From the first episode, The Taste is Channel 4’s riposte to MasterChef.
No longer do we have to hear John (Torode), Gregg (Wallace) or Monica (Galetti) with their over-the-top commentary and gurning; The Taste‘s judges actually gives us measured, polite commentary on food.
Judges are Nigella Lawson (UK), Anthony Bourdain (US) and Ludo Lefebvre (by way of France — the ‘b’ in his name is silent, by the way).
In the first episode (Tuesday, January 7, 2014), each had to choose four team members from 24. Most were home or amateur cooks. Others were professionals, who did not fare so well in the judging of the taste of their dishes sampled on a spoonful.
As Lefebre — now one of Los Angeles’s top chefs — said:
… it is not about the frou-frou.
Bourdain — from New Jersey (surname pronounced ‘Bor-dane‘) also said that professionals tend to paint themselves into a corner with their presentation.
Not surprisingly, the American — rather street-wise, judging from his book Kitchen Confidential and his commentary on his Travel Channel show No Reservations — chose his four team members before the others. However, he did say that Nigella should not be underestimated. All three have done the US version on ABC, incidentally.
Ludo was hard to please; Nigella hugged a rejected 18 year-old Scottish contestant and Bourdain — a New Yorker, for all intents and purposes — seemed to have his finger on the culinary zeitgeist.
Some contestants were lucky enough to be presented with two chefs from which to choose as mentors. One, at least, had three. Despite their civility, these three celebrity cooks were hard to please.
The following Tuesdays will reveal more about the cooks under fire. Cookery show fans will see a variety of cuisines and techniques which the judges will assess accordingly.
What was most enjoyable is that we first saw the food tasted, then the cook presented to the judges. Therefore, any routine MasterChef-type bias was reduced at the outset. Admittedly, how that will play out in the rest of The Taste remains to be seen. Yet, it is a start. Thus far, there are none of the characteristic sob stories accompanying similar series.
If you enjoy cooking at home, this is one series to watch or, if necessary, record. It is encouraging. Many of us really can cook well. Of course, some do not need a television series for similar proof, but others among us do.
So far, this is a refreshing mid-winter alternative to the Beeb’s MasterChef in all its incarnations as well as Great British Bake Off.