ABC's The Taste

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But let’s cut to the chase: About halfway into the two-hour season premiere of the show, none other than Anthony Bourdain chooses Abdullah for his team, and the 20-some guests at his home all contribute to a tremendous roar of shouts and applause. (The whole season has been taped over the course of three months, and the winner will take home $100,000. But, of course that information is top-secret.) Abdullah, who’s been full of smiles and relatively chill all night, tears up. And who can blame him? Getting greenlighted by Bourdain for your cooking is truly the holy grail of the culinary world. On the show’s audition, where 24 of the competitors get gleaned to 16, Abdullah’s lamb and bison patty has Bourdain praising his bold North African flavors. Those flavors, stem in large part, from his childhood. Born to Muslim parents who moved to Hillman City when Abdullah was about 3, he says he grew up surrounded by Middle Eastern and Mediterranean friends, and thus, the food of those regions. “Mediterranean is my food and Cicchetti was a perfect vehicle for that (he worked there for four years before leaving recently to tape “The Taste.") But it’s his “Morningstar” pop-ups that he’s most passionate about, brunches that occur on Sundays in Hillman City, often at the Tin Umbrella, and which feature dishes like Harissa hash browns, Tabil scrambled eggs and spiced sausage and Indian Coriander Pancakes with toasted pecans, star anise compote and rose syrup.