Brian Malarkey Out at “The Taste”

June 28, 2013

By Karen

It’s official, at least according to Eater.com. Brian Malarkey will not be returning as a judge for Season 2 of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste.

Quel dommage.

Malarkey’s fondly remembering the experience as one where his wise counsel resulted in the Season 1 winner — who already happened to be Charlie Sheen’s personal chef.

As if those almost-gratuitous “mentoring” scenes that included Bourdain drinking with and Ludo Lefebvre berating the cooks had anything to do with anything.

There’s no definitive word yet on the return of Ludo, but I wouldn’t miss him. I just hope this news on Malarkey is an indication of some major retooling, although it’s not evident from the audition process. This from the FAQs

“You must serve one plate of food to Producer’s food experts. You will not have access to any equipment to heat your food and the dish you choose to serve should be one that can go without refrigeration for several hours. When preparing your dish, please take every effort to preserve your food to avoid spoilage and to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. We suggest transporting your food in a portable cooler to prevent spoilage. You must bring your own utensils including the plate, knives, forks, spoons, etc. You will only be given a few minutes to plate your dish (once you get into the audition room) so bring whatever it is you need to do that!”

Filming of the series is planned for September.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching Master Chef, and I’ve come to absolutely loathe that bald POS whose name I don’t even want to know. He verbally eviscerates and threatens the cooks every chance he gets, when he’s not spitting out their food or hurling their plates into the garbage right in their faces.

He makes Gordan Ramsay come off as a nurturing, caring cream puff.

I’d like to see Bourdain and Nigella Lawson go head to head with teams they actively lead. Maybe with an impartial third guest judge on tap for a tie-breaker who’s not Ludo.


OMG, it’s True. ‘The Taste’ Will Return

June 14, 2013

By Karen

I’ve been hoping it was just a rumor, but ABC really has renewed Anthony Bourdain’s wretched cooking competition for a second season. They’re even churning out fantasy hype like it’s “America’s greatest new cooking show” and the contestants will be “mentored by the biggest stars in the business.”

Hellooo?? What “business,” exactly? ABC, do you have any idea when Bourdain last worked in a kitchen? Or what talent(s) his current celebrity is built on?

(Hint: It ain’t cooking.)

The official casting call has gone out for the next batch of hopeful, hapless schmucks.

The dates aren’t set yet, but they’ll audition victims in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville — that last locale undoubtedly to snag a trailer-trash token for diversity, à la last season’s Lauren, who turned out to be surprisingly adept.

They’re still clinging to the faux-democratic approach of giving everyone from “college students to restaurateurs” a shot. It just virtually guarantees wildly varied results and unfair outcomes.

But I detect maybe two rays of hope for this train wreck:

1. Tony and Nigella Lawson alone appear in the promo (below), with no mention of Season 1 judges Ludo Lefebvre or Brian Malarkey. Have they dumped the dick and the dead weight?

2. Tony and Nigella say the show is “all about the food.” Does the food have a hope of showing up on PLATES this time?

I’ve lately been following Gordon Ramsay on Hell’s Kitchen and Master Chef (the latter of which I soon loathed as much as Top Chef for its stupid gimmicks and one cold, bald, prick of a judge who thinks he can see into men’s souls).

But the thing Ramsay’s machine excels at is selecting cooks with personalities, and then giving them the screen time to make viewers care.

Let’s hope Season 2 of The Taste brings the cooks off the back burner and lets the show be about THEM.

Not about judges hanging out for fun and profit, fulfilling their ABC contracts by throwing out offhand assessments of morsels so small they often couldn’t identify them, and disappointing a gamut of celebrity chef wannabes who made the mistake of thinking The Taste’s absurd format gave them a prayer of being discovered.

In case you missed Season 1, want to know who won it? Not one of the earnest, talented home cooks, or even a restaurant worker. No. The winner was Charlie Sheen’s personal chef.

So much for diversity.


An Idea for Bourdain’s Ultimate Cooking Competition

March 28, 2013

By Karen

I caught Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen one night on Fox while waiting to suffer through another episode of Anthony Bourdain’s recently-wrapped flop, The Taste, on ABC, and I got hooked. That jerk Ramsay’s strangely addictive, and he gave me a flash of inspiration on how Tony could meld formats into a cooking competition I’d watch.

