Fans of the ABC’s The Taste, currently airing Season 3, didn’t get to know Lindsey Becker (twitter: @ChefLindseyNYC) as well as she would have liked. After divulging her private struggle with an eating disorder on the show’s inaugural episode, she explained her resolve to turn around her own nutritional habits — and as many others’ as she could reach through her kitchen.
But after a super short run — only two challenge episodes — viewers know that her strong mission comes with a side of super strong personality. Becker was voted off the show Thursday night in a dramatic display that we won’t call a cat-fight, but a cook-fight, for sure. A classically trained testament to the power of mindful cooking and eating, it seems she’ll also be known as the Chef who didn’t want to do things à la Nigella.
Becker, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, who currently owns her own personal health chef business as well as working as a private chef and menu planner for families in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood, is clear in her nutritional purpose… and unyielding in her strategy to secure it.
So what if her time on television was temporary?! There were Taste-y moments to swallow and others to relish! And it all started with a double-tap on Instagram.
“Some contestants were recruited from casting calls, but producers found me through my photos on Instagram,” acknowledged Becker, before then describing the “nerve-wracking” audition process, where she was given half an hour to shop for ingredients at Whole Foods to make a single bite “dish” (pink peppercorn encrusted duck breast with gingered dandelion greens, pickled peaches and pistachio gremolata) that the panel of judges would taste without any background knowledge on who cooked it.
She admits that she hadn’t really seen the show much before landing a spot on The Taste, but she and her fiancé did develop an action plan. “My strategy was to be on Nigella’s team. She has [historically] had the weakest team — maybe because she attracts the home cooks — but I wanted to be the best chef on the weakest team.”
Also given the option to join Marcus Samuelsson’s team after a triumphant audition, Becker stuck with her pre-game strategy and opted for Nigella… and this is where her chance for Taste fame may have faltered.
“We have very different styles,” Becker conceded. “Nigella likes hearty food that fuels the soul, while my mission is to make things light and healthy. I focus on multiple components, and I am proud of my creativity. She thought my creativity got in the way of making a simple dish.”
From the earliest moments of Episode 1, Becker’s place on the show was in jeopardy.
“I was worried. Nigella didn’t like me, and we weren’t bonding as I hoped we would.” But after narrowly slipping through to the second round — along with the very teammate she felt should surely be going home that week — Becker realized that the show wasn’t just about her cooking, but also about the connections she made.
“There is certainly more to this show than just food. Alliances are made…” Becker suggested that, as in much reality television, the audience’s entertainment value may have been less in watching her develop her talent as a Chef and more about her interaction with the show’s real stars… the judges.
Cue Becker’s doubt about her original choice of mentor and roll tape on the The Taste competition as it moves forward.
In Thursday’s Episode 2, the teams were challenged with an “Under the Sea” theme, and again, Becker was frustrated with Nigella’s forcefulness both in selecting their dish and their method of making it.
“It’s hard to have a mentor that’s so decisive,” she told Pursuitist — this, an uber-concise summation of a rather larger rebuke she directed at Nigella before leaving the show, voted off more for her attitude than her abilities.
“I had a ten minute speech, and obviously, for timing reasons, they cut a lot of it,” she explained about an epic parting scolding she gave her mentor. “I felt they made me seem cocky, which I’m not too happy about, but at least everyone knows I’m leaving not because I couldn’t cook.”
Watching the final Episode with a small support group — including another show contestant — in the apartment she shares with her fiancé in NYC, Becker thought about her overall experience on The Taste and the ‘aftertaste’ it left with her.
“When I got voted off, I was really upset; I felt I was the strongest female chef in that competition, but… ultimately, I made the wrong decision,” she confessed, referencing her resolve to be placed on Team Nigella. She then admitted, “I probably could have learned more.”
Despite being given the boot, the show hasn’t soured Becker on the potential of future television trials. For now, though, her focus is on growing her personal business and working to create a program for children’s nutrition, perhaps even partnering with a school in New York to create a syllabus that shares with youth that same information about dietetics and health she regrets ignoring during her own time struggling with an eating disorder.
“I’m not bitter at all. The Taste was a really great experience and I’m really happy I was on it. It was such a great chance to let America know my story. But I want another chance to prove myself, and to show the world my style of cooking,” Becker says.
She can be feisty, but really, she just wants to focus on the food.