“The Taste” Finally Gets Down to Business

By Karen

According to Eater, Anthony Bourdain’s ABC cooking competition, The Taste, lost 1.3 million viewers when it dragged out team selection over 2 weeks. It debuted with viewership of 6.1 million and took the time slot.

As a die-hard Bourdainiac, I resisted Betty White’s Off Their Rockers and stuck around last night to watch the game begin.

Tony’s all-female gang named themselves “Fierce.” As the first challenge got under way, Bourdain observed his cooks and said he was pleased to have no men and no “bleeping chest-beating.”

Despite claims of putting a fresh spin on food competition, the first challenge was to cook for immunity, the night’s theme was “comfort food,” and the cooks had one hour to prepare each dish.

But they introduced a “surprise guest judge” as sole taster for immunity – Gabrielle Hamilton, author of that dreadful memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, that Tony claimed he wished he’d written.

Now Hamilton has the distinction of being TV’s first personality-free chef. Had she come across as any more of a nonentity, she would have been invisible.

Conversely, Ludo Lefebvre’s a certifiable asshole whose idea of mentoring is to order a team member to burn chicken skin and to panic and maniacally scream, “Mac and cheese, plate it, plate it, PLATE IT!”

In fairness, there WAS a twist. Each cook made a dish, but Hamilton only tasted one dish per team. So 12 dishes were prepared for the garbage.

Tony’s Ninamarie made a couscous Hamilton couldn’t identify (and in the next round, a chicken dish nobody could identify).

Lauren, the Mississippi trailer girl on Nigella’s team, won immunity with her chicken stew.

Lauren’s success earned for Nigella’s team mentoring by Hamilton for the big challenge, which 2 cooks would lose. The regular judges backed off so they wouldn’t know who cooked what.

In Tony’s kitchen, Diane quickly asserted herself as queen bitch, but then won the night when Tony and Nigella voted her Bi Bim Bap (whatever that is) best dish overall.

Mia’s dish reminded Tony of getting trapped in Beirut in 2006, which prompted him to tell his fellow judges he came right home and made a baby.

That moment couldn’t have been stranger if The Taste had suddenly turned into a musical, with Tony leaping onto the judges’ table to belt out a song.

Lauren insanely (with Hamilton’s mentoring?) made her first shepherd’s pie ever, which Nigella and Tony deemed “too cheesy” (is that possible?). Tony told Lauren, if not for immunity, she’d be gone.

Final judging was swift, but the contestants were all on camera in the background to hear the judges’ comments, but not see their faces.

The cooks were also the peanut gallery as 2 of their own (both home cooks) got the boot.

First to go was Micah from Malarkey’s team, who quit his job for the show. Next was Renatta from Nigella’s team, who dared make apple crumble with brown sugar, which Bourdain told her was a sin against palates as jaded as the judges’.

Slipping into Padma Lakshmi’s stilettos, Tony wielded the hatchet, but he did it swiftly, without insincere praise or faux empathy.

I predict a professional cook will win.

And I expect to see Jose Andres, Eric Ripert, Michael Ruhlman, David Chang, or perhaps Emeril turn up as future guest judges.

17 Responses to “The Taste” Finally Gets Down to Business

  1. adele says:

    I was confused that Renata was sent home, considering that Malarkey (whom I still hate way more than Ludo) really liked her crumble.

    I saw on Twitter that Ottavia tweeted to a friend that it must have been uncomfortable for the viewer picturing Ariane’s conception.

    And I thought that Gabrielle Hamilton, who’s reputed to be quite the raccounteur , would have a little spark. I didn’t hate Blood, Bones, and Butter as much as you did, Karen, but I didn’t love it either and wished it had been more about cooking and waaaay less confessional.Still there were enough passages of good writing that I expected more personality.

    Here’s another thing, I didn’t get the idea that the Bi Bim Bap (all I know about it is it’s a Korean dish, which always has a fried egg on top) was the universal favorite — Nigella, for instance, seemed more enthusiastic about some other dishes. I guess I’d like to see more of the judges’ deliberations. I wonder if all the cooks will now be making Asian dishes, realizing that’s the way to Tony’s heart.

