“The Taste” Takes a Final Bow

March 13, 2013

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.


Bourdain’s Food Fight Sparks a Cat Fight

November 15, 2010

By Karen

I can’t often report on Anthony Bourdain from a personal encounter, but…

On November 11, Cats Working readers Adele, Cindy, MorganLF, Zappa’s Mom, and I met in Washington, DC, for the Capital Food Fight, a charity event that Bourdain has co-hosted with José Andrés for several years to benefit the DC Central Kitchen.

Before the festivities began, Tony spotted our crew in the crowd and came over to greet us. Unfortunately, there was no time to chat because he had to get right to work. I will say that for someone who just weathered Hurricane Tomas in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and entertained fans in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the previous night, Tony looked amazingly fit, well-rested, and gel-free.

You got it, Tony. Women know the secret: If you think your locks are feeling skimpy, go for fluff and volume, not wet Persian.

On stage, Tony was José Andrés’ comic counterpoint, trading insults with Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio and ribbing Eric Ripert, who both served as judges.

Washingtonian rates some of the evening’s highlights.

Local chefs, including former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, competed in cooking competitions that required using unexpected secret ingredients (don’t ask — I’m no foodie). The most interesting matchup for me was when Bourdain and Ripert teamed against Colicchio and Andrés. By audience applause, Team B&R’s dish won.

The evening was a cocktail-party-style grazing occasion with 60 restaurants disbursing tasty morsels. Seating was scarce and coveted, but Morgan snagged us all chairs, which resulted in the cat fight…

Morgan was off grazing when a skinny, aging blonde had the audacity to take Morgan’s seat. Trying to dislodge her, I made the mistake of jokingly threatening that she’d have to deal with a Jersey girl when Morgan returned.

How was I supposed to know the bitch was from Brooklyn?

Morgan did assert her ownership of the seat politely, for a Jersey girl, only to be called a “f**king asshole” by Brooklyn and shoved almost off her feet when Brooklyn gave up the seat.

The next few seconds passed in slow motion, with white wine sailing through the air toward Brooklyn as she sidled past me. What didn’t hit the back of her head fell in my lap. The spray also christened Zappa’s Mom and an unsuspecting guy sitting beside me.

Immediately, a burly female Food Fight rep was on the scene to head off further violence. While she was piecing together what happened, Brooklyn had the nerve to come back, determined to have the last word with this catty put-down:

Leaning across me, she hissed at Morgan, “You must be a Democrat, with your sense of entitlement!”

Only in DC.

The night went without further incident (we got a last wave to Bourdain, Colicchio, and Ripert from the sidewalk as they left the building together), but I firmly believe some things — like horse races and cooking competitions — are best seen on TV. I’d rather watch mildew grow than chefs making steam, which was all the spectators could really see.

If you want a taste of being there, basically the view from our “entitled” vantage point, these videos capture it well. To fill the big screen above the stage for the sold-out crowd of 1,000, guys with cameras blocked virtually every possible glimpse of the live action.

Politico snagged a brief video interview with Bourdain before the Food Fight, and he revealed political leanings Brooklyn would find despicable.

Rather than trying to share the lousy shots I captured on my new Sony digital, here are many clear photos, probably from the guys who kept me from getting any.

This year’s event raised $501,000.

And now on the Bourdain awards front…

Eater recently bestowed 2010 honors. Bourdain was nominated for Television Personality of the Year, but lost to Eric Ripert.

The 2nd Annual Tasty Awards has nominated No Reservations for Best Food Program and Best Food Travel Series. Best Male Host in a Series nominees will be announced later today, and I’ll update here if he’s nominated. The awards ceremony is in Hollywood on January 13, but Tony’s supposed to be at the Cayman Cookout.

Seattle Weekly asked the burning question, “Bourdain v. Ray?” Guess who won as fan favorite?

In the “What do Tony and Elvis have in common?” Department…

An interview with Tony before his November 12 appearance in Charleston mentions that he was recently in Nicaragua. Was that during his trip to Haiti? I can’t keep up.

And Asheville’s (NC) Citizen-Times reported from Twitter many unconfirmed Bourdain sightings the weekend of November 6. I’m going out on a limb here to declare them bogus because Tony was really in Raleigh, NC, for an appearance on the 13th.

Sku’s Recent Eats discusses Medium Raw and offers Tony a few writing tips, which would carry more weight if Sku knew the difference between everyday and every day.

I just found out that a 9-hour audiobook of Medium Raw, read by Bourdain, has been available since July.

And while checking that out, I unearthed A Chef’s Christmas, a forgotten one-hour audio short story written and narrated by Bourdain in 2002. You can listen to a sample before you buy.


Bourdain Meets Tomas, Up Close & Personal

November 8, 2010

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s been busy making television. He returned from Cambodia in time for Halloween, and wife Ottavia tweeted that he became Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas to escort his daughter, Little Red Riding Hood.

Yet Tony claims he has no interest in “stretching his range” as an actor.

This past week, he flew to Haiti during a cholera epidemic to rendezvous with Hurricane Tomas, so we’ll probably see another breakout episode of No Reservations next season.

I think I smell an Emmy nomination…

I just hope Tony and his crew didn’t drink the water, stayed in one piece, and get home safely (tonight, according to Ottavia).

The HarperCollins Medium Raw essay contest wrapped with 1,949 entries. Michael P., a mover by profession, won for writing “Late Nights.” It only garnered 3 reader votes and was ranked #834 among all entries. None of the runners-up ranked lower than #383 in reader votes, and the first runner-up was #2.

The methodology would make you think the winner would have been #1 in reader votes, but that would have been a crock because many entrants campaigned online for votes, even if their essays were crap. So it’s no surprise that Bourdain’s people dug deeper into the pile for the winner.

But here’s the promo blurb for the essay, which I assume Michael P. also wrote:

On those late nights after moving you peoples stuff all over the city all I need is a home cooked meal and a beer.

When I saw that, I had a “WTF?” moment. No offense to Michael P. — he wrote about what he knew and from the heart — but I’m surprised the essay won because exactly one sentence in 300 words mentions food. It says…

The arroz con pollo is cooked perfectly and a small side of tostones is topped with a spicy pico de gallo.

But Michael P. sounds like Tony’s favorite kind of downtrodden working stiff, albeit not a kitchen slave, who will be truly grateful to win the $10K Bourdain personally pledged.

Just as Kitchen Confidential spawned a new genre of culinary tell-all, Bourdain’s upcoming graphic novel, Get Jiro!, is being credited with inspiring knockoffs even before its publication, like The Dirt Candy Cookbook.

Here’s an interesting post from Catalan Cooking, although only the opening and third-from-last paragraphs are about Bourdain. First, she calls Kitchen Confidential a male Eat, Pray, Love, and in relating a personal appearance anecdote near the end, says Bourdain has “a drawl.”

Yeah, just like Fran Drescher’s and Woody Allen’s.

Later this week, several Cats Working readers and I are having a personal brush with Bourdain at an evening of great food, the DC Capital Food Fight, hosted by Tony and José Andrés, with Eric Ripert and Tom Colicchio. Stay tuned…


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