In Poor ‘Taste’: ABC’s New Culinary Crapfest

The Taste_Promo Pic

I hope Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, Brian Malarkey (what an appropriate surname), and Anthony Bourdain are proud of themselves.  The rather accomplished quartet is just the latest group of culinary pros to conspire with a major television network to craft undoubtedly one of the most insipid reality/game shows in history.

With what could be called an abysmal choice of programming, last night ABC aired its premiere episode of The Taste–a weird, confounding culinary game show in which a panel of esteemed judges blind taste contestants’ one-bite concoctions and decide whether to keep them or tell them to pack their knives and go. (Sorry, wrong show.)  The motley pool of contestants is comprised of home cooks, food bloggers, professional chefs, and people who should never be near a kitchen.  Seriously, ever.  (Spoiler alert: one Capoeira-obsessed contestant made a pineapple, maitake, ground turkey mac and cheese that brought the judges to the brink of vomiting and–to give you a sense of the depth of the show’s talent pool–this guy is a professional chef.)

When presenting their amuse bouche-sized portions to the judges, contestants are hidden behind a flimsy, sliding glass door that looks like it could have doubled as a teleportation device in a 1960s episode of Star Trek.  Deliberation ensues as the judges reach under their desks to employ their sophisticated voting devices (read: big green and red ‘yes’ or ‘no’ buttons).  The poor souls are revealed and then have to stand before the panel to explain what crap ingredients are in their dish.  This is where it gets really interesting.

The purpose of the show is two-tiered: Contestants compete against each other in order to get selected to join the team of one of the “mentors” (i.e. judges).  Once the teams are established, the mentors essentially compete against each other to determine whose team shows the greatest culinary prowess.

At least that’s what viewers are led to believe.  In actuality, the rules are confusing and every time a contestant’s food is deemed “amazing,” “delicious,” or “restaurant worthy,” it is assumed that the hopeful will be selected for one of the judges’ teams.  Wrong.

What makes this show horrible (other than the entire concept and the faux agonizing deliberations) is the way in which the judges gush over a contestant’s delicious food and say something like, “Oh, I’m going to regret this.  I just know it” right before summarily dismissing the contestant.

Wait. What?

On more than one occasion, Bourdain kicks himself for choosing to send a seemingly awesome contestant packing while Lawson–whose role seems to be that of an English Paula Abdul–apologizes profusely to the shattered cook before proceeding to self-flagellate over her decision to dismiss.  Ludo Lefebvre, cast as the French asshole (redundant, no?), is perhaps the worst–he lavishes praise and proffers a few unintelligible bon mots (and job offers) before plunging his dagger.  Then there’s Brian Malarkey–a former Top Chef contestant and restaurateur whose purpose is yet unknown–who seems to be an incongruent choice.  At least his compatriots are well-known and accomplished–not to mention relevant.

One can only hope that this show is only afforded one season.  I don’t know how many culinary cluster-you-know-whats ABC intends on churning out (ahem, The Chew) but this one really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

About Iris "The Palate Princess" M.

Food writer | Author of Food Lovers' Guide to Philadelphia, Main Squeeze: Juicing Recipes for Your Healthiest Self, and On the Line (coming soon)


  1. Frank
    January 26th, 2013 20:52

    You’re way more tolerant than I, iris. I gave up on this Voice for Cooks show right after Lawson goes into her “self-flagellation” (perfect word) again after jettisoning the Ahi tuna cook. I can only say “WTF?” so many times. Give me MasterChef (even with the insufferable Bastianich) anyday 😀


    • Iris "The Palate Princess" M.
      January 27th, 2013 11:28

      Ha ha, I agree–I much prefer MasterChef! I just can’t believe how horrible The Taste is.


  2. Lou
    February 5th, 2013 15:10

    The guy that I feel bad for is Bourdain. His “Kitchen Confidential” is probably the best thing written about being a line cook. The guy has the culinary and TV chops, plus the juice to do whatever he wants. Why choose dreck when he could have done something interesting.

    Maybe there is a big check in it for him and I should shut my mouth.


    • Iris "The Palate Princess" M.
      February 5th, 2013 18:38

      Lou, I feel the same way. He is such an important voice in the culinary world and it’s a shame that he chose to participate in this show. What annoys the most I think is the fact that he never hesitates to call someone else a sell-out and his presence on the show is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.


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