First, limit the herd to 12 cooks so we can actually relate to them and pick a favorite.

Don’t mix home cooks with pros. It’s unfair. Period.

A season’s cast would either be all line cooks who aspire to chefdom, or home cooks, with challenges devised accordingly. Restaurant seasons could feature production cooking with the truffles and pea purées, but home-cooking seasons would be geared to potlucks, family BBQs, school lunches, holiday feasts — stuff “normal” people prepare.

Like Ramsay, Bourdain is head chef and sole judge. He devises each week’s menu to challenge the cooks and, hopefully, delight the diners. The food could be exotic, if he dares.

But instead of managing by berating and screaming obscenities, Bourdain mentors and teaches while trying to whip his crew into a crack team. Their failures are his failures. No lip service to how much judges “suffer.” He’d have skin in the game.

Tony in the kitchen, managing, would have plenty of ops for mayhem, with one-liners and bleeps —delivered with his customary snark or charm, not Ramsayish apoplexy.

Each night’s challenge is to impress a dining room full of chefs, food bloggers, foodie snobs, rubes, kids, some ilk-of-the-week. We’d watch them kvetch, retch, or praise, but their opinions would not determine anybody’s fate.

Instead, they give Tony and his crew feedback to soak in, with all equally accepting the glory, embarrassment, or blame.

Like Ramsay, Tony asks the cooks to pick someone to be eliminated, but he makes the ultimate decision. He might choose the one who’s 1) hopelessly inept, 2) incapable of teamwork,  3) lacking finesse in sabotage (serving justice by kicking out the culinary Omorosas), or for whatever reasons he thinks are important.

The winner is the one Tony would ultimately want in his own kitchen and can recommend “with no reservations” for a restaurant job with one of his chef pals.

Tony’s BFF’s might be invited guests to help him rally the troops in the kitchen, so we could see the likes of Ripert and Andres at work. And they would risk sharing the blame for meals gone wrong.

America could see how these guys earned the celebrity chef laurels they’re now resting on. The tone would be upbeat and instructive. When someone fails, it’s not because they’re being deliberately screwed and humiliated by pros hoping to boost ratings.

Bourdain believes cooking is a mentoring profession, as he says at around minute 15 of this interview at Serious Eats, so this cruelty-free format is a natural fit for him.

We’d be spared dead-weight judges like Brian Malarkey and Padma Lakshmi. Cooks would be assessed on whole meals, not one ridiculous bite. AND Bourdain could renew his “celebrity chef” cred, possibly ushering in the next generation of great chefs — all without slaving over a hot stove himself.

What do you think? (Discuss among yourselves; I bet you can improve on this even more. I’ll be back April 8.)


“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.


“The Taste” Semi-Finals Get Political

March 6, 2013

By Karen

With only one more week to go of Anthony Bourdain’s ABC cooking competition, somebody should sell souvenir T-shirts…

I Survived

skull-crossbones

The Taste

Last night was semi-finals, with the theme “Seduction.” Ingrid Hoffman was guest judge.

The show’s biggest waste has been guest judges. They’ve been ineffective human spackle on the logic hole created by having judges mentor and blind-taste.

This week’s prize for that challenge wasn’t immunity, but a massive cookware set.

Ludo reluctantly passed over Gregg’s spoon in favor of his new squeeze, Sarah the food blogger. And Sarah won.

We got another brief moment of Ludo and Sarah making goo-goo eyes. And after seeing how she stiffened and averted her gaze when Ludo kissed her cheek upon winning, you’ll never convince me those two aren’t an item.

Tony’s team was down to Diane, and while mentoring he coaxed her to remind us she once lived in a cardboard box under a bridge or something. Then he had a cut-away to swear Diane really, really wants to win.

Nigella worked alone with her Mississippi trailer girl, Lauren.

Malarkey still had Jeff and Khristianne.

(For the record, can anybody tell Khristianne’s gender? ABC’s website uses “she,” and I thought she’s female, but last night everybody was calling her “Christian.” Wouldn’t “-ianne” be a female name and pronounced like “Ariane?”)

Ludo still had Paul, Gregg, and Sarah. Swearing at and demeaning his team has been a winning formula.

