The Taste Premiere: Will You Go Back for Seconds? Take Our Poll!

The Taste PremiereABC premiered its new competitive cooking show, The Taste (not to be confused with daytime food-talker The Chew) on Tuesday night, and despite its two-hour running time — seriously, network execs, have you forgotten the days when reality shows lasted only 60 minutes? — I found the end result to be pretty appetizing, if not totally mind-blowing.

The series premiere focused on the show’s panel of judges — Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey — tasting one bite each from various professional chefs and home cooks. The judges had no idea who prepared the food or what ingredients they used, and had to immediately decide whether the spoonful they’d eaten was good enough to earn a spot on his or her “team.” (In a neat twist, each judge voted “in secret,” without any knowledge of how fellow panelists were leaning.)

Here are five things about the premiere that have me thinking about returning for Episode 2:

TAKEDOWNS OF THE AWFUL…AND THE AWESOME | Thankfully, The Taste didn’t fall into the predictable pattern of sweet people with sad backstories always succeeding. Sure, it stung a little to see rejections for Jeanette, the 64-year-old journalist whose house is under foreclosure, and TJ, the sewage-treatment worker whose chicken mole Nigella said looked like “a baby’s nappy,” but the judges based their decisions on flavor alone. And who can argue with that? Nevertheless, we did see holes satisfyingly punched in some crazy-big egos, too, like Adam, who said he was traveling from the future to smash the judges in the face with awesomeness but instead punched them in the taste-buds with heinousness via a mac-and-cheese stir-fry containing mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, pineapple, and ground turkey. (Insert vomming sound here.) And when handsome sous chef Sieger referred to his own good looks and likened himself to Captain America, you just knew he was being set up for a painful nosedive.

FALLIBLE JUDGES | I liked seeing the judges occasionally crumble under the pressure of deciding “yea” or “nay” based on a single mouthful — without any context or explanation. Bourdain proclaimed himself “livid with rage” after passing on Kyle’s chicken-fried watermelon, while Nigella blurted that she’d “buggered up” by not pressing her “yes” button for Todd’s ahi tuna and sweet potato puree. No matter how much she begged, though, she didn’t get a do-over, and Todd was sent home without a single “yes” vote. It’s kind of comforting knowing that even food pros sometimes need a beat to pass judgment on their eats.

THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF FLAVOR | The judges had several interesting conversations about how the show’s conceit forces them to make judgments on food alone. There’s no eloquent menu descriptions or chefs’ résumés to take into account. Thus, we had Renatta who prepared “mashed potatoes with the cabbage along with the chicken with a sauce over it” winding up on Team Nigella while a number of trained professionals were sent packing. As Nigella told several hopefuls, don’t say “home cook” apologetically; some of the best-tasting meals are homemade, after all! And while a sea bass with butterscotch and cilantro relish sounds kind of hideous on paper, the resulting flavor combination caused Bourdain to hit his “yes” button for chef Nina Marie.

JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF SALT(Y LANGUAGE) | I’ll admit I howled when Bourdain growled, “I’m pretty sure I can’t use the term delusional f***** on TV, but…” and Nigella chirped in, “I think you might have just now.” Ditto for the Lady Lawson’s exasperation with Malarkey’s demand for more “refinement” in a contestant’s food. “I wanna reach for my revolver!” she gasped over the offending adjective. “I want pleasure and flavor!” (Side note: Anyone else surprised by ABC’s choice of Lefebvre as a judge, considering his French accent makes a third of his critiques borderline unintelligible? Which isn’t a complaint: The guy won me over the second he offered a job in one of his restaurants to solid-but-not-quite spectacular cooking instructor Renee, who’d quit her job to audition for the show.)

AN ECLECTIC CAST OF CHARACTERS | I already want to know more about Kristianne, the self-described “fully-tatted Asian lesbian” who works as a private chef for Charlie Sheen and the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia (!) and Lauren, the absolutely adorable home chef who lives in a trailer in Mississippi, has $43 in her checking account, and wept tears of joy when her idol Nigella picked her.) And while chef consultant Diane has clearly set herself up as The Taste‘s resident villain, if one of the mentors can stop her from rocking an exposed midriff next to the stovetop, her appearance on the show will not be entirely in vain.

What did you think of The Taste? Will you tune in for more episodes? What did you think of the judges and contestants? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. gary says:

    Watching “Professional Chefs” get smacked down was hilarious. Ludo and Anthony are fun to watch i will be back for more

  2. BarbL says:

    So far, I love the format, love the personalities, and loved the unintentional but needed smackdowns.

