Last night, a friend of mine offered me a free ticket to the Taste Awards (also known as the Tasty Awards, depending on which part of the official website one visits), which is a burgeoning celebration of food, fashion, drink, and style — four realms that most certainly deserve a glitzy award show. I was quite excited to attend, and while I knew this event wouldn’t have the same celebrity wattage as the Critics Choice Awards down the street (which featured, you know, celebrities and production values), I still looked forward to seeing some of my favorite food and lifestyle personalities honored.
It was therefore somewhat shocking that a ceremony celebrating style and fine living would be executed in such an unstylish, shoddy manner. Let’s not bury the lede here: in the ten years I’ve spent in Los Angeles, this was by far the most inept, bumbling, and downright amateurish formal event I’d ever attended. It made the Fox Reality Channel’s “Really” Awards look like the Oscars. It made the Grammys look like the Nobel Peace Prize. It made the People’s Choice Awards look like the Kennedy Center Honors. Have I hammered home the point yet? I’ve seen preschool awards delivered with more grace than these things.
On the plus side, the Taste Awards offered up a never-ending supply of unintentional comedy. At least it was funny to me as I went for free. The same can’t be said for the poor saps who spent $125.00 on tickets on this fiasco.
Full details about the event after the jump…
Upon arriving at Hollywood’s historic Egyptian Theater for the event, things looked promising. There was a small cocktail hour setup that featured two wine stations, a tequila tasting, some free bottled water, and a few beauty products. Oh, and one table for cheese sampling (a personal high point). It did seem strange that there were no other hors d’oeuvres, but let’s be honest: who would ever expect food at something called the TASTY AWARDS? Hey, beggars can’t be choosers. At least I had my cheese and free booze…
When it did come time for the show to begin, the masses ambled into the theater where a small stage had been erected. It was a cute, rickety little platform with some stairs, but clearly no one had bothered to even dress the poor thing. Just drape a black cloth around the front of it, maybe even a sign that says “The Taste Awards” or “Tasty Awards” (again, not sure I understand the distinction). At best, I’m thinking that the organizers were merely reveling in the ironic notion of celebrating artistry in life without employing any actual art direction.
Of course at this point, I sound like a sniveling blogger tearing apart minor details, and quite frankly, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the threadbare stage had the rest of the evening not been so utterly inept. Ah, but it was. It was so very, very inept. To put it mildly, it was the Yugo of award shows (strained, dated reference, but I’m owning it).
The overall crowd seemed to be generally well-heeled. I didn’t recognize too many faces, but in the audience were some noteworthy chefs and food personalities including actress Debi Mazar (she has an online cooking show), Ludo Lefebvre (famously of LudoBites and Top Chef Masters), Fabio Viviani (Top Chef), Nyesha Arrington (Top Chef), Danielle Keene (Top Chef: Just Desserts), and Aarti Sequeira (Aarti Party).
Yes, there definitely was a solid foodie scene present, which is why it was particularly hilarious that the event began with a video from the main sponsor, Kikkoman, which boasted a sassy woman preparing chicken teriyaki at home: just put the chicken in a plastic bag, pour an entire BOTTLE of Kikkoman inside, and then let it marinate. Don’t put any other spices in! All the flavorings are right inside the Kikkoman sauce! (Somewhere, Sandra Lee’s breasts perked up) After that, roast it, and then top it with Kikkoman Teriyaki glaze. You could hear the audience groaning with bemused disgust as the woman on screen slathered her chicken with the thick, corn-syrup laden sauce. Even better, she punctuated the segment by bragging that her chicken tasted like it came from a restaurant (remember that this video was being shown to five-star chefs in the audience). The whole thing played out like one of those awful minute-recipes one has to endure in the backseat of a New York City cab. I could turn my nose up at it all, but I suppose one has to admire the balls of an award show that both honors chefs and food culture and simultaneously embraces a semi-Homemade chicken teriyaki from a bottle.
After the Kikkoman video ended, we then were treated to a three minute “montage” of clips. I use the term “montage” loosely as there doesn’t seem to be a single word that expresses “train wreck mishmash of nonsensical video clips.” Yes, there was no rhyme or reason to what we saw on screen, and there was no unifying theme to them. These were just arbitrary clips from arbitrary shows, all of varying quality — some were grainy, some featured a little Flash video progress bar at the bottom, and some featured watermarks of the websites they were lifted off of. My favorite was a random Barefoot Contessa clip that featured no audio whatsoever. That’s right: ten seconds of Ina Garten wandering around a kitchen in UTTER SILENCE. These were some high caliber production values right here (did I mention the lack of music during the montage also?). I think my nephew could do a better job, and he’s only seven.
Finally, the lights came up, causing the puzzled audience to engage in scattered applause. The screen above the stage turned into a DVD menu clearly created in iDVD (Apple’s consumer-level program that comes free with any Mac. Also in that bundle: GarageBand, a program that allows amateur musicians to piece together tracks with pre-made musical loops — many of which were on display during this award show).
