It's all about seduction tonight on "The Taste," Bourdain & Co.'s new culinary competition. By night's end, just four cooks will be left to compete in next week's finale. Ludo still has three cooks in his kitchen, Malarkey has two, and Nigella and Bourdain have one apiece.
It's all about decadent, luxurious, seductive food tonight. Restaurateur and TV celeb Ingrid Hoffmann -- of Food Network's "Simply Delicioso" fame -- will be judging the first spoons, and the chef-mentors have chosen seductive ingredients for their teams to work with, including oysters, pancetta, figs, caviar and lobster.
"Make it as girlie as you possibly can," Malarkey tells Jeff, who is doing oysters. He adorns the shellfish with yuzu, passionfruit, caviar and edible flowers.
"What would seduce me is a hot dog and french fries," Paul mutters as he cooks.
There's discussion of ingredients, romance and how much time must pass in a relationship before couples can safely pass wind in front of each other. Yes, really.
Then here come the spoons: Jeff's oyster, which Malarkey describes as "sex on a spoon"; Diane's grilled prawn with a butter bisque and shaved truffle; Sarah's panna cotta with caviar and caramel; and Lauren's Italian kisses with blackberry and chocolate sauce.
"Interesting," Hoffmann says, "but I can't tell what the protein is." "Helloooo, it's dessert!" Lauren tells the camera.
While the cooks work on their elimination challenge spoons -- a seductive bite with a drink -- the chef-mentors drink Champagne backstage. Malarkey manages to spill foaming bubbly everywhere. There's discussion about the inadvisability of going garlicky or spicy hot for a meal of seduction. Cut to Lauren making super spicy octopus. "Ooo, that's cute," she says, hoisting the seafood so its legs dangle.
"It's all subjective," Bourdain says backstage. "Who's seducing? Who's been seduced? To me it suggests the Valentine's Day menu. Angel hair pasta with an uni butter, that's really hot."
Cut to Gregg in the kitchen, making pasta with uni butter.
Meanwhile Nigella reclines on the divan, seductively, as Ludo says his idea of seductive food is delicate seafood.
"What's sexy about delicate?" Nigella retorts.
"What, you want guys who take you hard, don't be gentle with you?" Ludo says, incredulously.
"Yes," Nigella says, as Bourdain and Malarkey
Here come the first spoons: Jeff's snapper and uni sashimi with a sake gimlet, Lauren's spicy octopus stew with a glass of tequila, Diane's chocolate pate with cherries malbec, and Paul's king crab, artichoke and octopus with a really eye-catching verbena-champagne cocktail. (This is a slight departure from his original concept which involved -- kid you not -- deep-fried butter.)
Then Khristianne's spoon comes out bearing a vividly orange, glossy mound of uni, king crag and egg 63 -- a sous vide soft-boiled egg -- with Champagne. "Ohhhh, now we're talking!" the judges chorus. Ludo calls it "pleasure in the mouth." Bourdain says, "I'm a big nasty (naughty word deleted), take me now." And Malarkey says, "The last one was like, 'Hey, I liked you.' This one was like 'NOW!'"
The last two spoons emerge with Gregg's caviar and uni pasta with Champagne, and Sarah's mussels with leeks and sangria.
Judging time! The doors open to reveal the highest and lowest scores: Lauren, Khristianne, Diane, Jeff and Paul, which means Sarah and Gregg are through to the finals. Khristianne is the clear victor with three gold stars.
"Your dish was amazing, the best since the competition began," Ludo tells her. "I would date you tonight if I ate that. I would go with you."
Bourdain compliments the dish's "subtle beauty, but there's a hint of the stripper pole as well."
Jeff gets both a best and worst vote -- a gold and a red star -- and Paul, Lauren and Diane each get a red star.
The verdict: Paul, Lauren and Jeff are going home. Diane nearly collapses with relief.
Next time: Khristianne, Sarah, Gregg and Diane compete in the finale.