  3. I recognize Kristianne from Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell, so you probably don’t have to wait until next week to find out more about her.

  4. Belle says:

    Nope, it’s a cheap knock-off of Master Chef…they just modified it a bit to make it seem new and fresh…Adios! This show = a BIG miss!!!!

    • seattlejohn449 says:

      it seemed a knock-off of THE VOICE but Malarkey is no Aguilara…I was put off by the judges’ arrogant perfectionism and have no idea what happens after they put their teams together, which will be the real test of this show…will the judges work and play well with the contestants and will the contestants be people I get involved with???

    • Sugar says:

      Totally agree. It seemed like a cooking show knock-off with painfully arrogant, snooty judges who talked way too long about a bite before they gave it the big thumbs down. I fell asleep and didn’t really care. It’s a *NO* for me.

  5. meem says:

    I watched the first hour because nothing else was on, and it was fine. But at nine I switched away and never gave it another thought. Not must-see-tv for me, that’s for sure.

    • Kristoffer says:

      Same here. It was ok enough that I let the DVR keep the encore in queue for this Friday. Will watch the rest and decide if the seasons worth watching. I think it might become more interesting once they start eliminating people after the teams are set up. Since they won’t know who has cooked what they could end up kicking off someone from their own team.

  6. Joe says:

    It will fade fast

  7. Milah says:

    I didn’t like it, none of the chefs seemed strong enough for me to ate what they say, and the format is pointless, one taste is nt always enough to determine a chefs talent.

  8. The judges were the best part. The problem with this show is that when it is focused on taste, we as viewers have no real part in it. We can’t mentally participate in the judging. I’ll be more excited when the mentoring part starts. PS are they trying to set up a Ludo/Malarkey feud? LOL

  9. forwarddad says:

    I liked it. The judges are building a team. The one taste is to see if the chef has the potential to be mentored.

    • seattlejohn449 says:

      but it also seemed team challenges will be decided by the same one-bite approach – which calls into question the judges’ palettes and pickiness and not so based on an individuals over-all approach to cooking

  10. James says:

    Judge: you are literally the greatest chef who has ever lived. I did not pick you.

    Judge 2: you are literally the greatest chef who has ever lived. I did not pick you.

    Judge 3: you are literally the greatest chef who has ever lived. I did not pick you.

    Judge 4: you are literally the greatest chef who has ever lived. I did not pick you.

    What an annoying, pointless show.

    • Milah says:

      This, I hated this, what do looks have to do with taste, nothing. It’s like they just liked hitting no for the sake if hitting no.

    • Whatever says:

      Thank you James !
      My thoughts exactly.
      Pointless and Annoying and I love Anthony Bourdain but the show sucks

    • KB23 says:

      I agree – they did this waaaay to often – maybe a couple times would have been acceptable but the majority they really liked and yet nobody chose them to be on a team. Talk about frustrating and they really gave no good reason for not picking them.

  11. Boiler says:

    Didn’t watch and sorry to see ratings. To me it continues the downfall of TV. People wonder why their favorite shpws don’t make it. This is why

  12. Jason says:

    Terrible TV. Fodder for complete zombies.

  13. tara17 says:

    So sick of these cookie-cutter reality shows. Didn’t watch, not going to. Bring back apt.23.

  14. Templar says:

    I found it slightly less interesting than Next Design Star on H&G. And Design Star only gets half a star in a range of 1 to 5.

  15. Renee says:

    Renatta’s dish had a hair in it. If you paused on the close up shot, as the spoon was rotating you could see it. Nasty!

  16. Nikki says:

    I couldn’t take it anymore after one hour. I had high hopes for it. But after so many, amazing, I didn’t choose you decisions, I was out. I mean, if you really loved the food, you would have said yes, not waited to see what the person looked like or what they did and then regret your decisions.

  17. gg says:

    Ludo,Anthony and Nigella would be great together on a show but not this show. And i could do without the other guy he was kinda annoying. But seriously get Ludo,Anthony and Nigella and travel show together those 3 are awesome together

    • Linda says:

      I agree wholeheartedly. I think Malarkey was a former loser on Top Chef, wasn’t he? I am alreahy so annoyed by him. Although it was fun to see him beaten out by Ludo three times in a row. It feels like he wasn’t trying to pick the best bites, but to figure out if a chef was professional or not. He’s an arrogant snob. Very unlikeable.

