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.


Trying to Keep Up with Bourdain

June 18, 2012

By Karen

After so many years of following him as relatively obscure, niche cable star, with Cats Working the worldwide destination for the scoop long before he became a fixture at Eater and Grub Street, it’s gratifying to see Anthony Bourdain finally reach critical mass. Lately, it seems, you can’t swing a cat without hitting him.

I must be recovering from my Bourdain overload, because I must confess that all his new endeavors are piquing my curiosity like a fresh catnip mouse.

Once again, Travel Channel has suspended No Reservations in mid-season, but Tony’s kept himself busy shooting The Layover (in Paris and Dublin he’s tweeted — Yes!!) and making the media rounds to talk up his new shows on CNN and ABC (both of which are still unnamed) and his upcoming graphic novel, Get Jiro!, in general release July 3.

Before I again make the mistake of letting some good links stack up and go stale, here are my latest for whatever Bourdainiac readers I have left…

Tony wrote an extremely uncharacteristic and personal guest blog for Bon Appetit about his father’s influence on him. Pierre Bourdain died of a heart attack at age 57 (Tony will be 56 on June 25). It’s illustrated by many new-to-us childhood photos, courtesy of Tony’s mother Gladys.

Bloody Elbow got a lengthy interview with Tony and Ottavia, published as part 1 and part 2. We learn that one of Ottavia’s favorite snacks is tuna packed in oil with pickled onions. Lupetto the cat probably can’t begin to compete with her tuna breath.

Tony reveals in this interview that he and I basically agree on NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to ban enormous sodas, and for the same reasons.

Tony did a personal appearance on June 9 in Brooklyn, and Food Republic captured the highlights. I learned that Paula Deen’s also a shill for Serta mattresses. Who knew, and why? Maybe they lured her in with their “soy-infused poly foam core,” which sounds like a concoction from Top Chef.

In case you missed Tony talking to Jimmy Fallon on June 8, here’s the video. Fallon completely overlooked the latest-breaking news that day, which was Bourdain’s ABC show with Nigella Lawson, and Tony didn’t bring it up.

And last, Tony talked to the NY Times about his gigs on CNN and ABC and publication of the graphic novel all hitting at the same time.


Anthony Bourdain to Host Cooking Game Show

June 7, 2012

By Karen

This just in – In addition to his new 2013 show on CNN, Anthony Bourdain is pairing with Nigella Lawson for an as-yet-unnamed “cooking reality show” on ABC.

A few Cats Working readers began discussing it under my previous Bourdain post, so let’s bring it to the fore and see what the rest of you think.

I’m happy for Bourdain to have this opportunity to monetize his culinary experience. But much of the initial reaction on the Web among fans seems to be that he’s selling out. I’ll have to see the show to have an opinion, but I do agree he’s walking a fine line.

Foodies, try to spin it as you will but, basically, Tony’s going to be a game show host. But instead of having Nigella flip letters, they’ll be playing with food.

And let me state that there’s no such thing as a “cooking reality show.” The participants cook in some tricked-out kitchen. They’re usually using a bizarre set of ingredients someone else selected to prepare a dish 99.9% of home cooks wouldn’t touch.

There’s nothing real about any of it.

In the video promo, Bourdain implies the cheftestants will receive “help” preparing for the challenges. This is obviously where all his celebrity chef BFFs come in, scoring more easy TV gigs like some of them did in scenes Tony wrote for HBO’s Treme.

But does that mean viewers will actually learn something about cooking, or will it be like Top Chef, where the footage get so butchered in post-production, you rarely see a recipe a normal person could actually reproduce?

I picked up a few more tidbits about the show from the open call registration info at ABC:

  • The show will be in production for 4 weeks in August or September 2012 (subject to change)
  • It will be shot in various locations
  • All the contestants will be legal U.S. residents

The requirements for the casting call already amount to bullshit if they’re serious about judging cooks based on their cooking…

You MUST bring one prepared dish to be served to the food judges. You will be given a few minutes to plate your dish at the given casting location, but there will not be a kitchen in which to cook or warm the dish, so come prepared!…It is your responsibility to preserve your food to avoid spoilage. We advise transporting your dish in a portable cooler to keep it fresh…You must bring your own utensils including the plate, knives, forks, spoons, etc….You may not bring any equipment (heating or cooling) that needs an outlet. You may bring battery-operated food prep equipment that can heat/cool food.

I’m picturing heaps of potato salad and JELL-O molds, but I’m kind of hoping some idiot brings in sushi and lightly poisons them all.

They’re recruiting cheftestants in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago (Cats Working reader Adele (the human), could this be your chance to showcase your talents?), but no dates have been set yet.

Since they’re recruiting anyone with “the passion and talent for cooking, whether you are a restaurateur, executive chef, sous chef, line cook, culinary student or home cook,” the innate unfairness seems already written on the wall. Will they make any attempt to level the playing field, or use it as a premise for Tony to become the Simon Cowell of cuisine?

And what will a network gig, with its extreme sensitivity to foul language, do to Bourdain’s wit? Will he feel tongue-tied without profanity? Stifled?

Since Travel Channel will probably continue to churn old episodes of No Reservations and The Layover ad nauseum long after he’s gone, with additional shows on CNN and ABC, will channel-surfing viewers get sick of saying, “Oh, hell, not THAT guy again!”

And now that he’s sunk to doing a game show, could a season on Dancing with the Stars be next in the cards for Bourdain?


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