Anyway, the DVD menu overhead displayed all the categories we’d be going through. Typical examples included: Best Fashion or Design Program, Best Home Chef in a Series, Best Food Program, and my personal favorite: “Other.” Yes, there was an award for “Other.” Not “Best Other,” mind you (not that that would make more sense). Just “Other.” I didn’t really know what that would entail, but I imagined that when we reached that category, the presenters would just talk about, well, other things. You know, like politics and geological formations. Stuff like that. Personally, I was quietly holding out hope that maybe there had been a typo, and that the organizers truly meant “Otter” because lord knows if an otter walked out on stage, all of this would have been worth it. Especially if he wore a little top hat and a bow tie. All dapper and such. Full disclosure: I imagine that otters live very fancy lives — like Mr. Monopoly.
A pic of the screen over the presenters. Seriously. Other.
Anyway, after a generally flat comedy bit — yes, there was a comedy bit — we moved on to our first category of twenty three.
And what was that first category in this food-and-fashion-centric ceremony? Best Animation.
Suddenly, a loud, fussy clip of KUNG FU PANDA 2 appeared overhead, and when it was done, we simply moved on to the next category, which had something to do with food or wine or who knows what. Meanwhile, all of us in the audience just scratched our heads: why did we just see a clip of Kung Fu Panda 2? Why was it being celebrated? Why did no one accept an award? And what on EARTH did Kung Fu Panda 2 have to do with food, fashion, drink, and style?
Amusingly, about an hour later, a dapper gentleman, who we’ll have to just assume was part of the Taste Awards organization (hard to know since NONE of the presenters were given any titles or context unless they volunteered it themselves on stage) — anyway, as I was saying… A dapper gentleman stepped on stage and made an awkward speech wherein he informed us that he wasn’t sure if Dreamworks would be coming tonight, and so they planned to move the show along without Dreamworks, but as it turns out, Dreamworks was there; so he wanted Dreamworks (yes, he kept referring to the studio as if it were a person) to take the stage and have a moment to say something on behalf of Kung Fu Panda 2 since Dreamworks was deprived of the opportunity beforehand. I’m really not making this up. After all that, a guy (representing Dreamworks but whose position was unknown) walked up on stage, took the award, and said, “Thanks.” Glad we stopped the show for that.
Nevertheless, after the initial Kung Fu Panda 2 moment, the show returned to the realm of food and introduced the next category. This resulted in yet another video montage of the nominees, and I can assure you that the high level of quality first established with the ceremony’s opening sequence was well maintained. Yes, the nominee montages over the course of the evening continued to be shockingly, hilariously bad. I’m halfway convinced the organization sat their Xerox repairman down and asked him to edit the footage in the ten minutes prior to the ceremony beginning.
How bad was the editing? Well, let’s put it this way. In a normal awards show montage, the producers select clips that best exemplify the strengths of a nominee — perhaps enlightening us as to why a certain person or production has been chosen. For the Tasty Awards though, the clips were selected to showcase pretty much nothing. Almost every single clip featured random, arbitrary footage — usually a person chewing food or mid-thought. That’s if we were lucky. One clip, and I kid you not, EVEN SHOWED THE END CREDITS OF A PROGRAM. That’s right. SCROLLING WORDS. ON SCREEN. Could you imagine? It was like a Roomba was making the editorial decisions here. Additionally, every clip cut away mid sentence, and several of them MID-WORD. That’s just sloppy editing. Heck, it’s not even sloppy. It’s BAD. Quite frankly, after a certain point, the montages bordered on Dadaism.
Meanwhile, almost none of the winners even showed up at the event. I think we had a run of eight categories in a row where the presenters had to humbly announce “So-and-so was unable to attend this evening; so accepting on behalf of them…” Heck, not even the winners for Best Food or Drink Radio Broadcast showed up (which resulted in some woman taking the stage instead and extolling the virtues of radio for five minutes. It was bizarre).
Luckily, some winners did show up. Debi Mazar took home an award or two. My friend Katie from The Nail Files won Breakout Fashionista. Amusingly, it’s a title she shared with two other winners. That’s right: there was a three-way tie. Let me also add that there were four nominees. Four nominees and three of them won. The same award. It’s like that time when three movies won Best Picture at the Oscars. That happened, right?
Well, the winners should just be happy their names were announced. In another testament to the questionable production values, at one point, presenter Fabio Viviani was given a blank page to read for his script. He confessed to the audience he’d been pretending that he knew what was going on all night, but now he just was at a loss. I can’t remember if this happened before or after the wrong award was given to the wrong person (because that happened too).
Hey, mixups happen, and that’s the fun of a live event, but seriously, if I’d paid $125 to sit through this circus, I’d be pissed. At least the ticket came with access to an after party, but that had its drawbacks too. One table boasted a delicious looking goose that was being carved onto plates for guests. “Do you have any forks or utensils?” I asked. “No… sorry…” said the man with the goose. Apparently we were supposed to just eat chunks of oily goose meat with our fingers, which admittedly is my favorite thing to do when I get into a suit. That and mud wrestling.
Now I realize at this point I sort of sound like an asshole for ripping apart this well-meaning event, but again, the fact that the organizers had the audacity to charge people more than twenty dollars to sit through a poorly rehearsed, shoddily assembled award show with an after party that didn’t even include a full bar is pretty obnoxious. Besides, one has to seriously question the merits of an organization that aims to honor artistry by showing a distinct lack of it. Next year, skip the awards show and just have a luncheon, ideally not at Sizzler.