And here we go! Last night's double elimination on The Taste was a rough one for Nigella and myself. High points for me were getting the competition going and feeling the heat in the kitchen, and low points was unwittingly choosing one of my own team members as the worst dish of the group. That wasn't a proud moment, but things weren't all bad throughout the episode. Here's what happened:
The theme was "My Life on a Plate" and I presented my interpretation to Audrey, Shehu, Don and Sarah. Having been born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, I chose a simple dish of berbere-rubbed seared salmon to highlight the multicultural mashup that is evident in my food. All four members had a pretty clear vision of what they wanted to prepare and with the clock set to one hour, off they went. It was a new experience, guiding all four chefs in one open kitchen all at once, and for a first challenge my team came out strong. Having only seconds to decide who would represent Team Marcus, I went with Shehu's Coconut Curry Broth with Halibut and Mussels which I felt showcased bold flavors and good technique, something Guest Mentor Ed Lee would appreciate.
On to the bites. With four spoons to taste from, Chef Ed chose Ludo's team bite as his favorite, much to my disappoint, of course. What judge wouldn't want to win the first challenge? But seeing as he chose Shehu's bite as his second favorite, I breathed easier knowing I wouldn't have to eliminate any one from my team. That unfortunate job went to Nigella who eliminated Reina, who we all saw caused quite a stir during her show commentary.
I remember filming that episode and being so exhausted (not to mention full) from all the tastings, but we were only halfway through the day. While Tony, Ludo, Nigella and I took a break in our trailers, the winning team (Ludo's) got mentorship from Chef Ed. While we rested, all the remaining team members had to once again create a dish that represented their life on a plate. I had to convince Audrey to stop cooking with little to no fat if she wanted to move ahead--I could tell she wasn't happy about it but I was pleased she took my advice. Things went downhill from there...
Blind tastings for all four of us were set up again, and it was a reminder of the grueling audition from last week's episode. I tried to pick up flavors and techniques from my team, but after trying 15 large spoonfuls of food, your taste buds get overwhelmed with all the bites. I chose what I thought was the best and worst bites and the second elimination was underway. Best bite for me was Lee's meatballs au poivre (I'm a sucker for any meatball, really), and the worst bite for me was Audrey, a taste from my own team. It was not a good moment for me. For someone who so carefully pays attention to the amount of fat she cooks in a dish, I'm afraid she went too much the other way and overdid it with her pesto pasta and sausage and peppers. But that's the thing about the show--you are subject to exactly that one bite and you can't use strategy to win the game. It's really all about that first impression. Nigella was in the same boat as I was, choosing her team member Jay as her least favorite bite, and after a long argument with Audrey and Jay, and then between us four judges, we ultimately set Jay home.
The one thing I am learning is your tongue doesn't lie. Tony, Nigella, Ludo and myself all have very different backgrounds and a wide breadth of varied experiences--we're not always going to like the same things. That's what makes this show so unique and pure. Watching last night's episode reminded me of all of that and I can't wait to see how the rest of the team did during all those challenges. And wait until you see the rest of the guest mentors--we have an incredible line-up of star power in that kitchen. After that day of filming, I headed back to my hotel where my wife Maya was waiting for me and we headed out to check out some of best Thai in L.A. at Night+Market. Hard to believe I had room left to eat.