    Five more episodes to go. It looks like next week, team Bourdain will be drinking wine. I don’t understand.

  2. adele says:

    Replying to another thread: Karen, the confessional part of BB&B that bothered me was Gabrielle’s detailing her marital problems, when she has two sons, who might possibly read the book. I did like the part when she was writing about her childhood and her trips to Italy, but it’s not a book I’d recommend — and she added nothing to The TAste. I think I read somewhere that Jose Andres will be on some future episode.

  3. catsworking says:

    Adele, I just reread the post I did on BB&B and it made me dislike Gabrielle Hamilton all over again. I had forgotten about the years she refused to live with her husband. I guess her sons have probably figured out that in some ways Mom is bat-shit crazy, so nothing in the book will surprise them.

    That was the last chef memoir Bourdain snookered me into reading.

    OK, so Andres will be stopping by. I figured Tony would round up all the usual suspects to help him out. And I wasn’t surprised that he and Nigella seemed to keep coming down on the same side of the fence in their judgments, and came across as the most nurturing of the mentors. Someone here (Chinagirl?) mentioned that she didn’t think Tony did a good job guiding his team, but I suspect the bad editing is to blame for that impression. I bet he was really into helping them. After all, his team DID win the night.

    Malarkey came in second only to Ludo as an asshole. I loved that little exchange where Ludo told Malarkey he NEVER stands in a kitchen with his arms crossed. No, but he screams at people, like that’s helpful.

    Actually, I’d like to see Ludo and Eric Ripert do a scene together.

  4. Trishia says:

    I saw plenty of Ludo screaming on Top Chef Masters, so I figured that was part of why they cast him. But Malarky? Who ever heard of this jackass? He didn’t even win Top Chef. Was there no even semi-known chef who could have filled that 4th slot? Like that cute Italian dude from an early season??

    Not surprising about the ratings for part 2; part of me hopes they keep falling. I just think this is such a sell-out move for Tony; he’s become everything he mocked in KC – the ‘celeb chef’/smarmy game show host. I mean you’re on CNN for god’s sake, where’s your dignity? lol

    Speaking of Padma did you all see this – her ex husband’s take on her monster ego? Hilarious and totally not surprising.


  5. adele says:

    You know, Mario Battali also loved Blood, Bones and Butter — i just don’t see it. And as I watch Tony being, as Chinagirl says, a game show host, I hope Battali is making him eat his scornful words about about Mario being on The Chew. I do look forward to Parts Unknown on CNN.

    Ludo kind of won my heart on the Burgundy show on the last season of No Res — I can’t explain my fondness for him other than that. He was an arrogant a-hole on Top Chef Masters, although I suspect he’s a good cook. I never thought Malarkey was a good cook, and he has about as much personality as no carb pasta, which at least can be helped by a good sauce.

  6. Bacardi1 says:

    Well, I missed it again. There must’ve been something better on that I was watching – like a documentary on root canals.

    Anyway, as suspected, I obviously missed NOTHING. And for Mr. Bourdain’s information, EVERY SINGLE “Apple Crumble” recipe I’ve EVER come across or baked in my life has called for BROWN SUGAR. EVERY SINGLE ONE. And I’m a cookbook collector. Own hundreds of them. Since Bourdain is a self-professed despiser of desserts & never makes them, he shouldn’t make pronouncements – especially in public – about things he so obviously knows absolutely NOTHING about.

    Geesh. I haven’t even watched this stupid show except for the last half of the first episode, & yet already find my previous regard for Bourdain deteriorating as quickly as yesterday’s Guacamole.

  7. catsworking says:

    Trishia, thanks for that link. I hadn’t seen the article before, but it sounds like Padma in person is every bit the way she appears. The last straw for me was the Hardee’s commercial where she licked burger grease off her ankle. If they’d have let her do the ad naked, I’m sure she’d have jumped at the chance.


    Bourdain hasn’t worked in a kitchen since around 2000 or 2001, his cred as a “celebrity chef” is tenuous, and he would probably agree. He’s a celebrity eater.

