The Taste UK: like The Voice but with food - and the sound turned down

"Nigella Lawson seems sapped of her warm, cheeky voluptuousness" but "maverick" Anthony Bourdain and "revolutionary" Ludo Lefebvre have the potential to keep us coming back for more, says Paul Jones

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The Taste UK: like The Voice but with food - and the sound turned down
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As you may have heard, several times over, The Taste is the culinary equivalent of The Voice.

With blind auditions and a panel of judges competing to grab the best contestants, "it’s not about presentation, reputation or technique. We’re judging you on taste alone.” 

Except, on The Voice the viewers get to hear the music. So until someone invents FlavorVisionTM, The Taste must be The Voice but with the sound turned down.

And if they really wanted to make their point about flavour being the only thing that matters here, they’d actually blindfold the judges. Or they’d make it a radio show. Or, ideally, they’d encourage contestants to produce morsels of food that look as much as possible like turds on a spoon and then see if Nigella Lawson is still willing to put them in her mouth.

Thankfully, The Taste doesn't take its central premise to that logical conclusion and we still get to see a bit of cooking even in the audition round where contestants – some professionals, some “home cooks” – must provide a single spoonful of something delicious that will persuade one or more of the panel that they want them on their team.

Some contestants struggle to balance as much as they can on the spoons they're provided with (Alan Partridge would have brought his own big spoon) but it just means the judges look silly trying to shovel it all in, and spill some down themselves, neither of which is likely to get them on your side. 

The judges are a “maverick”, a “revolutionary” and a “superstar” – otherwise known as Anthony Bourdain, Ludo Lefebvre and Nigella Lawson.

Actually, New Yorker Bourdain lives up to his billing, as far as you can describe anyone who eats and drinks for a living as a maverick. The author of notorious culinary memoir Kitchen Confidential says s**t and f**k where will.i.am would say dope and fresh and comes out with delicious phrases like “I’m a big nasty slut for oysters and caviar”.

Lefebvre (no, that wasn't a typo before and, no, I don’t know how to pronounce it either), is painted as the temperamental, “very, very French” chef, but you sense his increasing irritation with Boudain is real – “you fight well in the room but you don’t fight well in the kitchen” – and I look forward to seeing whether there will be some full-on salami measuring next week.

Nigella, you already know. Although, these days the domestic goddess seems sapped of her warm, cheeky voluptuousness – whether by her time in America (where she does a version of the show), or her recent personal trials, who can say. Her attempt to comfort a tearful contestant (don’t worry, there isn’t too much crying) is just plain awkward. She’s definitely no Nicole Scherzinger or Sharon Osbourne, and hopefully she won’t try that again.

The Taste features the customary incidental music – urgent strings, ominous chords and thumping percussion – the portentous voice-over, and the darting close-ups of faces and eyes, and occasionally food. It probably won’t be radically different to many other cookery and talent shows. But the tasty personalities (despite the fact that the judges are sharing two between the three of them) could be a substitute for the actual flavours we never get to experience.

The Taste is on Tuesdays at 9:00pm on Channel 4