugly travelers’ is that he equates vegetarian with rude, ugly traveler when meat eaters can be equally if not more rude. It’s a dumb argument. Rude has nothing to do with WHAT you order in a restaurant, but HOW you order it and how you treat the staff. Besides, I think the Vietnamese people would have a bit more of a problem with the fact that we bombed their villages than with a vegan backpacker who refuses an offer of Pho.

  13. catsworking says:

    Trishia, you have a few misconceptions about cruising. But not many… ;-)

    As for the pollution, nobody knows for sure what the cruise lines are doing, although there are federal regulations for dumping of “graywater” (from showers, sinks, laundry) and “black water” (with raw sewage in it). Ships sailing in and out of U.S. ports are supposed to comply if they want to stay in Congress’ good graces, even if they are foreign-flagged (which almost all are). Because they get fined and lots of very bad PR if caught, all the lines you would have heard of have cleaned up their act because all it takes is one passenger with a camera to cause big trouble. They are also big on recycling.

    Much of what has been reported about the Carnival ships was filth created by the passengers themselves. Some passengers on Triumph have posted that conditions were NOWHERE near as bad as CNN made them out to be. For example, cold water was restored throughout the ship within about 6 hours. As for the toilets, because they use vacuum suction, when the power goes and the vacuum is lost, if someone keeps using the toilet, it makes a real mess when things reactivate. I’m sure on Triumph there were passengers who pooped around the ship just for spite (Carnival attracts that crowd), but the stories of urine soaked hallways were untrue. I’ve read that the ship itself sustained a lot of damage caused by passenger vandalism.

    I agree with you about these mega-ships dumping thousands of passengers ashore for just a few hours, to be ferried around in air-conditioned buses so they can see the place through tinted glass. It’s horrible. And if more places didn’t need the tourism bucks so badly, they would probably ban the ships. The ships have simply gotten too big, and the cruise lines have dumbed down the experience so an ocean voyage is no longer anything special.

    I started cruising in 1988 and got spoiled because I started out on a true ocean liner. It didn’t have any balconies or look like a floating condo, and the passengers weren’t crammed on. Totally different experience than on today’s mass-market lines, and it attracted in those days a different type of crowd.

    But as a woman who travels alone, I still feel safer on almost any cruise ship than almost anywhere on land. I wouldn’t dream of walking through my own neighborhood after dark.

    Bourdain’s got his crew watching his back when he ambles through bad neighborhoods without a care in the world. Just try that yourself without a camera following you and see if you don’t end up a statistic.

  14. Bacardi1 says:

    From “Grub Street – New York” this afternoon:

    “• Some said it would never happen, but ABC has renewed The Taste for a second season. We’re happy for Anthony Bourdain, especially considering the ratings plunge the show took toward the end of season one. [Live Feed/THR]“

  15. catsworking says:

    Oh. My. God. Bacardi, tell me it isn’t so. Yes, I’m happy for Bourdain to have the chance to haul in another pile of money (truly–he’s paid his dues), but if there isn’t a major retooling of that miserable piece of crap show, it’s joining Top Chef on the trash heap of my viewing list.

    Now that I’m hooked on watching Gordon Ramsay scream at people, I’ve also been watching Kitchen Nightmares, where he tries to save clueless, often filthy, Mom & Pop-type restaurants. Last week he actually gave up on a pair of total psychos in Arizona. The husband keeps all the wait staff’s tips, they’ve gone through 100 employees in a year, the wife is the lousy cook who can’t the slightest hint of criticism, and they fight with and throw out any customer who complains.

    Before Ramsay showed up, they were smarting over some bad reviews and blog posts and feeling persecuted. Ramsay only made it worse by exposing them nationally, and now they’re waging all-out war on social media, screaming that everybody they’ve ever misfed and abused is out to get them. Here’s just a sampling of the backlash on Yelp:

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/amys-baking-company-scottsdale

    So watching a motley panel of judges debate spoonfuls of food they can’t even identify half the time just pales in comparison.

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