UnFoodie’s Take on “The Taste”

January 23, 2013

By Karen

It’s official: Anthony Bourdain is “the Mick Jagger of food.” Just ask Nigella Lawson, who anointed him on their new ABC cooking competition, The Taste.

Eat your heart out, Tom Colicchio.

The 2-hour premiere felt more like 8 after the 567th commercial. It featured many filmed-at-puree-speed montages of hopefuls flaming out and judges’ hands hovering over the NO button. And then judges Bourdain, Lawson, Ludo LeFebvre, and Brian Malarkey each FAILED to pick 4 contestants for their teams.

WTF? There are MORE scenes of soul-crushing rejection to come?

A good many of the hapless saps, thinking this was their shot at fame, said they’d been fired or quit jobs to compete. In fact, one of those cooks unfortunately told the judges she now runs a bakery. After everyone rejected her (Oh, horrors, a PASTRY CHEF!), Tony called her “bleeping delusional” to think she’s a cook.

If she saw her treatment last night, today she may be “bleeping suicidal.”

Another woman with the tragic backstory of a sick husband and a foreclosure made the fatal error of preparing kugel with adobo (whatever that is) and jalapenos. Bourdain shot her down by claiming she lost him because he’s a “traditionalist” on Jewish classics. Nobody else came to her rescue.

At the other end of the bizarro spectrum, Ludo offered a job to one reject. He couldn’t bring himself to mentor her for the brief span of the show, but he’d take her on as a PAID employee after one bite of her food.

Yeah, that makes sense.

One would assume there was much more logic to the judges’ decisions than we saw. Too often, they loved the food but rejected the cook, while claiming they’d kick themselves later.

WTF?

But someone (Ludo?) said something about there being so many more contestants to try, he didn’t want to pick hastily. So did cooks who went last have a better shot?

Bourdain’s team ended up with three women…

  • 26-year-old Mia, a home cook with a crush on him (Ottavia, keep an eye on that one)
  • Diane from NY whom Ludo rejected for putting too much tzatziki (whatever that is) on his spoon
  • 28-year-old Ninamarie, a Bourdain fan from California, who made sea bass with butterscotch (Tony’s penance for booting Dale off Top Chef over butterscotch scallops?)

The question next week is, will Tony pick a guy, or stick with women of his wife’s generation?

In addition to determining cooks’ fates based on blind one-bite tastings, the judges apparently are vying to beat each other by having the last cook standing.

The biggest mistake I saw was cooks (mostly the pros, it seemed) trying to squeeze meat, seafood, AND sides onto one spoon. When they got shot down for muddled or indistinguishable flavors, they had only themselves to blame.

You had to feel proud of that little trailer girl from Mississippi, Lauren, who made Nigella’s team with a flourless chocolate cake, the only one who dared to do a dessert.

And Nigella’s a breath of fresh air. Gratuitous cleavage notwithstanding, she’s not trying to swim with the sharks. I don’t think she descended once into foodie snobbism. Ludo was the worst for nitpicking, but he probably thinks it’s expected because he’s French and they have such high standards.

I’m sad to say Bourdain was a close second.

Kudos to the cool head in ABC makeup who kept Tony out of the hair gel for the separately-filmed talking spots. His hair looked great, compared to that spikey wet-dog-with-mange look he usually goes for.

In case you missed it, Grub Street boiled the show down to 91 seconds. I may tape the rest of the season so I can FF through all the Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Olive Garden commercials.

Here’s a review in Time.

The (UK) Telegraph also weighed in.

Digital Spy provided detailed recaps on most of the contestants.


Can’t Wait for a Taste of “The Taste”

January 21, 2013

By Karen

Doesn’t it seem like we’ve been waiting forever for Anthony Bourdain’s new cooking competition, The Taste, to hit the airwaves? Finally, it begins January 22 with a 2-hour premiere on ABC at 8 p.m. I think it runs for 8 weeks.

Bourdain was an executive producer, as well as one of the judges.

One twist to the usual format is that the judges get to sample only one bite and won’t know who cooked what, nor how they prepared it.

But the judges are also supposed to be coaching teams of contestants. I’m wondering how they can do that in any meaningful way without knowing what’s cooking.

On January 15, Tony dropped by Good Morning America to talk about the show.

Eater had an exclusive preview clip featuring our Tony characteristically swimming against the tide to save a nonprofessional cook and recruit her to his team.

Last week, Tony attended some publicity event for the show in Pasadena and an AARP blogger wrote about eating with him.

LA Weekly had an encounter with him at another press event in Burbank, and it sounded like Tony was in top form.

Here’s the official ABC beta site with some video clips.

I gave up cooking competitions some time ago when I had all I could stand of Padma on Top Chef, but I’ll be tuning in to The Taste to see if Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, and Brian Malarkey really can resuscitate a tired old genre with a fresh slant. If anyone can do it, Tony can.

If you watch it, please come back and let’s compare notes.


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