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.


“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.


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?


Congratulations, Top Chef Richard Blais

March 31, 2011

By Karen

What a relief! The producers let Richard Blais and Mike Isabella cook without playing any childish sabotage games.

Well, almost. The kink of having them assemble potluck kitchen staffs from among the losers could have been disastrous. But neither of them got stuck with Marcel, and Mike caught Jamie on a day when she was in the mood to cook , so it worked out.

And Richard beat Mike fair and square, although there were moments I feared Mike’s that pepperoni sauce would top Richard’s grainy first batch of foie gras ice cream. Even though pepperoni sauce sounds more appealing to me than liver ice cream. Who in hell, besides cats, would want that? Especially as a dessert? Yeecchh!

As much as I’ve grown to loathe Tom and Padma, they did the right thing. Mike has had his moments, but Richard was obviously and more consistently superior in both innovation and execution.

In the after-show festivities, poor Fabio Viviani wasn’t chosen “Fan Favorite.” But if he had to lose to anybody, I’m glad it was Carla Hall. I can thank Fabio for my new Nutella addiction.

There’s still a reunion show to come, complete with an uncomfortable Real Housewives-like exchange between Colicchio and what’s-her-name, the first cheftestant out who told the press Colicchio’s a sell-out.

And over at America’s Next Great Restaurant, I’m still rooting for Joseph Galluzzi and his Saucy Balls, although his menu put him in the bottom 3 last week, and this week’s promos indicate he may jump the shark going gangster. But if he goes, so do I. I’m meh on the other concepts and judge Steve Ells’ nerdiness is starting to annoy me.


“Top Chef” Bottoms Out

March 29, 2011

By Karen

After 79 episodes, all that remains of this season’s Top Chef All-Stars is one more cook-off and a reunion. Can anybody remember the first dozen chefs? They must all be retired by now, driving everybody at “the home” crazy repeating glorious tales of the time they puréed peas on TV for “this really famous bald guy — not Brynner, not Savalas, aw, you know — he had this really tall girlfriend called Pardner.”

In last week’s faux finale, Antonia inevitably got the boot. Seriously, a woman was never going to win this. Stephanie Izard has been the lone female Top Chef since the show started, right?

If Top Chef demonstrates anything, it’s that celebrity chefdom is a boys’ club. Martha, Rachael, Giada, Ina, and Paula are mere tokens, too prissy, cute, sexy, or motherly to ever cut it in a real kitchen.

Mike benefited from the Quickfire challenge’s sadistic twists by getting to choose how Richard or Antonia would suffer. Predictably, Mike went after Antonia because he wants the final finale to be between men — him and Richard.

If Mike ever found a baby robin languishing on the sidewalk, he’d stomp it to death and laugh. Even when he’s crowing about being on top, Mike never lets self-confidence make him pass up an opportunity to do someone dirty. Gracious and fair aren’t in his vocabulary.

So Antonia had to cook with canned goods while physically tethered to Carla (in a cameo appearance) à la sack race, and Richard had to prepare hot dogs with one hand and overdid it with the ketchup.

Mike was limited only by having one pot and losing his utensils after his dish was essentially finished. And guess what? His prowess at shooting fish in a barrel won Mike the Quickfire.

The Elimination challenge involved preparing a “Last Supper” for 3 accomplished chefs. Max Silvestri at Eater shredded that absurd challenge name admirably, so I’ll let him have at it.

Even after Wolfgang Puck declared Richard made Wolfgang’s dead mother happy with his strudel, spaetzle, and goulash, Colicchio couldn’t resist an “It’s not hot enough” kvetch.

Antonia was supplied with rancid fish to serve Masaharu Morimoto, so she presented Plan B fish (tuna) beautifully in a bento box. Morimoto found her miso soup too salty, and Colicchio damned the whole meal as having “too much flavor.”

Too much flavor. Does he ever listen to himself? He single-handedly made “bland” a 4-letter word.

Mike lucked out again — in spades — with no-brainer fried chicken and biscuits for Michelle Bernstein (whoever she is). He wrapped an egg yoke in dough and called it the “biscuit,” and the coating fell right off his dried-out chicken.

Richard was pronounced safe, but Mike and Antonia were sent back to the kitchen to prepare “one last perfect, totally gratuitous bite” because clearly Mike’s food wasn’t supposed to be that much worse than Antonia’s.

So Mike produced a glob of lobster topped with raw beef. Comments ranged from, “the lobster didn’t ‘wow’ me,” to “the beef was bland,” his curry was “over-spiced,” and someone actually “despised” his olive-caramel sauce.

Antonia cooked grouper. Tom, who’d been wearing a look of pained constipation the entire episode, offered the only real criticism, calling the fish “very aggressively” spiced.

