Film & TV

The Taste: Spoonfuls of Remorse and Haven's Todd Erickson

If the show's message boards are any indication of predicting the future, then The Taste, ABC's new cooking competition, which premiered last evening, is in hot water, indeed.

The first episode was a mega-elimination round that best resembled the unseemly love-spawn of American Idol and The Voice. For two long hours viewers were treated to an almost-endless stream of cooking hopefuls being walked into a closet to listen to the four celebrity judges say mostly nasty things about their cooking and vote on their fate based on one bite of food presented on a porcelain Asian soup spoon by an "extra" out of a Robert Palmer video. The premise being that each judge will blindly pick four contestants to form a "team," using their tastebuds only -- personality, looks, culinary background not being factors in the decision. Those teams will then compete against each other until one winner remains. Easy enough premise -- but it seems like someone forgot to tell the judges exactly what they were supposed to do.

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Contestant after contestant we're treated to the four judges (Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, Brian Malarkey, and Anthony Bourdain) questioning what exactly they're eating. "Is is sea bass or haddock? Is there tzatziki under that lamb (and is it, in fact, lamb)?" We're left wondering whether the food is really that unidentifiable or the judges are adding one more television show into the mix -- Name That Tune.

Also annoying is the fact that, even though each judge systematically votes the chef contestants off the show, they apologize for the verdict, saying they'll regret the decision. Note to judges: green means "yes" and red means "no." That means if you like a contestant's food -- hit the green/yes button. OK?

The show went through so many chef hopefuls that each one blended into each other, though there were a few stand outs like T.J. Tieman, who works at a water treatment facility. "I'd rather be working with what people put into their bodies than with what comes out," he tells us. His sludge-colored chicken mole, by the way, did not pass muster.

One bright spot of the evening was the surprise appearance of Haven's executive chef Todd Erickson. Erickson, a contestant on the show, made seared ahi tuna with a ginger sweet potato puree. Of course, in keeping with some unknown rule of the show in which the judges vote against their seemingly favorite dishes, Erickson was not chosen to go to the next level even after Anthony Bourdain called it a "truly excellent dish" and Ludo Lefebvre said that he "loved the creativity."

I spoke to chef Erickson right after his appearance, who simply said, "Surprise!" Erickson added that he was glad food blogger and former Floridian, Sarah Schiear, advanced to the next level, and that the experience was "so fun!"

"I've been on other food shows, but this was the first time I got to witness this whole, crazy production value on a big network show. Just seeing the workings of the set was worth the trip to Los Angeles. Besides, I got to go and come back without too many people knowing, which allowed me to show off my ninja skills," Erickson added.

As for the aforementioned reviews on the show's message boards?

Well, KevinHart992 said, "Can't believe this show! My wife just loaded the shotgun for me." While SheShe1987 said, "I'm speechless...this has to be THE most BORING cooking show I've ever seen! I love watching different cooking shows, but this one has lost a potential fan. Where's the paint I'd rather watch dry?"

Ouch. Though the show might pick up once the real competition starts, for now, The Taste left me with spoonfuls of remorse for the contestants who flew to Los Angeles to be told how wonderful their food was -- only to be immediately sent home. And for the two hours I spent watching.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss