The new reality cooking competition, The Taste, premieres Tuesday, January 22 (8-10 p.m. EST) on ABC and we’re excited to have some of the show’s participants – competitors and mentor-judges alike – share their stories with readers of the Whole Story blog. Learn more about The Taste on ABC’s website. First up, contestant Sarah Ashley Schiear. Sarah’s a self-taught home cook eager to show the world that if she can do it, so can you.
If someone would have told me that I’d be cooking for Anthony Bourdain or Nigella Lawson this early in my culinary career, I’d have thought they were crazy. I’ve just moved to New York from Florida, and I’m a home cook; as in, yes, I cook at home – and no, I don’t get paid for it. (Not yet, anyway.)
Out of nearly 10,000 people who applied, I was selected to be one of the lucky sixteen final contestants. Although I’ve only been cooking for a few years, this is an amazing (and nerve-racking) opportunity to go up against some of the best professional cooks and chefs in the country, vying for a spot to compete on The Taste.
Each week we’ll be given a different theme that consists of both a group challenge and an individual challenge. We’ll be mentored, and ultimately judged with one blind taste, by four culinary superstars – Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey
It doesn’t matter that I’ve never worked in a restaurant, or that I couldn’t tell a sous-vide machine from a pressure cooker. All that matters is what I put into that spoon each week, and what the mentors think about it. It’s all about the taste. And just like when I cook at home, I find that shopping at Whole Foods Market® is my time to get inspired – to wander through the aisles of fresh produce and ingredients and decide exactly what I want to cook. It helps for my everyday cooking and I’m sure it’ll help when cooking for these four expert judges in front of, oh, millions of people tuning in to watch.
Here’s how I maintain my cool in my own kitchen: I keep must-have ingredients like quinoa, ready-to-eat beans and brown rice in my pantry is key for pulling together a healthy and super-affordable meal on the fly – simply pick up a container of baby kale to steam sauté, and I’m there. Soup is a winter favorite and there’s so much great produce available, whether I’m craving a creamy kabocha squash purée or dreaming up a Thai-inspired chicken soup with shiitake mushrooms and bok choy. When I’m having people over, one of my favorite more indulgent meals to make is braised short ribs over goat-cheese mashed potatoes. It’s a crowd-pleaser that’s super-flavorful and comforting. Add a glass of your favorite red wine, and it’s easy to forget that it’s snowing outside – yes, even for this Florida girl!
What are some of your favorite things to cook this time of year? Any advice you can give to someone cooking under pressure?