With television today overwhelmed by reality shows that feature everything from singing to dancing to racing around the world, it's no surprise that ABC has a new reality competition centered around cooking. The Taste is exactly like The Voice on NBC, except that instead of judging someone's voice blind, the foodie-judges blindly taste one bite of each contestant's dish.
The first part of the two-part premiere was a night filled with interesting dishes, lively characters and opinionated judges. It's a show meant to focus on one bite to truly taste the food; this is what the judges use to decide who will be on their team.
From a panel comprised of chefs Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, Brian Malarkey and Ludo Lefebvre, each judge takes one bite and secretively decides "yes" or "no" as to whether or not they enjoyed the dish. The contestant behind the bite is then revealed, as are the judges' secret decisions. Sometimes the judges are regretful of their choice and sometimes they're pleased, but they only get four contestants on their team -- so that one bite has to win their heart and their taste buds.
The night began with a dramatic introduction explaining the rules and set the stage for an intense competition. Professional chefs are competing alongside everyday home cooks, food bloggers and even a culinary instructor. This competition style reveals the skills and talents of the home cooks and lets some of the unknown professional chefs shine.
Although the contestants' day jobs weren't meant to play into the judges' decisions, the panel can usually tell who is behind the bite -- they're professionals after all.
Going into this show, I thought Anthony Bourdain would be the Simon Cowell of the competition -- the one who didn't just choose anybody. However, some of his decisions were a little confusing -- but this could play to his advantage, as sometimes the underdogs or randoms can be the strongest competitors.
Bourdain began his team with a young woman from Harvard who made an Indian spiced lamb with mint and cilantro. Based on his culinary adventures and travels around the world, it's no surprise that an ethnic dish won him over. However, the next dish he chose surprised me. Apparently, Chilean sea bass with butterscotch is delicious and intriguing enough for the likes of Anthony Bourdain.
One cocky woman's wish to be chosen by Bourdain came true, as did that of the home cook who baked a chocolate cake with pistachios and spices to win the the heart of Nigella Lawson (shocker, I know). But shout out to the Houston contestant, Renatta! She's on Team Nigella with her chicken and mashed potatoes with cabbage, carrots and sauce.
The other two judges seemed to snag random contestants. Lefebvre got a chef who made Chilean sea bass and a food blogger who made seared scallops. I see a seafood trend happening here.
Malarkey prides himself on having five successful restaurants, so the professional chefs are the ones he wants on his team. He started the night with Charlie Sheen's personal chef who made scallops with cream corn and cilantro, but surprisingly chose the home cook who made a simple filet mignon.
The four judges did take a few gambles on contestants, but overall they played it safe. After almost every contestant, the judges would complain and whine that they regretted their decision not to take the contestant.
Instead of listening to Lawson beg to have a second chance and choose the contestant after all (probably because she found out their profession), I wish the judges were a little riskier than they were. Many contestants were praised for their dish after all four judges said no; the culinary instructor who left her job to be on the show was not chosen by any of the judges, but Lefebvre offered her a job at one of his restaurants (I guess she got the best deal out of everyone).
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I was also disappointed with the amount of cooking shown on the show. The entire premiere focused on the contestants and their backgrounds 75 percent of the time, and the food/cooking 25 percent of the time. For a show that focuses on one bite being a deciding factor, the premiere should have been filled with more cooking, rather than cheesy American Idol background stories.
Maybe the show will get a little more exciting as the judges start eliminating contestants (possibly their own team members), and hopefully the cooking and preparation of each dish will be showcased more.