THE two Scots contestants on The Taste, the new Channel 4 reality cooking programme co-hosted by Nigella Lawson, have spoken of their admiration for the celebrity cook despite being eliminated in the first round.
At 18, Dale Carroll, an HND student at City of Glasgow College and a chef at Citation restaurant in the city, was the youngest of the 25 contestants vying for one of 12 places in the next heat of the competition, where only one spoonful of food is presented for judging.
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When his braised pig cheek with a roast tomato, pear and pink ginger chutney, crushed onions, chanterelles and an apple and calvados foam was deemed "too sweet" by Lawson and her fellow judges, chefs Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebre, he burst into tears and was comforted by a hug from the Domestic Goddess.
He said: "I'd built my hopes up so much that to hear the judges say 'no' so soon was shattering, but when Nigella came round to hug me it was good to know it wasn't just a case of sending me home. They said my slow-cooked pork was perfectly cooked, but two of the ingredients I'd ordered were missing so it means my sauce was heavier than I had planned.
"What's on the bottom of a spoon is tasted first so they got the apple hit before the pork. Nigella was very supportive and told me she wished she could have changed her vote to yes. I think she realised it was just a simple error. I hope she will always remember me as the young Scottish chef she hugged, and that my skills won't have gone unnoticed. For me, getting a chance to appear on the show and to get my story across was more important than winning."
Donna Zuckerman, 41, an amateur baker from Renfrew who specialises in making cakes for dogs, said appearing on the show, which was shown on Channel 4 last night, had changed her life despite Lawson also declaring her pan seared duck with roast figs, a pork and bramble reduction and a saffron and thyme potato puree "too sweet" and voting her out of the competition.
Lefebre delcared her dish too heavy but Bourdain said he thought it was made by a professional chef.
Ms Zuckerman said: "He argued with Nigella about that but she said she knew I wasn't a professional chef because if I were I would have made my potatoes thicker and my sauce more tart.
"Nigella was very strict but charming and professional. To see Nigella Lawson tasting my food felt really surreal, because usually I'm the one cooking her recipes. Although I was eliminated early I don't regret a thing because my fellow contestant Peter Lloyd has offered me a placement as a professional pastry chef with him at the Sanderson hotel in London. The experience has given me a real boost of confidence."
The Taste, based on the US version in which Lawson is also a judge, was filmed at Pinewood Studios in October, prior to the high-profile fraud trial in London involving Lawson's two former personal assistants which put her personal life in the spotlight after she admitted taking cocaine.