Last night, ABC’s reality cooking competition show The Taste aired its Season 2 finale where the best of the best — narrowed down to four chefs Jeff, Lee, Louise and Marina — were pitted against each other one last time, all while mentored by cooking legend Jacques Pepin. I’ve followed both seasons of this show, one of only a few reality shows I can watch, and am a huuuge fan of it. Bourdain, Nigella and Ludo, what’s not to love? So when Krissy Lefebvre, Chef Ludo’s wife, offered me a spot at MasterCard’s private screening of the Taste finale at Animal on Fairfax I felt like I won the lottery.
The $100-ticket event gave guests a multi-dish family-style meal by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal as well as unlimited wine, beer and cocktails (hooray!). But what made it such an unbelievable deal was the running commentary provided by Chef Ludo himself, who was also seated at one of the communal tables alongside well-known L.A. foodies Stephane Bombet and My Last Bite’s Jo Stougaard. Naturally he had plenty to say when the episode was projected on a huge screen at the back of the restaurant.
For the first hour or so of the event, everyone dined on spicy beef tendon chips and melted p’tit basque with grilled bread. The smoked turkey leg which had been cooked for eight hours seemed to be the hit of our section of the table if all the Instagrams taken are any indication. Fortunately for me there was plenty of veg options as well like a market citrus salad with pistachio, fennel and champagne vinaigrette.
Then they ran the episode. What a show. I did not see that coming. After Jeff was eliminated, Ludo stood up and asked the room, “Who do you think is going to win?” The crowd let out a resounding roar when he asked “Marina?”, booed when he said “Lee?” and was absolutely quiet when it came to Louise. But judging by Ludo’s reaction to that silence I could tell that there was a good chance Louise was going to win. After all she was the underdog, flying under the radar for most of the season. She won the least gold stars out of the finalists but had zero red stars.
In the end when it was revealed that she did in fact win the contest, the giant spoon trophy, the $100,000 and a Ford C-Max, Ludo revisited with the room: “You know why Louise won?” “Because she listened to the chef!” replied the room. It was true, in the episode Louise took full advantage of having Jacques Pepin in her kitchen. I mean, come on! Why the other contestants didn’t jump on that is baffling. But with the French chef at her elbow, he helped her save her sauce and was there to bounce ideas off of. She replied to every one of his suggestions with “Yes, Chef!” Smart girl.
The food stylist said she would love to open her own pub.
Throughout the evening, Ludo offered insight about the show.
“Anthony is playing very dirty!”
“Nigella is always picking weirdos. This team was a shit show.”
“I think Anthony has the best cook in this thing.”
“The worst dish on the show was the beef with banana. Best dish was by Lee.”
Needless to say I couldn’t think of a better way to watch this episode. Everyone aww’d when Lee and Cassandra were reunited, giggled when Marina said she had been eating balls since she was a kid and gasped when Lee was the first of the three to be eliminated.
As for whether there will be a Season 3, Ludo didn’t really say. So fingers crossed!