ABC attempted a prime-time cooking competition with Tuesday night’s premiere of “The Taste.” The premise is like NBC’s “The Voice,” but with cooks. For the auditions, home cooks and professional chefs prepared single spoonfuls of a dish for the judges, who tasted the food blind and voted to keep a contestant on their team with “yes” or “no” buttons before meeting them. Once on a chef’s team, the contestants will continue to prepare food for blind tastings throughout the competition with the possibility of a chef voting someone on their own team home. The winner gets $100,000 and a Ford hybrid, as well as The Taste trophy, which looks a little like two gold spoons kissing.
It’s a good idea in theory, but more spice was needed from the judges. Anthony Bourdain is like a caged animal on network television. I wanted that snarky, no-holds-barred dude from “No Reservations” and instead got his milquetoast step-cousin. Still a huge fan and hoping he’ll come out of his shell as the season progresses. Nigella Lawson was charming and hot in red, but Brian Malarkey was a bit on the snooze-fest side. My favorite personality ended up being Ludo Lefebvre, who I can already tell will be a hot head. I also had too much fun hearing him pronounce “poosh my bootahn.”
As far as the cooking goes, none of the contestants blew me away. There was a 62-year-old making kugel, a couple of chefs made scallops, and lamb and white fish were also popular ingredients.
Two contestants stood out from the crowd of mediocrity. Lauren Scott, a 23-year-old who said she has $32 in her bank account and lives in a trailer park, impressed the judges with the only dessert of the night, a flourless chocolate cake with pistachio brittle. Lawson was quick to grab Scott for her team. The other contestant I’ll keep an eye on is Diane DiMeo, a 45-year-old chef consultant with a serious attitude. It took her all of 30 seconds on camera to start cursing out another contestant. Bourdain took her for his team.
There is one real pet peeve about the show. If it’s really about a blind tasting, then why the remorse after you pushed the “No” button? All of the judges had a couple freak-outs over sending someone home after he or she met the cook. Why did your view change after you saw their faces? Lefebvre said no to one chef, then ended up offering her a job in his restaurant. So she wasn’t good enough to put on your reality TV show cooking team but good enough for your real kitchen? Makes no sense, but he can do no wrong with that accent.
Eager to see if things will liven up once the judges join their teams in the kitchen.
“The Taste” airs on ABC at 8 p.m. PT.
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