We’re recapping the first season of ABC’s new competitive cooking show The Taste. Watch full episodes for free here.
We’re through the audition rounds and ready for the hunger games to begin. This first competitive episode is titled “Comfort Food.” Let’s hope it doesn’t put me to sleep the way a good meatloaf does.
Beverage status: bourbon, neat
Snack: Nope. Made a delicious pot of chili a few hours ago (how’s that for comfort food?)
So, there are going to be two rounds of competition in this episode. In the first, the Team Taste Test, each group goes off to its kitchen for an hour, and every contestant will make a comfort food dish incorporating bacon, egg, and cheese. The team (really, the chef-mentor) will choose the best dish to represent the team and send one bite of it to guest judge and badass chef Gabrielle Hamilton.
Hamilton is an awesome lady, and I want to steal her glasses, but isn’t it a little early in the game to be turning the judging over to someone else?
Anywho, Gabrielle is going to pick the best spoon. The cook who made the dish will get immunity (two less lucky folks are going home at the end of this episode), and the kitchen that cook represents will get Gabrielle’s help in the second round. Is it me, or is this a little convoluted and moving fast? It feels like they’re trying to do A WHOLE LOT in this one hour.
Time for the in-the-kitchen montage. Nigella refuses to be all rah-rah with her team, explaining that she’s competitive but doesn’t care to show it because she is a Dignified British Lady. Meanwhile, Ludo talks about how he wants to be a winner, and I hear it as “wiener” every. single. time. Heh. Tony seems to be the most laid-back with his team members, and I can’t decide if this is surprising or not. He seems like more a “make you believe my ideas are the best ideas” subtle kind of guy than a beat-it-into-your-head-with-stress guy, and I’m glad to see it.
All is not well in Ludo’s kitchen, where Paul the Ginger does not trust Ludo’s feedback. And what is this? Malarkey has a tribal bicep tattoo? Raise your hand if you’re surprised by that. I didn’t think so.
Sidebar: why is it that when groups are allowed to name themselves on these reality competition shows, the names are always dumb? Tony’s all-female kitchen couldn’t come up with anything better than “fierce?” (I’m willing to acknowledge this is aggression should probably be redirected to Team Keepin It Real and The Dream Team over on Project Runway. I MEAN REALLY?)
This Jeff guy in Malarkey’s kitchen has his stuff together and seems like one to watch. Ditto for Gregg (with two Gs, natch) in Ludo’s kitchen. Dude came up in the kitchen at Le Bernardin and he is not to be trifled with. Okay, he also seems like a bit of a d-bag, but at least he’s not labeling his dishes “food for life performance” like the guy in episode 1.
Food’s up! Both Malarkey’s team and Ludo’s team send out mac and cheese dishes, and Gabrielle Hamilton tastes something chemical-y in the one from Team Ludo. Did anyone understand what mistake Ludo said he made? He is pretty to look at it, but damn if I can’t tell what he’s saying half the time.
The adorable girl from Nigella’s kitchen wins this round with her chicken stew, and I’m thinking Team Nigella is pretty lucky to have Gabrielle heading off to help them in the next round.
That first part felt rushed, and now we’re into where (I sincerely hope) the action is really going to happen. It’s every cook back to his corner, with one hour to make another comfort food dish. The judges will do blind tastings, and each will select their best and worst tasting dish. Since the taste tests are blind, it’s totally possible that they could end up sending one of their own team members home. Interrrresting. I like this twist, Taste, but I need you to slow down a little.
Things look happy in Nigella’s kitchen, where Hamilton advises a wayward cook to make the dish that means the most to her, and Lauren of the Immunity decides to make shepherd’s pie, which, hellllloooo, it turns out she’s never made before. I know she can’t go home, but this seems unwise.
Over in Tony’s kitchen, Diane is busy straight-up declaring to teammate Uno that she’s a bitch. Because that’s a thing women in 2013 are proud to declare. I feel like Diane watched every episode of The Real World from 1992-1998 and is working too hard to fill that Bad Girl role.
Proving my theory that he’s a closet d-bag Gregg with Two Gs is hanging out in Ludo’s kitchen saying, “At the risk of sounding like a punk, I am trying to manifest the direction of the energy of the group.” WHAT LANGUAGE IS THAT? Gregg, the rest of the world agreed that THE SECRET was a bunch of hooey six years ago.
Soooo, the dishes are done–after much sweating and lamenting and talk of “I quit my job to be here” (I never feel bad for those people, BTW. That’s just poor planning.)–and now the judges are going to pick the best and worst (and give me more Project Runway deja vu).
Sidebar: One of these guys made braised short ribs. In one hour. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
The judging is….actually pretty boring. Except for the part when Tony says, “This dish is not making me comfortable. It’s making me want to order a very expensive bottle of wine…and crash a Ferrari.” There’s the Bourdain I know and love. This whole evaluation is a total snoozefest. Could the producers not find the food-world equivalent of Michael Kors to be like, “This is a hot mess, and you’re a disaster”?
Tasting’s over, and they’re declaring that of all 16 dishes, nothing sucked. Womp womp. Where is the brutal honesty? Where is the heat? And you know what this show needs? A muhfuckin host. It’s just so awwwwwkard having the judges take little breaks to explain what’s going to happen.
Elimination time is here, and they’re doing it Project Runway style. The 7 on stage represent the best and worst dishes cooked, and I MUST know what the sayonara catch-phrase is going to be. Dear god, let there be one. Please.
Malarkey and Ludo each pick one of their own team members as best and one from each other’s as worst. Tony picks his own team member Diane (gah, I want to hate her, but it turns out she might be good?) as best and Lauren of the Immunity from Nigella’s kitchen as worst. And….wait for it…Nigella picks Diane as the best too and ONE OF HER OWN COOKS as worst. I think maybe I should feel bad for her, but OH HOORAY there is finally a little conflict here.
Notable that Tony didn’t have anyone in the bottom, and that Diane was picked twice. He’s smart, that Tony, even if Diane is a total caricature.
The lessons from the final commentary are 1) don’t try dish you’ve never cooked before, even if you have immunity, and 2) don’t oversalt. FOR SERIOUS, people. Season those dishes.
Micah-who-quit-his-job-to-be-here from Team Malarkey goes home, along with Apple Crumble Renatta. Can’t say I’m surprised to see Nigella’s girl kicked to the curb. She was doomed the minute her own mentor picked her as worst.
And that’s a wrap!
Final thoughts: The pacing here is really problematic. We don’t get to see very much of what happens in the kitchens at all, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is kind of the point of a cooking show. And there’s hardly any mentor-mentee interaction. Is that going to change? Are we going to get heartfelt, tear-filled scenes a la The Voice? Please say yes.
I want to love The Taste. I want to look forward to it every week, but we’re not there yet. We’re not even really to “like” yet. More of the chefs, please. More in-the-kitchen time. Fewer challenges smushed together. BEND TO MY WILL, PRODUCERS!
Check by next week when my recapping partner in crime Reese will review episode 4.