The first thing I noticed about ABC’s The Taste, was that the contestants, who all seem to embrace their cultural stereotypes, were operating at a level of self-delusion on par with any other cheftestant show.
The premise is that contestants serve four chefs/mentors/judges with a single spoonful of food in a blind taste test (and the spoon appears to be served to the judges by members of Robert Palmer’s all-girl band). The chefs use this single bite to decide whether to take the contestant under their wing on a team of four contestants for the rest of the season. That’s right, it’s The Voice for the Food Network set.
British chef/author, Nigella Lawson, and renegade food tourist, Anthony Bourdain, are the big celebrity names on the panel, and they’re joined by chef/author Ludo LeFebvre and restauranteur Brian Malarkey, who placed fourth in Top Chef Miami (2007).
In the two hour premiere episode, the mentors each build a team of four chefs to take into the rest of the season. So we see a parade of hopeful chefs, from home cooks to fine dining executive chefs.
Do we see much going on in the kitchen? Nope. Almost the entire show is taken up by judge critiques, and that means a lot of justifications for canning most of the contestants. In fact, the few kitchen scenes we do see are chefs trash talking rather than cooking. Imagine Iron Chef with 4 minutes of cooking and 40 minutes of the judges talking about what they think of the food. If you’re familiar with the first episode of each season of Top Chef, where several chefs are eliminated and not taken to the season’s city…this show is like that but stretched out like mozzarella over two hours.
This premiere episode is so little about the cooking and the chefs, and much more about critiquing a single spoonful of food. But hopefully the show will vary its format as we go deeper into the season, and we’ll see more of the cooking, because this two-hour event became tedious long before the end of the show, and we won’t even get to the end of seeing Tony, Ludo, Nigella and Malarkey selecting their contestant teams until next Tuesday night.
So we’ll stick with it for a few more episodes and see how things shake out when the real competition starts.