Jeanette Friedman of New Milford knew that her appearance on the first episode of ABC’s new reality show, “The Taste,” would be her last. Like 43 of her fellow contestants who were flown out to Los Angeles for filming, she wasn’t chosen for one of the four teams headed by celebrity chefs.
What she couldn’t know is that she would prove to be the most popular contestant to people watching at home – and sharing their opinions in real time on Twitter.
“I love that Jewish woman Jeanette. Noodle pudding!!! #JewishPride #TheTaste,” Justin Albinder tweeted.
“How dare you not pick my dream grandma Jeanette Friedman!!!” wrote a Twitter user who goes by the name Meg, addressing chef Anthony Bourdain, who had chastised Friedman for breaking with tradition by adding jalapeno to her kugel dish.
Friedman, a frequent contributor to this newspaper, had prepared cholent for her first audition.
“The Taste” proved to be the most popular show in its time slot, and one of ABC’s highest rated shows in months. The New York Times called it “a two-hour blur of choreographed humiliation and tear-jerking back stories.”
Friedman was the fourth contestant to appear on the show, which premiered last Tuesday night.
The first was a professional chef from Las Vegas, who promised to wow the judges, “smashing them in the face with awesomeness.” But his pineapple maitake ground turkey mac and cheese stir fry was derided by all four judges, who said it was awful.
Another contestant, also a professional chef, offered chicken-fried watermelon with pickled watermelon rinds.
Neither of these professionals made the cut.
And none of these contests caught the audience’s fancy as Friedman did.
“I want to watch Jeanette Friedman from New Milford New Jersey on TV every week,” Elizabeth Figueredo tweeted. “Someone give that woman the talk show of our dreams.”
Buzzfeed’s food section joined in criticizing the judges: “UGH @Bourdain how could you not take the kugel bait! TRAVESTY. #TheTaste”
In her five minutes of television screen time, Friedman tossed off bon mots that got picked up by bloggers writing about the show.
“Jewish food is like the Pointer Sisters: with a slow hand and a loving touch,” she said. And: “Even though I’m Jewish, I gotta bring in the bacon!”
In fact, even during her week in Los Angeles, she stayed in the hotel, working on freelance assignments on her laptop, while other contestants were hitting the bars.
So what did she learn?
About cooking: “Technique matters. Texture matters. It is as important as taste. You can’t just make something that’s mushy without a crunch.”
About the world of television: “I learned not to take yourself too seriously. You need to take it in a spirit of fun.”
And did anyone in Hollywood see her five minutes of fame and popularity and decided to follow up on her dream of a cooking/interview show?
“Nothing I can talk about,” she said. “But think positive.”