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Did Nigella Lawson enjoy a Digital Spy curry? We take on The Taste

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The Taste coming soon to Channel 4

© Channel 4

The Taste on Channel 4


We've had The Voice. In America they even had The Choice (basically, just The Voice but for dating - it was hideous). And now flying in from America, we have The Taste.

Fronted by Kitchen Confidential's Anthony Bourdain, super-cool French chef Ludo Lefebvre and some British lady you may have heard of called Nigella Lawson, the show brings the "blind judging" concept to food. It allows amateurs to take on professionals and brings a bit of X Factor spice to a TV genre that in Britain that been dominated in the past by Delia, tradition and Mary Berry's bunting.

The show arrives in the UK on Channel 4 in January and Digital Spy was invited onto the set to take on a smattering of the nation's finest journalists-come-wannabe-cooks in the brand spanking new Taste kitchens.

Never ones to back down from a battle against our fellow internet and print rivals, we headed into the TV studios confidently, carrying only our finest, super-special, top-secret, veggie curry recipe - and a bag containing a microwave M&S tikka masala (just in case, obviously).

The Taste coming soon to Channel 4

© Channel 4

Will The Taste be a hit?


When we arrive in the backstage holding area, the first round of journalists are exchanging tales of woe about their dishes. A tray of melt-in-the-mouth brownies that look like they've been sent down by the Gods of chocolate and sugar has been dismissed as merely adequate.

Another journo sits crumpled in the corner, broken-spirited after his stew was branded "a waste of an animal's life" by the trio of judges.

Erm, maybe we should have practiced our dish more than once.

The judges clearly weren't treating this day as a muck-a-round PR exercise to win over journos. Our preconceived idea that Nigella would be batting her eyelids and telling everyone that everything was "just scrummy" just to win some nice reviews was clearly misplaced.

If we didn't feel under pressure after that, heading into Channel 4's sleek new kitchen set raised the bar even further. Placed alongside your rivals in an open plan set, you were able to nervously watch every chop, sprinkle and whisk going on elsewhere. At the same time, the three judges were visible, sat in their tasting room, chomping away on spoonfuls of cooking, taunting us from afar with their culinary genius.

Next to Digital Spy, there was a female journalist attempting to rustle up a Nigella Grasshopper Pie. We're impressed at her bravery immediately. Then she reveals that the dish needs to be left in a fridge for at least half an hour after its cooked. At this point, it's worth highlighting that we're only allowed 30 minutes to make our dishes. Suddenly, we feel a little bit more smug and confident about our chances. At the very least, our dish should be totally finished in time.

Digital Spy impresses The Taste judges

© Channel 4

Digital Spy cooked up a sizzling veggie curry for Nigella and co


We're quickly given a jolt back to reality by one of the show's producers, yelling "20 MINUTES LEFT!" Oh, crap. We've barely finished chopping our first onion.

Somehow we mange to avoid any knife/finger slicing incidents, hurl our sweet potatoes, spices, and secret ingredients together and get it all bubbling away in time to prep our three spoons. Yes, spoons. Rather than devouring dish after dish, the Taste judges keep an eye on their calorie intake and are only allowed a single spoonful.

Part of the art of the show is delivering the full flavours and textures of the meal in a single tiny serving. With 30 seconds to spare, we're spooned up and ready for action. It's time to go head-to-head with the judges. And things didn't start well.

"Are you a vegetarian?" growls Bourdain with a look of disdain. We only later found out that this was a man who described non-meat eaters as "the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit".

When we reveal that we do enjoy a jolly good rump steak or a fiery chicken vindaloo as much as the next man, Bourdain quickly softens and, incredibly, admits that he really loved our dish. The chef appears to be amazed as us that he's enjoying it, which perhaps highlights the purpose of a show where the judges' food preconceptions are challenged.

Digital Spy takes on The Taste

© Channel 4

Digital Spy gets a grilling from The Taste's judges


Nigella is next to deliver her verdict and she's overflowing with praise for "a natural cook". "You've only been cooking for a year? Well, that's brilliant. The textures, the balance of the flavours, the mix of the sweet and the sour. That is faultless."

Only a worringly quiet Lefebvre has any quibbles at all. "The sweet potato needed another couple of minutes," says the dashing Frenchman. He is less forthcoming with praise for our dish - maybe he's not a curry man - but he has some words of encouragement.

"Do you taste what you cook? Do you like what you cook? Did you make it again because you liked it so much?" When we answer yes to all these questions, he quickly replies: "Well there you go! You're a cook. And a good one."

One of the key lessons the three judges appear to have learned from doing the show in the US is that they are constantly amazed by the brilliant dishes served up by home cooks. Bourdain has a withering disdain for the craze of 'scientific cooking', so any budding Hestons had better think again, and Nigella points out that it is often the restauranters and professionals who have struggled to master delivering a dish in a single spoonful of food.

"You've clearly thought about all the details with the little bit of yoghurt, the balance of the sourness and the coriander. Is there some tamarind in there? I think that's what I'm picking up. You've done that as well as anyone today," she smiles.

We're informed by the Channel 4 team that our curry was still being talked about by the trio long after we left the room, and that it was a serious contender for the main prize. However, in the end we lose out to a rack of lamb from a cook from Stylist magazine. Damn your love for meat, Anthony Bourdain!

Strangely, we weren't disappointed to lose out on the main prize. The lavish compliments from the judges and their insistence that we should be very proud of our dish made up for that. The show may have the glitz and sharpness of X Factor, but it's clearly retained a bit of the warmth and fuzz of Bake Off. It could well be a hit.

The Taste launches on Tuesday, January 7 at 9pm on Channel 4.

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