If you ask The Taste mentor Ludo Lefebvre, there is more pressure on him than fellow mentors Anthony Bourdain, Marcus Samuelsson or Nigella Lawson heading into the ABC cooking competition’s third season, which premieres Dec. 4.
“Tony, Marcus and Nigella have nothing to lose — they are losers already,” Lefebvre, who mentored the winning season two cook, bluntly told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent set visit. “Me, I win. I need to defend my title.” (Season one’s winning mentor, Brian Malarkey, is no longer with the show.)
Lefebvre added that he has a target on his back this season, particularly in the eyes of Bourdain and Samuelsson. “They’re both against me, definitely,” he said.
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For his part, Bourdain acknowledged that viewers will see him and Lefebvre “screaming at each other.” He also referred to Lefebvre and Samuelsson as “very competitive,” which leads to some heated moments between those two.
That said, the mentors share a tight bond. “It’s become a big, weird family,” Bourdain said of the four of them, adding that they’re so close, it’s “sickening.” Even after a long day of filming, the four will all go out for food together, while Lawson revealed that she and Lefebvre will text each other at night after a particularly tense shoot to make sure the other is holding up.
Lawson — who executive produces the show along with Bourdain — promised an intriguing twist this season. “There’s a new aspect to season three that is brutal and fascinating but very tense,” she said. “It’s where cooking meets wrestling.”
This year’s flock of competitors is “amazing,” according to Samuelsson, and runs the gamut from professional chefs to a firefighter. They’ll have the honor of working with such esteemed guest mentors as Eric Ripert, Jonathan Waxman, Michael Symon and Javier Plascencia.
All four mentors stressed that they love doing the show because it allows them to help their team members improve their skills in the kitchen. But what does it take for a cook to win The Taste? Bourdain said contestants too often fall prey to a “lethal impulse to dazzle.” He added: “Filet mignon is not going to make us happy. [And] just shoot yourself before you use truffle oil; we’re going to hate that.”
Lefebvre, known for his fiery on-camera persona, has learned to deal with the harsh comments he gets from fans on social media. “A lot of people hate me — they say I’m an asshole, I scream, I’m French,” he said. “Whatever. At the end of the day, I win. I don’t give a shit. People are jealous. To be on Team Ludo, you’ll be a winner — that’s it.” However, he claimed to be popular with a certain demo: “Kids love me.”
And to prove how committed they are to the show, Bourdain and Lefebvre decided this season to get matching tattoos of the spoon logo. Sadly, they weren’t quite able to arm-twist Lawson into joining the fun. “I said to them, I don’t mind getting a [fake one], like when I was a child,” she said.
The Taste returns for its third season Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. on ABC.