    I never watched Top Chef Masters, so this is the first I’m seeing of Ludo.

    By the “cute Italian dude,” could you be referring to Fabio Viviani? He was one of my favorites ever on Top Chef, and I totally agree he would have made a much more colorful judge than Malarkey. But Fabio had a run-in with Bourdain on TC (can’t remember the details now, but feel it was over something really snotty Tony said about Fabio’s food), so maybe he was never considered, even though they did supposedly reconcile.

  8. catsworking says:

    OK, so now we know Bourdain hates vegetables and sugar. Bacardi, I agree that the innate prejudice toward desserts is absurd. On the other hand, how can anyone fairly compare bacon to a brownie?

    And that’s what I’ve been saying is the fatal flaw of ALL these cooking competitions. The judging has to be subjective, and viewers have no idea if the judges are full of shit because we can’t taste the food. Lucky for the judges we’re clueless, or there would be a lot fewer of these shows.

    On Dancing with the Stars, on the other hand, if you know anything about ballroom dancing, you KNOW if the contestants are doing it well or not, so if the judges give a pass to bad technique, it’s obvious.

  9. trisha says:

    What I’d like to know is how is Padma qualified to judge anyone’s cooking?? I know she wrote a cook book but based on what exactly? She’s never actually been a cook let alone a chef.

    Of course Tony hates dessert bc it’s not vile and disgusting. He only likes things made of odd body parts, blood and dirty water hot dogs/street vendor burgers. lol I don’t trust anyone who hates chocolate.

    Yes, Karen, I meant Fabio. Now that’s a likeable and attractive guy with a good personality who would have been a nice fit on The Taste. Imagine the fights with him and Ludo.

    I still admire Tony for not doing commercials or slapping his name on a line of cookware, but this game show gig is causing his cred to plummet with me. My fondest wish is that someday, when his daughter hits high school,if not sooner, she looks him in the eye and says ‘screw you dad, I’m a vegetarian!’ Think about it, he’s given her plenty to rebel against. 😀

  10. catsworking says:

    Ariane the vegetarian. That would be rich! But from the way Tony tells it, she’s a chip off the old block in her tastes because she’s been eating weird meat almost since birth. He’s said that Ottavia was feeding Ariane things like jarred rabbit she got from Italy.

    Fabio has a line of cookware. Saw it in Bed, Bath & Beyond, but after a disappointing experience with a little nonstick saute pan with Emeril’s name on it, I didn’t bite. In fact, I see that Emeril now has a line of stainless steel pans.

    Fabio and Ludo. Yes, that would be a match made in hell.

    I have no idea how Padma got her toe into the culinary world except that she probably slept with someone who gave her the idea. I’ve seen her trying to cook on Melting Pot, and her kitchen skills are worse than mine.

    There are many things Tony eats that I can’t bear to watch. I’m OK with the street food, but when he kills his own dinner or dives into a plate of guts, I leave the room. Yes, I’m that shallow.

  11. trishia says:

    I was a meat-a-holic as a kid and now I’m a pesce-tarian. Rebellion against one’s parents is far tastier than any food. There’s still hope for her. lol

    I have one of those Greenie pans made of ceramic. I love how non-stick it is but I find it just doesnt cook as well as stainless steel. The steel just seals in stronger flavors somehow.

    Don’t think that’s shallow, I think it’s normal. Sometimes I wonder if Tony realizes how out there his tastes are in the grand scheme? The vast majority of Americans don’t eat the way he does, e.g, foie gras, testicals, head cheese etc. “Nose to tail” may be gaining fans but it’s definitely not mainstream. I remember Nigella once telling a story about how a pig fetus (or maybe it was lamb, I forget what mammal) was removed and cooked for her and she saw the whole thing and loved the taste. Sometimes these people really disturb me.

  12. catsworking says:

    Is that a fish-eater? I could do that.

    I’ve wondered about those Greenie pans. As my pans die, I’ve been replacing them with stainless steel because I’m sick of buying new pans every few years. Doesn’t matter how much I spend on a non-stick pan. Sooner, rather than later, it’s a goner, although I’m ever so careful.

