Featured in Entertainment of BELLO mag issue #66 (with Katharine McPhee on the main cover) the judges of ‘The Taste’ season 3, chef Anthony Bourdain, British food star Nigella Lawson, expert chef and author Ludo Lefebvre and award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson.

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Season 3 of The Taste is currently airing Thursdays at 8|7 central on ABC. Sixteen more competitors, ranging from home cooks to professional chefs, are battling it out for a chance to win the bragging rights, trophy and $100,000 prize money.

Judging the offerings of the sixteen hopefuls are no-holds barred chef Anthony Bourdain, British food star Nigella Lawson, expert chef and author Ludo Lefebvre and award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson.

The task is made particularly difficult because the judges blind-taste the final culinary creations from the competitors and eliminate individuals based on what does, or does not, tickle their taste buds. The judges also serve as mentors for their own team of competitors, each coaching a group of four individuals, in the hopes that one of them is crowned the Taste Champion.

Despite an intense filming schedule, BELLOmag.com recently caught up with Bourdain, Lawson, Lefebvre and Samuelsson backstage at The Taste, which is filmed in a huge ex-aircraft hangar in Los Angeles. Our chat took place in the contestant holding room, where the competitors usually wait while the judges decide their fate.

While speaking with each judge one-on-one, it quickly became clear that there was genuine rivalry and a fun dynamic between all four mentors, with Anthony Bourdain describing the whole experience as “nerve wracking.” When asked if cooking was a skill someone was born with or was one someone could learn, he encouragingly remarked, “No, I think cooking is something you can learn. The way most professionals learn is repetition, repetition, repetition.” So, it seems there’s hope for even those of us with no natural cooking ability!

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A vastly accomplished epicurean traveler, Bourdain let us know that Iran and China are two countries that he would be keen to visit again. He is known for his globally adventurous palate and has previously said that one of his least favorite meals ever consisted of an unwashed warthog rectum. However, Bourdain is quick to point out that many countries, such as Thailand, do not embrace dairy products, and cottage cheese or blue cheese dressing would probably look just as unappealing to them!

Having won seasons 1 and 2, as well as the British version of the show, Lefebvre was in good spirits and exclaimed, “Nobody beats me at this game!”

Looking incredibly stylish, he confirmed that David Beckham was his inspiration, as he is “Pretty, talented [and] very clean,” and Lefebvre feels he has “so much class.” When asked about home cooking, he explained that he enjoys cooking French omelets for his kids for breakfast. The French influence is apparently “in the technique,” and Ludo explains how you must “be gentle, [add] no coloration, beat your eggs, [and] be patient” if you want the perfect omelet, rather than crepe or “fritta” [frittata], which many of us apparently prepare thinking that it is, in fact, an omelet.
We finish our chat by addressing his occasional fiery outbursts in the kitchen. Lefebvre explains, “Actually, I don’t scream…I express myself. [It] is different.” Whatever the case, this “expression” definitely adds passion and humor to the show. We love it!

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Samuelsson dazzled in a multicolored Eton shirt and confirmed that his wardrobe was so eclectic because he believes “food today is part of pop culture.” It was clear from the offset that Marcus takes the competition with his fellow judges very seriously, and he describes Bourdain’s approach to mentoring as “playing chess and poker at the same time” (is that even possible?!). That said, Samuelsson says his flavor style is most similar to Bourdain’s, as they have both traveled and lived all over the world…although his cooking style is akin to Lefebvre’s.

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, Samuelsson says he often approaches cooking based on his childhood experiences, and has a solid understanding of different cultures and tastes because of this unusual upbringing. However, he absolutely considers himself American at this point, and feels that personal style is important as he lives and works in Harlem, where “people are dapper.” An area that is rich in Gospel, R&B, Supper Clubs and, generally, cultural events where people “dress up,” Samuelsson considers his image as one of the reasons patrons frequent his restaurants.

Lawson naturally and elegantly confirmed she was “having fun” with her boys (the three other judges/mentors). She feels it is important to encourage all of her team to do their best and to treat them as individuals, as they all come into the competition with differing levels of ability.
And, for all of our BELLOmag readers who feel that they may never be able to create culinary delights in the kitchen, Lawson has encouraging words, confirming that “if you have a palate, you can learn to cook.”

She also has words of wisdom for those of us who have tried – and often failed – to follow recipes in the past, explaining that “Chefs, fabulous though they are, make food seem a lot more complicated than it need be.” And although Lawson goes on to admit that her “knife skills [are] shameful,” she is keen to let us know that this has never stopped her being able to make the food she wants to eat, or that she can make people happy with.

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As if we didn’t already love Lawson enough, she considers what someone’s last meal might be, leaving us all in agreement that they would opt for a “roast chicken, mashed potatoes or something that reminds them of home and is comforting, [has a] really good meat sauce or really beautiful spaghetti with tomato sauce,” and perfectly points out that the same person is unlikely to request an “eggplant and filo stack, with a pomegranate foam.”

The message is clearly to get cooking! See more from Bourdain, Lawson, Lefebvre and Samuelsson in our on-camera interview, right here on BELLOmag.com and every Thursday at 8|7 central on The Taste on ABC.
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photography ALEKSANDAR TOMOVIC www.alekandsteph.com
styling WARREN ALFIE BAKER www.warrenalfiebaker.com
video ARNO DIEM www.arnodiem.com
interview and article JAMES MCCOURT www.jamesmccourt.com

About The Author

Stephane Marquet
Creative Director

First of all, excuse my French! … I was born in the South of France. Lived in Paris for 10 years and travelled the world until I moved to Los Angeles in 2008, because obviously recession was a great time to move to a new country! I also arrived around Halloween and was greeted at the Social Security offices by a nurse who directed to the window Number 6 so a witch could hand me my social security number. Welcome to America. I am a painter, a photographer and the creative director of BELLO mag.

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