After two audition episodes, the four mentors (Ludo Lefebvre, Nigella Lawson, Anthony Bourdain and Brian Malarkey) are finally ready to compete after choosing four lucky chefs to be a part of their teams. The mentors are ready to lead them, guns a’ blazin’.
The show’s first competition, a group competition, pits each cheftestant against each other, but in a group. It’s confusing. Gabrielle Hamilton (of Blood, Bones, and Butter fame) is supposed to judge an individual spoon (a.k.a. dish) made by an individual chef that is chosen by the members of their team. What really happens is this: the “mentors” (and believe me, this term is used loosely) yell, scream, kick, and push their chefs into choosing the dish the mentor believes is the best. The result: chefs that don’t like/respect their teams’ decision.
Here’s an example. As time ticks down, Ludo absolutely panics and shoves Sarah’s mac n’ cheese to the front of the table for the half-naked waitress to deliver to Gabrielle. As Gabrielle tastes and critiques the teams’ spoon, Ludo is upset at his choice and wishes he had gone with Shawn. Gabrielle hates the mac ‘n’ cheese.
It pays to be kind, though. Nigella, who decided to lead her team instead of bully them, wins. Her chef, Lauren, creates a delicious chicken stew that wowed Gabrielle, mostly due to Nigella’s help with the deep-fried chicken skin garnish. Lauren (the show’s youngest contestant) wins immunity and the help of Gabrielle on her team for the looming individual challenge.
The theme of the episode, comfort food, carries on to the next round where chefs have only one hour to create a dish that is delicious, yet evokes the feeling of comfort.
There are your typical comfort food creations: apple butter crumble from Renatta, beef stew from Erika, shepherd’s pie from Lauren, etc. The most exciting part of the solo challenge, though, is the apparent rivalry/hatred/frenemy relationship between Dallas’ very own Uno Immanivong and obnoxious New Yorker Diane. The two bicker back and forth at each other for a while and play a game of who-can-be-louder-and-more-obnoxious. Diane, of course, wins.
The finished spoons are laid before the judges and each judge/mentor must choose their favorite and least favorite dish of the night. Two chefs must go home. Because it’s blind judging, the mentors do not know if they are choosing a member of their team for best and worst dishes. They must be careful.
The chefs stand awkwardly above the judges behind some sort of railing while the tasting is going on and, while no one is in awe of Uno’s spicy chicken with papaya salad, I’ll tell you right now that she is safe (yay!).
Once the tasting is done, the judges blab on about how every dish was successful and eventually make the crucial decision. Eight hatches open with eight different chefs inside that make up the best and worst of the night.
Malarkey is pumped when he finds out his worst choice of the night is Shawn from Ludo’s team. Ludo is proud when he chooses his girl Sarah as the best of the night. Bourdain chooses Lauren’s shepherd’s pie as his least favorite and Nigella is heartbroken when she realizes she picked her teammate, Renatta, as the night’s worst chef.
Bourdain takes a couple minutes to “gloat” that none of his chefs from “Team Fierce” are on the bottom and Khristianne’s uni seafood chowder, Diane’s spicy bourbon beef and Sarah’s shrimp and grits are crowned the winners. Lauren is excused because she has immunity and the bottom three are left to face their destiny.
Eventually, the judges decide that Micah’s Mediterranean dish did not “talk” to the judges and Renatta’s apple butter crumble just didn’t measure up. The two are (tearfully) sent packing.
For those of you Dallasites unfamiliar with Dallas native Uno Immanivong, here’s the scoop on our homegrown competitor: Uno, a mortgage consultant and owner of Foodie Couture, a boutique food company right here in Dallas, is set to open her own restaurant in Trinity Groves in May. The restaurant, named “Chino,” will feature Asian-Latin fusion foods (think of her take on lap gai during audition rounds). Along with the restaurant opening, it could be a big couple of months for Uno who could potentially add “winner of The Taste” to her growing resume and list of accolades.
Christina Colavecchia graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada in May 2012 with a degree in Professional Writing and Humanities. As a Canuck living the U.S. for the first time, she’s loving the Dallas lifestyle and all the city has to offer.