While waiting for the big challenge to begin, Bourdain emphatically declared, “There’s nothing sexy about dessert,” to show he had no idea Diane was doing something uninspired with fruit and melted chocolate.

When judging began, Gregg and Sarah suddenly popped into the finals. Because nobody hated their spoons? When Khristianne became the first cook to get 3 gold stars (likes), she joined them.

Then the suspense got intense with only one slot left, and Lauren, Jeff, Paul, or Diane to fill it.

Lauren had prepared octopus, which she’s never tasted or cooked before, and it was good. So they sent her home and wiped out Nigella’s team.

Paul got sent home because Ludo hates him and has never given him the first break.

So it was between Jeff and Diane. Jeff had actually gotten one gold star; Diane none. And Diane had the pedestrian dessert.

If you think Diane went home, you’re wrong. They eliminated Jeff — and all doubt that politics isn’t a factor. Any IDIOT can see it is.

If Diane got the axe, both Bourdain and Nigella became spectators in the finals, watching Ludo and Malarkey duke it out with 2 cooks apiece.

Bourdain had to keep a dog in the fight, and no way was a little old down-home cook like Lauren, who stuck her neck out and succeeded, staying instead of Ludo’s new girlfriend Sarah.

Gracious, classy Nigella was the most likely judge to accept irrelevance in the finale. (Tony could have pulled it off, but as an exec producer and the show’s “big draw,” why should he?)

At the end, we got a glimpse of the coveted trophy, optimistically engraved “Season 1.”

Now, I love most of Anthony Bourdain’s work, and he’s often just brilliant. But if he never wastes another minute of his life producing crap like The Taste, the world will be a better place.


“The Taste” Gets Downright Gory

February 27, 2013

By Karen

I’ve sunk too many Tuesday nights (and blog posts) into Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste, to abandon it now. But it certainly didn’t bode well when ABC made Wife Swap, featuring 2 has-been reality bimbos, the lead-in to Taste’s new 9 p.m. slot. Even worse, one bimbo was talent-free Kate Gosselin, doing her best to destroy the other bimbo’s marriage. But that’s another post (which I’ll never write).

I think The Taste started the night with 10 contestants, and 3 would be doomed.

The show has only 8 weeks, and they wasted 2 weeks picking 16 freaking contestants so, inevitably, they now must dish out the bum’s rush in bunches.

So much for giving viewers a chance to build allegiance to anyone.

Another pair of “renowned” chefs I’ve never heard of, Frederick Morin and Dave McMillan, judged the immunity challenge. The bar for celebrity guest status has never seemed so low.

This week’s bold twist was to give the winner of immunity a pass on landing at the bottom, no matter how execrable the dish (which was how it played out last week for Gregg).

The night’s theme was guts, and Gregg literally “hogged” this segment by blowing up a pressure cooker trying to boil a pig’s head.

But for the 3rd week in a row, Ludo picked Gregg’s dish to compete. (It’s all about taste, remember? Destroying the kitchen has nothing to do with it.) And for the third time, GREGG WON FREAKING IMMUNITY.

Ludo continued to scream and swear at his team like he hates them — all except his lone female, who returned his goo-goo eyes, like it would get her anywhere.

But Gregg was just getting started with the drama. Cooking for the final challenge, he severed part of a finger (or cut it deeply, we never got a reliable diagnosis). But he soldiered on, and his dish turned out badly.

That’s when Ludo felt compelled to appear impartial, so he roundly bitched out 9-fingered Gregg for his very existence in front of the judges, displaying not only his towering lack of class, but also schizophrenia.

Tony’s team merrily drank its way through prep time, so perhaps it was no coincidence when he got porked in the judging. He lost Uno, who played it “too safe” with BOORRIINNG! shrimp heads, and Ninamarie, who doesn’t like cooking guts and couldn’t make liver delightful enough.

So Bourdain’s down to bitchy Diane, and Nigella’s still got her Mississippi trailer girl Lauren (the night’s sole survivor on the bottom).

Ludo and Malarkey have several apiece. For the record, Adam on Malarkey’s team was the 3rd one sent home.

Next week (which Tony called the “semi-finals”) has something to do with love, and 3 more will get cut.


“The Taste” Finally Gets Down to Business

February 6, 2013

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.


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