  18. Jack Rance says:

    An evening with Nagella -o YES more please MORE !!

  19. cookie says:

    I loved this show!! Its lets common people do what they think they do well. I like Ludo,Anthony,Nigella, that other guy no.He was trying to be like Ryan Seacrest. I wish I knew about the trails since I am a great grassroots home chef.

  20. forwarddad says:

    They need to explain next steps quickly. Did they not learn from Duets where it felt they were making and changing rules on the fly?

  21. twentythree says:

    Too often I think the contestants are selected and moved along in the reality competitions because of their looks, not their talent. This is interesting in that it is based on the taste of the food–the “talent.”

  22. Leila says:

    All those semi-masturbatory shots of hands hovering secretly over green and red lights got annoying. This was a show I really wanted to like. I enjoy the regular Voice, and Top Chef is my #1 reality show. But it felt lackluster, even with the wonderful Anthony Bourdain. It ended very abruptly with Nigella’s odd comment about underwear and that sense of no direction could be said to apply to the whole show. Still, I will be back for the second installment to see if something appeals. It won’t be Malarkey though. He is definitely the weak link.

  23. em g says:

    I think Ludo will be the breakout star of the show. Bourdain is a known entity if you watch cooking shows – LOVE his mind of a chef show on PBS – Nigella comes off as a mensch and the less said about Malarkey the better.

  24. Kim says:

    Just based on the promo pictures:
    It’s really sad/weird when Ludo is the “hot”/”attractive” celebrity. Brian Malarky got some weird work done. It’s weirding me out.

  25. Rick says:

    The show is horrible. No is all the judges could say. With that said, I will have to say no to watching this. Cheap knock off of a better cooking show

  26. Blah says:

    This show sucks big time. “I love your food and I know I will regret not picking you. But hey, I’m just not feeling like pressing the yes button today and i dont even know why. Sorry you’ll have to pass.”

  27. Sandy Cosner says:

    Mean-spirited and depressing. “Wonderful.” “Inventive.” “I wish I had picked you!” All comments made by the judges just before they ditched obviously talented and driven artists. Why do I want to watch this?

  28. Chris says:

    This show is awful. The judges are arrogant and rude. The comments about the good aren’t specific and seem to be prejudged. Won’t watch this again. Paint drying is more entertaining.

  29. Lisa says:

    I love it. Anthony and Nigella are the best.

  30. cwclifford says:

    After thinking I like The Hobbit until it dawned on me that it was a 3 hour disaster, I’ve since been quicker to realize a dog when I see it. This show is a dog. Oh! Wait, that’s a great idea! Have dogs on the next show taste test. ;)

  31. Judy says:

    This may not be a politically correct question, but my husband and I are in a debate over if Kristianne is a male to female or a female to male transgender.

    • matt says:

      me and my girlfriend had the exact same conversation…. it’s a toss up.

    • Gonzalo Rodriguez Moran says:

      Not that it actually matters but I would love to know as well. I do like her looks a lot. She looks like someone I’d love to know and eat her food. Congrats Girl!!!!!

  32. Kathy says:

    I will not be watching this show again. Gregg gets sent home because he had to compete against the three judges when it came down to the final four. Just as he stated after he lost. Of course Chef Ludo is going to help his GF. He couldn’t keep his hands off her the entire season. Gregg should have won he was the best chef out of all those competing. I will be surprised if they do this show again.

  33. Mike says:

    I think the show is good. I would love to see a 2nd season. People keep trashing about judges turning down some good cooks but to me that makes it more real. As anthony said, he was strategizing and all. You can praise somebody’s dish because it ‘taste’ gud and not say yes because you feel it may not give you the advantage to win the entire thing. And one more thing, i dont know why people keep bashin malarkey. As far as i know, he makes the show much more interesting with his xchanges with ludo. Judging him just because he’s name is not as big as the rest of judges is ridiculous to me. I am not that familiar with the judges actually so to me as a regular viewer, I dont find malarkey out of place there. And mind u, not worthy to be mentor? He’s team just won the whole thing. He recognized kristianes talent. Big UPs to the show. Luvit! Cant wait for a second season.

  34. Mike says:

    One more thing. What happened to Greg is actualy ludo’s miscalculation. Ludo was thinking of helping sara more because she’s the weaker one that he was not able to mentor/help greg with his dish. This scenario to me again adds up to ‘realness’ of the show