So naturally, Antonia had to lose because Mike has a penis.

For the finale, I’d love to see Mike and Richard cook their best in a well-equipped kitchen without spoiled ingredients so someone can win honorably. Fat chance of that.


Bourdain Takes the Plunge

March 21, 2011

By Karen

Is Anthony Bourdain trying to recapture his former wild and crazy days? First, he gets a snake tattoo in Miami, then he takes the world’s longest bungee jump in Macau. What next? A dive into the Bosphorus to retrieve his thumb ring?

Last week on No Reservations, Tony visited Nicaragua. It was another insightful, thought-provoking episode. No criticism intended here: If you squinted in some scenes, it could have been Haiti.

Tony blogged about Nicaragua, Macau, and tonight’s episode in Vienna. I’ll be happy to see him somewhere with paved streets and beautiful architecture. Ottavia was on that trip, which always adds a Where’s Waldo? element. Does she or doesn’t she appear on camera?

Between Nicaragua and Macau, Bourdain spent a week in Cuba, about which he’s been strangely mum. He tweeted the first or second day, then almost nothing after that. I’m thinking the silence bodes well for a great NR episode.

Since Tony and his crew embraced social media, we’re getting so much real-time information about episodes in the works, to watch the finished product months later gives me a sense of forever traveling in Bourdain’s wake. He’s always a few destinations ahead of us, “miles beyond the moon,” exploring some new Never Never Land.

Bravo has a video of Eric Ripert interviewing Tony about Medium Raw (why?) as they sit in an ineptly-lit echo chamber. Interesting to watch the interplay, though, and some of Ripert’s words are subtitled because he’s so utterly incomprehensible. (Sarcasm there.)

Houston food writer Robb Walsh takes Bourdain and others to task for preaching tolerance with foreign foods, but dissing Tex-Mex.

That got me curious. Readers, how do you feel about Velveeta? Tony loves KFC mac & cheese, and can’t have any illusions about what’s in it. Is it hypocrisy?

The Feast at NBC Los Angeles did a brief video interview with Bourdain. Not sure when, though, since he was in Macau when they posted it. He says Bravo’s The Real Housewives franchise makes him angry.

And finally, Top Chef All-Stars

Tony was mercifully absent from another act in this 3-ring circus of cruelty. Padma finally got her gratuitous semi-nude scene, standing on a dock in a bikini and absurd high heels. For the Elimination, the chefs irrelevantly demonstrated their snorkeling ability, gathering conch in waist-deep water, then bashing them open and cooking on an unpredictable makeshift wood fire for members of the Nassau Yacht Club.

Predictably, the judges bitched mostly about the cooking

Does anybody making that show ever LISTEN to the judges? I don’t care what Bourdain says about things being on the level, it’s beneath contempt and plain MEAN to always blame the cheftestants for not transcending sabotage.

Again, all the dishes were good, so the judges came off like effete whiners, even amid pampered yachtsmen. Padma found Tiffany’s soup with fresh coconut milk “too sweet.” I suspect Padma’s real beef was with the 552 calories per cup.

Antonia caught flak for cutting her conch too small and unevenly cooking her fish. Richard (in a wet bathing suit, outdoors, standing in sand) miraculously turned sweet potatoes into an impressive “pasta,” but parts of his lobster were allegedly undercooked.

When there’s nothing valid to criticize, focusing on form over substance works every time.

Mike was faulted for using butter (non-Bahamian) and making a greasy dish. So, naturally, he won.

Tiffany, like Carla, got eliminated for being too sweet and for, gasp!, allowing her soup to cool while portioning it on a windy beach and walking it some distance to the table.

I think even Max Silvestri at Eater must be running low on his ability to find any of this amusing. They are down to 3 chefs, but there are still TWO episodes left. WHY??!!


Bourdain’s Too Good for “Top Chef”

December 20, 2010

By Karen

No Reservations Season 7 is tentatively set to begin February 14. In the meantime, Anthony Bourdain fans can watch him judge Top Chef All-Stars.

In week 3, Tony got minimal screen time as the judges noshed at 4 exclusive New York restaurants. I think the less he’s seen with that mean little clique, the better. In his Bravo blog recap, Tony even managed to say something nice about all the cheftestants.

(On the other hand, Eric Ripert ripped a new one for Elia, week 1’s loser, for publicly spewing many sour grapes about Tom Colicchio. It’s as close to nasty I’ve ever seen Ripert get.)

Week 3 was a double elimination. Stephen and the non-Asian Dale got axed for failing to channel the spirit of their assigned famous chefs, yet Asian Dale won the elimination challenge with a mere egg. Go figure.

Is there a larger dollop of pomposity in this season’s judging? Or am I just becoming jaded from seeing one too many plates of weird stuff sitting in puddles  of goo?

