Spooning with Nigella: a blog on Channel 4’s The Taste by @FoodUrchin

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th February 2014
There may be trouble ahead. Seriously folks, I can sense it. Can you remember that frisson of excitement at school when suddenly, in frantic whispers, it was passed down corridors that a fight was about to happen? Well this sort of feels the same. As this series of The Taste continues and as the pressure has intensified, I am almost certain that someone is going to take an almighty wallop at some point. And I sincerely hope that Antony Bourdain is the one who dishes it out. Jeez, I know it’s only a cookery show and I shouldn’t get emotionally involved but boy, someone needs a good slap. And breathe. So, what has been going on in the last couple of episodes of The Taste anyway? Well, in episode 5 the theme for the day was ‘heritage’ or good ol’ fashioned family cooking in other words. The contestants had to conjure up deeply personal mouthfuls from their childhood, using recipes handed down through the generations, which is highly emotive when you think about it. There certainly was a dilemma for the mentors in that any negative judgement could have consequences. Bordain summed up the situation succinctly by ruing it was a case of “Hate the dish, hate my family.” However, before Granny’s Special Lamb Stew could be slopped onto a spoon, the cooks had to get past Ruth Rogers, chef patron of Michelin-starred The River Café and impress her with their take on a simple yet fundamental staple, the humble tomato sauce. Out of everyone, Nigella seemed to be the one who was most nervous for her cooks during this task, probably because she desperately wanted to impress her daughter’s godmother *CLANG*. Anthony’s reputation was also at stake and he spent an inordinate amount of time pondering upon what spoon to put forward. When he chose Dixie’s lobster and chilli spaghetti, Justin’s reaction was priceless. It was like someone had shoved a dog turd under his nose. Alas, when it came to deciding who would get immunity, Ludo won with Chloe’s spoonful of mussels in tomato sauce. Yes, a Frenchman won what was essentially an Italian challenge. (Notice by the way that this show is still largely about how the mentors succeed and not the actual competitors?) During the second part, when contestants had to offer up their family favourites for the mentors now turned judges, there  was quite a broad spectrum. Spoons containing vegetable fritters, beef chilli and sweet and sour rolls all went down with great aplomb. Unfortunately for Justin though, a haggis lasagne influenced by his Scottish mum didn’t go down so well. According to Ludo it tasted of that very same turd Justin encountered earlier so he had to walk. In episode 6, the emotional journey continued but thankfully chocolate was to be the star challenge on this occasion. Handy when you think about it because there is nothing like a bar of fruit and nut to cheer you up. Our star chef to grace the stage and decide who would gain immunity this time around was none other than the sexy, French, Beiber-a-like patissier, Eric Lanlard, and he was after spoonfuls of savoury chocolate. Bourdain visibly shrank during this challenge as it soon became evident that chocolate wasn’t really his ‘thang’. In fact, he regards chocolate dishes to be amongst the blondes of the food world, fun but essentially vacant (the sexist pig!). Tense and testy Ludo didn’t fair too well either as he barked at Debbie to throw some anchovies into the mix. Anchovies and chocolate Ludo? You must be having a laugh! I know Eric Lanlard, who was refreshingly critical, didn’t find that fishy spoon particularly funny. As one would expect, it was Nigella who rose ably and coaxed the very best from her students. Plagued through the series so far by a lack of confidence, Kelly finally shone through with her chocolate and blue cheese tartlet with onion marmalade. And thank goodness for that. Once again into the breach, the contestants then had to come up with creations of their own, to make something sweet with chocolate and so off they skidaddled into their kitchens whilst Nigella cooed: “I am looking forward to this.” In terms of favourability, this round was probably the hardest one to judge in the series so far dixie cake because in my opinion everyone came up with some very good food. Debbie nailed it with her chocolate and chilli cake. Guan’s banana tarte tatin looked especially good. As did Kirsty’s chocolate and orange panna cotta. Even Dixie, who for the first time in the competition looked like she might have lost her way, came up with a very delicious sounding layered chocolate cake sponge with orange ganache. So it was obviously difficult for the mentors to decide as to what spoon would send a competitor packing. After much, discussing, debating and deliberating, it came down to choosing between Chloe and fun loving Raj, who didn’t really convince that he was in it to win it. Ultimately, that was his downfall and for that, Raj was sent packing. With only four episodes left to go now, it is quite intriguing trying to figure out who is going to win but I would say at this stage, the mentors need to give as much support to their cooks as possible. Now is the time for proper nurturing, building bonds and strengthening relationships. The show has largely been about Nigella, Antony and Ludo so far so please, let’s start to see them shine. And Ludo, if you pull off that “It’s Chef Ludo to you” business again, I am coming over to the studio to slap you myself. Danny Kingston (Food Urchin) Danny is a food adventurer, enthusiastic allotmenteer, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurian blog, Food Urchin. He also writes for Great British Chefs and past credits also include writing for Delicious Magazine online and MSN Food and he is an absolute sucker for East End pie and mash (with loads of liquor and vinegar).
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th February 2014

Spooning with Nigella: a blog on Channel 4’s The Taste by @FoodUrchin