First of all, congratulations to all of you who played the Super Bowl drinking game and lived to tell the tale. You owe your lives and livers to Maggie for editing out my rule about drinking for the duration of any power outages.
Second of all, congratulations to me. This will be my third article for a major food website, and no one has discovered how grossly unqualified I am to talk about food. I'm barely allowed to make Hot Pockets in the microwave.
It is this level of culinary skill that makes watching the amazing and awful foods that are created on The Taste diametrically torturous and uplifting.
The Necessary Details
The Taste bills itself as "unlike any other cooking competition," which is their way of saying that it is exactly like every other cooking competition/reality competition you've ever watched. The show's design is a convoluted crock pot of bits and pieces of other successful competitions. Basically, the four judges chose their teams (The Voice), the teams compete in group then individual skills competitions (Survivor), and are then judged by the four judges (American Idol). The individual who performs best in the group competition for the winning team receives immunity (Survivor, again) and finally the judges eliminate the worst individual performer.
The most unique aspect of the show is that all tastings are performed blind, so the judges/coaches can end up choosing a member of their own team to eliminate. That's the long and short of the format of this Tuesday night party (8/7 Central), so let's look at the cast o' characters.
Ludo Lefebvre: Ze judge Français. Maybe it's because I failed French in high school (twice), or maybe it's because he's censored more often than not, but I can't understand a word Ludo says. I like Ludo though, mostly because he seems to hate...
Brian Malarkey: This guy. Brian, who obnoxiously goes by 'Malarkey' on the show is, according to my vast Internet research (Wikipedia), just some guy that got eliminated from Season 3 of Top Chef. But what Malarkey lacks in credentials, he overcompensates for by dressing like Ric Flair and having absolutely nothing of value to add. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
Nigella Lawson: She's beautiful, busty, British and she loves to cook. ABC, you can send me a check for just increasing your viewership in the 18-34 demographic. However, Nigella isn't my favorite judge. That honor goes to...
Anthony Bourdain: Bourdain plays the Simon Cowell role, in that he's the only judge who adds anything of value when it comes to coaching and critiquing. Yet he does this while being both American and not a total ass-hat.
Warning: If you're not caught up with the show through Tuesday 2/12, you'll find spoilers below (or helpful catching-up info.)
Sarah Schiear: Team Ludo. Completely uninteresting.
Paul Caravelli: Team Ludo. Totally uninteresting
Shawn Davis: Team Ludo. Has been in the "Bottom 4" twice without being eliminated. Giant crybaby.
Gregg Drusinsky: Team Ludo. Also not interesting.
Jeff Mahin: Team Malarkey. Hard to get a read on this guy. He dresses like a hipster, thinks he's the best chef there, but still tries to help out his teammates. Other than that, he's pretty forgettable in the typical "that guy is still hanging around?" game-show way.
Adam Pechal: Team Malarkey. The guy that actually looks like a chef, with his bad goatee and ponytail. Bad hair aside: uninteresting.
Micah Kasman: Team Malarkey. The feel good story about a guy who quit his job and then went on to win a major national TV competit... oh, wait. He was eliminated. Sigh.
Khristianne Uy: Team Malarkey. An Asian lesbian who is the personal chef for Charlie Sheen...and STILL manages to be completely and utterly uninteresting.
Renatta Lindsey: Team Nigella. Renatta was actually the first person eliminated, which is unfortunate being she was a big, sassy Southern lady who pretty much only made desserts. The Taste is on a crusade to eliminate interesting people from television.
Lauren Scott: Team Nigella. I love Lauren. She's a sweetheart, self-taught home cook, who is always cry-smiling for some reason or another, and is the runaway Cinderella story of this competition. So she'll probably be eliminated soon.
Huda Mu'min: Team Nigella. The only other remaining member of Nigella's team. Which I guess makes her interesting... maybe?
Mia Morgenstern: Team Anthony. Yoga instructor from Harvard with a whole mess of curly hair. The kind of girl I was attracted to when I went to college in Vermont. Amazing not annoying for being both a yoga instructor and from Harvard.
Ninamarie Bojekian: Team Anthony. Bourdain's only lame duck pick. Uninteresting.
Diane Dimeo: Team Anthony. 45 year old from Astoria who acts like a 23 year old from Midtown.
Uno Immanivong: Team Anthony. Only interesting because there is a 34% chance that she will slap Diane at some point. Fingers crossed.
The upcoming February 19th episode of The Taste is titled "The Art of the Sandwich," so it's safe to assume they'll be attempting to create hoagies out of art supplies. For a tastier and less lead-based alternative to fill your stomach during the episode, look to our sandwich recipe column for inspiration. Maybe make a few Vegan Banh Mi to share?
I usually have a soda with my sammiches, so if you're like me you can mix a little Armaretto in your Coke and have a 'Dr. Pepper,' which is a drink I discovered by accident at a college party with terrible booze/mixers combinations. Alternatively, stock up on fine wine.
The Taste Drinking Game
Put on your most pretentious blazer, prepare to get judgmental and enjoy watching people's dreams get shattered on national TV. It's time for The Taste Drinking Game! This might be the only enjoyable way to watch The Taste, but remember: like Nigella's décolletage, this game is for entertainment purposes only. Let's get started!
Take a Sip
1 Sip: Take 1 sip for every time someone starts crying. No, this isn't another Ray Lewis joke. This show has more crying in the kitchen than cooking.
2 Sips: For every time a judge says "Mmmm" for more than 2 seconds.
2 Sips: For every unnecessary curse word. Which is all of them, because this is a ****ing cooking show and there's no need to get salty.
3 Sips: For every instance of ridiculous stage effects. I'm pretty sure the set was made from leftover pieces of Star Trek: The Next Generation with all the elevators and automatic doors and such.
4 Sips: For product placement.
4 Sips: Malarkey says something to annoy Ludo. Malarkey is such a squid.
Take a Swig
1 Swig: For awkward small talk, because filling 44 minutes of TV is hard, you guys.
1 Swig: For every time Diane refers to herself as a "bitch." This rule was almost "drink for every time Diane ACTS like a bitch" but then there'd be no one left alive to play my next drinking game.
2 Swigs: For every time a judge/coach gives a meaningless piece of advice. E.g. "Just cook good ****ing food!" (Good tip, Ludo.)
3 Swigs: If Ludo and Nigella start arguing with each other and it's... strangely arousing. I don't know. Accents do it for me. I'm weird.
4 Swigs: If anyone storms off in a huff.
Slam Your Drink: If someone from Anthony Bourdain's team is eliminated. Don't worry. Bourdain appears to be the only judge/coach with the ability to judge talent.
Slam Your Drink: If someone interesting (see above) is eliminated. This is a tough rule. While the uninteresting greatly out-number the interesting, this show appears to be at war with good ratings. Either that or their producers don't know how to fix a "reality" show.
Slam Your Drink: If someone gets into a fight. There's a lot of tension simmering under the surface of this show, and I'm hoping to see it boil over and have someone get burned. Related: puns are fun.
Drink for the Duration of:
- Any montage.
- Any Khristianne sentence. It'll probably be over before you've even made it to a sip.
Stop Drinking If:
You think Malarkey just said something smart and his wardrobe looks understated but classy.
I'm partially convinced I'm the only person on Earth that is actually watching this show. Anyone else out there? Bueller?