Unlike the judges, I’m not surprised when chefs faced with an array of strange ingredients and sometimes malfunctioning appliances — and a ridiculously brief time to figure out what to do with them — concoct increasingly bizarre platefuls of crap.

Speaking of crap, so are the so-called “challenges.” Top Chef has morphed from a cooking competition into a culinary Survivor. I’m waiting for the Quick Fire where Padma coyly gives the the cheftestants 15 minutes to hack off and prepare an unobtrusive body part from the competitor to their left.

As much as I looked forward to Tony’s return for his wit as a judge, I’m now sorry he’s there. He’s not really one of them. He likes tube steaks cooked on dirty grills in alleys. (Granted, Padma loves to lick grease off her ankles.) But at this stage of his evolution from reputed bad boy, hurling clever “Gotchas!” at well-meaning people who were cornered for a multitude of reasons into creating bad food is beneath him. Far beneath him.

End of rant.

Zero Point Zero crew member Helen Cho is now tweeting and blogging for Tony, and her updates are on Tumblr. The plan is to make her as unpredictable as the show’s format, so they flipped interviewing duties and Tony supposedly grilled Helen to reveal some new Bourdainia, including the tentative Season 7 lineup, which is…

701 Nicaragua
702 Cambodia
703 Haiti
704 Vienna
705 Ozarks
706 Boston
707 Brazil
708 Japan
709 Cuba
710 Macau
711 El Bulli
712 U.S. Desert
713 Congo
714 Yemen
715 Memphis

Remember Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa cake, a staple in Bourdain’s personal appearance repertoire? It seems Sandra bought the recipe 10 years ago from Denise Vivaldo, whose hilarious confession is on Huffington Post (thanks, human Adele, for the link!). Apparently, Sandra’s peeps thought she would be bigger than Martha Stewart. Maybe they still do, now that her boyfriend, Andrew Cuomo, is New York’s governor-elect.


Why I’ve Had It with ‘Top Chef’

September 3, 2010

By Karen

Reality TV hit rock-bottom when Top Chef won an Emmy for Best Series. I’m not just miffed because TC turned its best guest judge, Anthony Bourdain, into wallpaper this week. Bourdain had nothing to work with. All the nice, but dull, cheftestants prepared good dishes.

I’m not even upset because the chef I was least indifferent to — Tiffany — got sent home over some flaw with her fish sauce they trumped up.

Top Chef never has been about great cooking, but about having the stamina and cunning to overcome the producers’ relentless sadism and sabotage.

Everyone associated with the show proudly claims, “It doesn’t matter what you cooked before. If your dish sucks this week, you’re going home.”

That’s just bullshit because it makes being named “Top Chef” a crap shoot.

The chefs work mostly in unfamiliar kitchens with unreliable refrigeration. How many dishes have been ruined in the fridge? Tiffany was screwed because her mussels froze.

Also, I don’t intend to squander another minute of my life watching anyone tear through Whole Foods. I HATE grocery-shopping. And WHY do they have a time limit?

I’ll tell you. Faux tension, leading to silly mistakes that sink perfectly capable chefs.

This season, pea purée figured in a few episodes. Can you say, “Puke on a plate?” Alex was accused of stealing it from Ed. Tom Colicchio vehemently denied it on his blog, while never explaining where the missing purée went.

Tom, it’s noxious green goop. It doesn’t just vanish.

This season, instead of preparing yet another little pile of weeds and protein sitting in slime, someone made a beautiful mac & cheese with a pork chop on the side — something a “normal” diner might enjoy. It was dismissed as not exotic enough.

Which brings me to Padma, the exotic judge with dubious credentials. I think they only keep her around because she can say, “Pack your knives and go,” and make it sound like, “Take off your clothes and do me.”

And Tom Colicchio, “the rock” of the show, with a similar presence. When he occasionally deigns to register an expression, cheftestants’ chins quiver as they wonder, “What did he MEAN by that look?”

Next week’s finale is in Singapore. Why? To boil noodles? They couldn’t do that in DC? I plan to skip it. I’ve watched every episode this season, yet I don’t care who wins.

The only thing that would salvage future Top Chef competitions for me would be to have the judges assign semi-objective numerical scores on each dish (1-5 so Padma could keep up) in several categories, such as seasoning, doneness, complexity/creativity, presentation. The foodies can work out the details.

Make the scores cumulative, so the chef with the lowest total score each week goes home. That way, good chefs wouldn’t get destroyed in one challenge for things beyond their control (like fridge temperature) and the best would come out on top.

And drop the ridiculous deadlines. Turn off the damn camera and stop making the chefs behave like lab rats trying not to step on electrodes.

But if you can’t give up the “Gotchas!”, move the show to Nickelodeon.


%d bloggers like this: