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

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th February 2014
So, at last we are starting to get to know the contestants.  As The Taste begins its final ascent, towards the pinnacle, that spoon of most holy spoons, the likes of Debbie, Kalpna, Guan, Dixie, Kelly and Kirsty are really starting to shine through. DebbieI have to say; engaging with some of them through the magic of social media has helped. Twitter certainly helps to build up camaraderie and yet, there is one thing that makes me uneasy. They all know. By this stage they must all know who the winner is so how are they still able to be pleasant to each other? If I had been booted out, I would be spitting blood and feathers all over that hashtag. But then again I am a sore loser. And what power does the production team have over everyone anyway? What is stopping someone from spilling the beans? I think I know. Written into each of their contracts is a tacit threat and that threat is Ludo Lefebvre. Each of the contestants knows that if they dare disclose any information on the outcome of the series then Ludo will be launched onto them. He will come into their homes and Ludomadhe will enter their minds. And let me tell you this, the prospect of a little Ludo going “Dodododododododo” in your head is a terrifying one. However, let’s put conspiracy theories aside for a second and get on with an update of what’s been happening so far Episode 7 Well in show lucky number 7, the theme was ‘waste not, want not’, a familiar echo from MasterChef where scrapings from the bin get dumped onto kitchen surfaces and everyone has to sift through peel, bones and offcuts and wonder what the hell they are going to do. The Simon Rogandjudge on this occasion was none other than the mighty Simon Rogan of L’Enclume and he was looking for some serious but simple food, asking the contestants to create something delicious out of nothing. “Yeah alright Simon thanks for that easy task,” the competitors could have moaned but they didn’t. They just got down to business whilst the mentors pumped and preened around the kitchens. “Give me some! Now! My kitchen! My cooks! My way!” Oof, that Ludo is so masterful. Spoons lined up for immunity on this occasion came in the shape of Debbie’s cauliflower risotto with cauliflower oil, Guan’s cod cheek laska, championed to the hilt by Anthony and for Nigella, it was a tale of two fish curries but in the end she went for Kalpna’s fish head effort.  And boy Cod Headwas Mr Rogan critical, sniffing at overwhelming curry powder flavours and overdone noodle soup. He did like Debbie’s interesting approach though which sent Ludo into spasms of hip-thrusting wonder. Mr Bourdain on the other hand went into depression. Cooking with leftovers continued for the second round but this time the principle ingredient was leftover wine, which was very baffling for this reviewer. I mean come on, who the hell has leftover wine in their house?! This question seemed to perplex Kalpna too but still everyone went on their merry way to reduce last night’s dregs and again make something out of nothing. For my money the best sounding spoon of this round was Chloe’s approach with steak, which Kalpnawinewas bizarrely dismissed as being too “winey” from some of the whingey mentors. Saying that though Kelly’s Spanish style seafood stew also did look like it would hit the spot and was deservedly picked as the best spoon, much to the delight of Nigella who beamed like a proud parent. However, for Kirsty, the concept of using seafood was the death knell. Seriously it really was. She’s allergic to the bloody stuff so why she went down the route of cooking salmon is beyond me, especially considering that the format of the show is based on tasting food. So sadly, it was goodnight Kirsty.   Episode 8 On face value, the premise of episode 8 looked on paper like it was going to be a right load of Offal2ol’ balls and being a particular fan of offal; I have to say I was extremely glad that it was. And of course, who else could be lined up to judge for the immunity round but none other than Mr Nose-to-Tail himself, Fergus Henderson. Espousing the virtues of “juicy bits that need to be celebrated,” the well regarded chef from St John certainly set a strong challenge for the contestants and for the mentors alike. Both Ludo and Anthony looked quite uneasy as they tried to guide their cooks through the viscera with the Frenchman fretting over blood and pig tails, the American bemoaning that tripe smells of wet-dog. Nigella didn’t fare too well either as her instruction seemed to clash with the hopes of her cooks, especially with Kelly who had three very different ideas. As they fell apart, one by one, Nigella became more and more agitated and brusque. Even when Kelly gamely announced that she still had some balls to play with, the Domestic Goddess couldn’t crack a smile. FergusHendersonStill, despite all the high drama and pressure, three able spoons of offal were placed in front of Fergus, who ate everything up with great aplomb. The clincher was Chloe’s spoon, a blood pudding with apple and crispy pig’s tail which made Fergus utter “now I understand why vampires are vampires sometimes.” The harrowing cry of “MEEEEEEEAAAT” was announced for the elimination round, namely the choicest cuts such as Salt Marsh lamb and Wagu beef and with the final looming in the background, nerves amongst the contestants really did start to show. Given that the ingredients were of high quality and would normally stand by themselves with no fuss, I’d argue that this was a particularly tricky round yet it was evident that the judges wanted more so some mistakes were made. Dixie should have let her Iberico pork do the singing but she also plonked a tumour of a Morewinecroquette on her spoon. Debbie’s over-inventiveness again got the better of her as she muddied the flavours of her classic chicken with truffle and saffron. And Guan made the simple error of going for steak and why not? It was £60 Wagu for gawd’s sake but to the mentors turned judges, it was bland and insipid. When Nigella boomed that “now is not the time to be congratulating yourselves people,” I have to say it all suddenly felt very deflating. But it was good to see Guan, who was kicked out in the end, walk out with his head held high, proclaiming that this was not the last we have seen of him. It was also good to see that the remaining contestants were all women. You don’t often see that on a cookery competition on telly these days. But with the final so close, so near, will they be able to keep their lips sealed? Is the threat of Ludo unleashed enough? Ladies, I shall be keeping a close eye on you on Twitter over the next couple of weeks.   Danny Kingston (Food Urchin)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).

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th February 2014

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