    Bourdain’s thing is that he thinks we should all see where our food comes from. I don’t agree. I know slaughterhouses are horrible places and the animals are raised in terrible conditions. I don’t need to wallow in it. I can’t change it.

    I know beheadings are gross without actually seeing one.

    You just dropped Nigella’s stock in my book with that fetus story. I remember in high school biology being faced with dissecting a fetal pig. Couldn’t, wouldn’t do it.

    While it’s noble not to want to waste any part of something we kill for food, I don’t think we’ll be seeing McPorkBellies any time soon.

    And I think Bourdain spends so much of his time eating exotica on someone else’s dime, and living in NYC where everything you can imagine is available and he’s now well-heeled enough to buy it ($18 Good & Evil candybar, anyone?), he is probably out of touch with the way we poor UnFoodies eat.

  13. Zappa's Mom says:

    My father was a butcher,and I loved going to work with him.I remember my brother and I chasing each other through the hanging carcasses…ahh…childhood.
    As fun as that was,I would eat very little meat,and if I did it had to be burnt beyond recognition and NEVER anything from the inside or hanging off the outside.I have tasted every part (no bull balls) and they are all gross.If that’s all there was to eat,I would be a vegetarian full-time

  14. trisha says:

    I see Bourdain is going to be voicing a chef character on the cartoon show Archer. Is overexposure happening? ha

    I’ve never heard him say he thinks we should all see inside slaughterhouses – that sounds more like something those of us he hates would say. I wish I could put a big screen of it up in Times Square and run it on a continuous loop, forcing people to see.

    I may not be able to change it, but I dont have to contribute to it either. However, there have been some positive changes as places like chipotle refuse to buy meat raised in the worst most confining conditions, and in some states voters have chosen to ban the cruelest forms of confinement. Sometimes I wish I could just not care who or what has to suffer to please my palate like Bourdain, Nigella and it would seem, most chefs, but alas I am not wired that way. I saw reality at age 19, gave it up the next day and have never touched it since.

    I remember when Tony became livid over Woody Harrelson eating only raw vegan food in Thailand. “How rude!”‘ Bourdain ranted. If Harrelson wants to eat toilet paper every meal, who cares? Who is he hurting, besides perhaps himself as 100% raw is not the healthiest diet. He wasn’t in someone’s house, so the stupid ‘grandma rule’ didn’t apply. Silly thing to get angry over, let along devote an entire book chapter to.

  15. catsworking says:

    trisha, good points. It’s been going on a long time with Bourdain that he takes a perverse pleasure in including scenes of killing and butchery to show all us dummies who think meat grows on trees where our food comes from. And I always leave the room. You can lead a dummy to the trail of blood, but…

    I’m sure I would turn vegan if I ever walked through a slaughterhouse, but I don’t really eat that much meat anymore anyway.

    The food complex in this country is so vast, who’s to really know if the meat in the supermarket was treated humanely or not? Yes, we all should, but we don’t. Nor do we want to pay a fortune for the “good” stuff. That’s how they get away with it.

  16. trisha says:

    There is a show on Oxygen the same night as the Taste (I think maybe the same time, too) called The Face where 3 models, includer uber-beyotch Naomi Campbell, ‘mentor’ teams of models.

    They also did a blind judging of each model’s walk by having her wear a floppy hat over her face. It’s funny how you can’t copyright an idea, so this blind judging/mentoring thing from The Voice is clearly getting ripped off like crazy.

  17. catsworking says:

    Trisha, after the first competition, it ceases to be really “blind.” Last night on “The Taste,” Ludo kicked off one of his own team (Shawn) after saying, “I said last week if I saw you on the bottom again I would send you home, so buh-bye,” or something to that effect. Which means, Shawn wasn’t sent packing solely on that one taste, but on his total participation. Was that really fair? Or was there some jockeying to “appear” fair because the other person on the bottom made a sweet dish, and that’s what got someone booted the first night.

    I may do another post about this.

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