Reality Bites: The Taste
Few things add class to your reality competition like celebrity judges. In the past, those selected to judge singing shows were likely to be more recognizable to the layman than those on cooking programs, but the recent rise of the Food Network and shows like Top Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, and Chopped have created a growing number of "celebrity chefs," easily identified by even the most casual TV watcher.
Anthony Bourdain is near the top of that list. No Reservations debuted in 2005 (along with shows from Rachael Ray, Gordon Ramsay, and Emeril Lagasse), and while he's done stints on Top Chef and the like, ABC's new prime time cooking competition show The Taste is his first major network judging gig. Joining him are French chef Ludo Lefebvre (of Lavo fame), English author and TV host Nigella Lawson, and Brian Malarkey, who ... finished 4th in season 3 of Top Chef. Seems fair.
What's the premise, you ask? Do you watch The Voice? Same thing, only instead of songs in the judges' ear holes, competitors will provide food for their mouth holes. They have to convince at least one judge, with a single spoonful of their recipe, to draft them for their kitchen (each judge gets four chefs) and move on the competition portion of the program.
[I was confused at the beginning as to whether the competitors could hear the judges talking. Turns out they can, and I look forward to the season 1 DVD release showing several contestants bursting into tears after Bourdain compares them unfavorably to Sandra Lee.]
Given the tendency of other cooking contest shows to drag out the proceedings, the haste in which contestants are dispensed with here is quite refreshing. Then again, it makes it really hard to get a grasp on who, if anyone, we should be paying attention to. ABC also throws us some curves by giving extended looks at some who don't make it. For example, I enjoyed the back story on T.J. the wastewater treatment operator enough to hope he'd make it to the next round, because that arc would have an almost poetic ... oh, never mind, he's out. Back to the offal tanks with you, my man.
Meanwhile Jennifer describes herself as "the Lebron James of cooking, and, "the Michael Phelps of cooking," not realizing she's described a union that would result in the ugliest athlete who ever lived. I recognize the words "salmon," "haricot vert," and "gastrique" in her presentation, but not in the order used. Whatever, the end results are too sweet for everyone, though she's told to "keep trying." I'm sure we'll see her back, assuming ABC doesn't pull a 666 Park Avenue and dump the show.
She can shuck my oysters any day.
The number of people who've quit their jobs for this is staggering. For example, Micah quit his design director gig to be here, and Malarkey takes him. Micah's flop sweating while in the weeds is likely to work against him, however.
Why is Malarkey the only judge with his last name up there? As you can see from the header image, It's "Ludo," "Nigella," "Malarkey," and "Anthony." People are going to think that's his first name. The whole thing reeks of, what's the word, balderdash? Poppycock? Flimflam? Something like that.
Somebody must have told Bourdain to be on his best behavior, because I don't think I've ever see him this genial. We're so used to him talking shit on No Reservations and his acerbic turns on Top Chef it makes you wonder what ABC has on him. Compromising photos with Paula Deen, no doubt.
If you've caught Lefebvre on other shows, you'll know he's a pretty affable fellow. For a Frechman. He gets in a few zingers about English food at Lawson's expense, but is otherwise engaging.
And then there's Nigella Lawson. Oh, Nigella. I have loved you from afar ever since I was unemployed and watched Nigella Feasts marathons with a bag of Cheetos and a 12-pack of Keystone. She mentions a few times how she likes "big flavor." Yes, I like big flavor too. Big, plunging neckline flavor.