If you caught tonight’s episode of the “The Taste” on ABC, then you were in for a treat: the show — a reality cooking contest similar to “The Voice” — featured vegan chef Dayna McLeod. The event marked the first time a vegan chef has been featured on a primetime cooking show.
To make matters more interesting, not all of the experts on “The Taste” are fans of plant-based foods.
The judges and mentors on the show are Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, Brian Malarkey...and the always-challenging Anthony Bourdain, who is well-known for his anti-veg stance. For McLeod, Bourdain’s presence made the blind taste test challenge all the more fun.
“I was just so psyched to be in the same room as Anthony Bourdain…even if he was going to be rude to me. I can take what he dishes — so to speak! Bourdain is more than boisterous about his hatred towards vegan food. This fueled my desire to prove him wrong, and I love a good challenge! ” she said.
Out of thousands of applicants for the show, which features chefs competing to be on teams with the celebrity mentors, McLeod was one of the few to make the cut. She knew it was her opportunity to shine the national spotlight on vegan cuisine.
“I asked myself, ‘Could I be the first vegan chef to ever appear on a primetime major television network?’ Only one way to find out. So I applied with thousands of other chefs out there. When I received the phone call telling me I was going to Los Angeles, I couldn’t believe I was picked to be a finalist. Only 60 chefs out of thousands were picked! I knew this was my time to represent!”
McLeod hopes the experience on “The Taste” will open more television doors for vegan cooking. One trend she wants to tackle: childhood health (much like First Lady Michelle Obama and this season’s “The Biggest Loser”).
“I aim to bring delicious, meat-free dishes to the mainstream,” she says. “I aspire to have a cooking show that will be a game changer for parents. I would like to reinvent cooking competitions to bring awareness to how food affects our body and affects our children on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be fantastic for a group of children to be the judges? Everyone talks about creating healthy food for our kids. Have you ever seen a top notch chef have to answer to an 8-year-old? Me either! That is my passion, helping our next generation learn to eat healthy food.”
If McLeod’s impressive bio is any indication, she’ll find a way to make that dream come true. She’s known for preparing healthy, sustainable dishes, and her creations have graced the plates of everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Gwyneth Paltrow to Bill Gates. And who knows? Perhaps her experience tonight will make her food more accesible than ever.
For more on McLeod, including recipes and her blog, check out her website.
“The Taste” airs Tuesdays on ABC at 8/7.