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"The Taste" serves up new spin on cooking shows

THE TASTE - In the two-hour series premiere, "Auditions Part 1," the pressure is on when Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludovic Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey put 29 professional chefs and home cooks through their first grueling round of blind taste tests -- in which just a single spoonful will decide whether or not they make it past the audition phase and into the competition. "Auditions Part 1" airs TUESDAY, JANUARY 22 (8:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on ABC. (ABC/SASHA SHEMIRANI) LUDOVIC LEFEBVRE, NIGELLA LAWSON, BRIAN MALARKEY, ANTHONY BOURDAIN
Sasha Shemirani

"The Taste," a new show that gives home cooks and professional chefs alike the chance to be judged solely on the taste of their food, made its debut Tuesday night on ABC.

Based off a single spoonful, four judges were given the task of deciding whether a mystery cook was good enough to be selected for their exclusive team of four. Think the latest season of "Next Food Network Star" meets "Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Cookoff" meets "The Voice."

The judges include: British food star and "domestic goddess" Nigella Lawson, classically-trained chef Ludovic Lefebvre, "Top Chef" finalist and restaurateur Brian Malarkey and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, whom Lawson refers to as the "Mick Jagger of food."

In the first episode, competitors were given one hour to prepare a dish and arrange it on four spoons for a blind taste. They then stood behind a wall while the judges critiqued their presentation and flavor combination. The competitor was revealed only after all the judges voted, by pressing a "yes" or "no" button hidden underneath their table. A "yes" meant the judge wanted that cook on their team. "No" meant they were out of the game.

This format left plenty of room to tug at viewers' heartstrings, especially when Bourdain told a contestant that he instantly regretted his decision. Or when Ludo promised a job to a teary-eyed culinary instructor after she wasn't selected by any of the judges, who all admitted she did "nothing wrong."

The lucky ones that heard the magic words, "Join my kitchen," will go on to compete for a grand prize of $100,000. Over eight episodes, they will face being eliminated by the judges and could even be sent home by their own mentor as the blind tastes continue.

At the end of the lengthy two-hour debut, each judge had begun the process of putting together his or her team (the auditions continue next week). And, unlike other food competition shows that singled out the home cook amongst professionals, "The Taste" seemingly puts everyone on the same playing field. At least for now.

Tell us: What did you think of "The Taste"?