Many reality cooking shows, such as Masterchef or the Great British Bake Off, attempt to insert a melodramatic, tense element by playing spiky music, leaving implausibly long gaps before judging announcements and having presenters hover around the contestants bellowing ‘ARE YOU STRESSED? ARE YOU A BIT STRESSED? DON’T BE STRESSED!’
And I’m not saying that The Taste doesn’t do this because it totally does. However, it gains the edge because it barely has to. Instead, it has Ludo Lefebvre:
I am British, the contestants on this season are British. We have been schooled, over decades, not to react to things with anything more than polite alarm (‘gosh, how awful’ may be employed in the case of natural disaster) let alone anything that could be misconstrued as melodrama.
I want The Taste’s Ludo Lefebvre to follow me around, reacting to things for me. Anyone who saw him in episode 4, screaming at slightly incorrectly portioned beetroot juice in the way one might after having discovered a severed head in one’s desk drawer, or jumping up and down in a kitchen in episode one, shouting ‘PUTAIN’ will know that this is a not so much a man (although at the same time, indisputably a rather glorious man) as a one-person arsenal of all of Tumblr’s reaction .gifs.
He is the drama that you need in the show- Nigella (our lady, our goddess and let this never be seen as criticism) is radiant in dresses that I would probably need to hand over my annual wage just to touch and it would be worth every penny, her slow-mo eyelash sweeps are spectacular, I have never felt more assured that my decision to become her by the time I’m forty is a sound one. And Anthony Bourdain is the cantankerous old friend who is never not fun to be around. The person you put up with dragging you to a ridiculous grill joint because they’re also going to get your meal for free and then you will go and drink bourbon with rock stars.
But they cannot be a genre of television, they can just be on it. Ludo is life and fire, death and slightly overcooked clams, he would set fire to ze world because he urgently needed to smoke some aubergines, he would kill a man just to watch him die if that man was so stupid as to overcook a steak, he would make love to you on a bed of brioche. There is a structural problem with The Taste (which is to say, being the best cooker of small-things-on-spoons does not necessarily make you the best cook) but this is all forgiven in the face of such glorious, blissful subversion of the melodramatic reality cooking competition by literally sourcing the most dramatic person on this earth.
(I urgently want to be on the next season, just so Ludo can shout at me, at least once.)