Orange Coast Magazine

Taste of O.C. | Priscilla Mayfield on food

 

Are you watching The Taste, the new Anthony Bourdain/Nigella Lawson cooking show? Nathaniel Nguyen of Huntington Beach probably is, though I’m sure he’d rather be on screen. The 24-year-old self-taught cook appeared on the first episode of the show, hoping to be one of 16 contestants picked for mentoring by Bourdain, Lawson, chef Ludo Lefebvre, or “Top Chef” alum Brian Malarkey.

While online nattering continues about whether Bourdain has sold out to the very sort of show he’s made a career of mercilessly disparaging, the premise is interesting: The celebrities judge a single dish-in-a-spoon (the “taste” of the title), without finding out who prepared it until they’ve already given thumbs up or down, assembling a team of four from the cooks whose dishes pass muster.

I thought Nguyen’s dish, inspired by classic Cantonese shrimp toast, looked and sounded fab. Maybe a lot to process in a single bite, though: In the hour allotted to cook in studio, he prepared shrimp poached in butter infused with saffron and lemon grass, served over savory, curry-spiced French toast with coconut milk, garnished with Thai basil pistou and citrus-marinated tomato.

Bourdain, Lawson, and Lefebvre commended the ambition of the dish, but sadly, Nguyen wasn’t asked to stay. He points out that while his dish was shown on the first night auditions aired, in real time he was one of the final presenters, when each host was looking for just one additional team member. I imagine by that point they’d been tasting for hours, too.

Was the self-described “huge fan of both Anthony and Nigella” intimidated cooking for them? “It was more exciting than intimidating—cooking for anyone is intimidating, as you’re never sure of their response,” Nguyen says. “I was excited for the opportunity to cook for chefs of this caliber—it’s not often I’ll get Nigella Lawson in the United States to try my cooking.”

Formerly chef on the now-defunct Swinging Kitchen food truck, Nguyen is branching out into brunch in Orange County with a new “Morning by Thasos” breakfast menu at Thasos Greek Island Grille near South Coast Plaza, served from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.  It could just be that we haven’t seen the last of that savory French toast and butter-poached shrimp, after all.

Thasos Greek Island Grille3940 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana714-708-3000


Leave a comment:

· Subscribe to comments
Be the first to comment here.

OC Guides

Guides

OC Guides
  • Best of 2014: Bird-Watching

    When the throngs of beachgoers are too much, spend a day with the birds. Here, with the wind whipping off the ocean and herons, egrets, ducks, and more soaring above, you'll get a chance to be the amateur ornithologist you never knew you wanted to be. Free
    3842 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-846-1114, bolsachica.org

    Read More
  • Best of 2014: Green Cleaners

    Sold from her website and a refitted retro travel trailer, these earth-safe cleaning products are Marilyn Nowak of Coto de Caza's propriety formulas. Products for laundry, surfaces such as glass and wood - even an ecological drain cleaner - all have dispenser bottles and bulk refills $8 to $48
    Resuming in September at Great Park Farmer's Market, Sand Canyon Avenue and Marine Way, Irvine, 949-292-1648, lilgreenwagon.com

    Read More
  • Food Lovers Guide - Vanilla

    Plain vanilla extract is fine for large-batch baking, but vanilla snobs like to play with other varieties, including the skinny, leathery beans. We won’t delve into the classic Mexican-versus-Tahitian debate, except to say we like Tahitian for creamy concoctions and the bolder Mexican in concert with dark chocolate. Find plump, vacuum-sealed beans of both varieties at Surfas Culinary District. Read More
  • Food Lovers Guide - Kouign Amann

    Butter worship is a birthright in Brittany—the French region that invented this transcendent caramelized pastry with the funny name (say Queen a-MAHN). Read More
  • Food Lovers Guide - Taps' Remy Beer

    Brewmaster Victor Novak and owner Joe Manzella fill a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel with Taps’ Imperial Russian Stout. After five months, the transformation of flavors is phenomenal, eliciting notes of coconut and marshmallow that flatter the inherent dark chocolate flavors of the stout. Read More
 
 
wine blog
 

stuff we love

Charitable Events Calendar