Courtesy Photo

Jessica Burger

Cal Poly journalism alumna Lauren Scott was chosen to compete as one of 16 finalists during the season premiere of ABC’s new competitive cooking show, “The Taste,” Tuesday night.

Hosted and judged by four top “mentor” chefs, Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre and Brian Malarkey, the show features professional and amateur chefs competing alongside one another in teams of four under a mentor. The competition consists of a series of blind taste tests for a chance to win “The Taste Trophy,” a grand prize of $100,000 and a 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid.

Scott was chosen by Lawson to compete on her team as a “home cook” after impressing the judges with the only dessert dish of the night. Scott stood out as she declared herself as a 23-year-old living in a Mississippi trailer with only $32 in her bank account, and was mentioned in a Los Angeles Times article as one of two top contestants to watch.

“I’m so excited — I’m thrilled,” she said. “I’m the youngest who competed, and the fact that Anthony Bourdain was even willing to eat my food is a huge honor.”

For Scott, the road to fame began in San Luis Obispo at the end of Grand Avenue.

Scott graduated in December 2011, and said she got her start with food at Vista Grande Café. At one point she was the only student line chef at Sage Restaurant.

Michael Wood, Vista Grande Café executive chef at the time, saw potential in her, Scott said, and brought her to work as a pastry chef at City Central Market. Next, she got a job at Creekside Brewing Company, where she advanced as a sous chef (the kitchen’s second-in-command) by the time she graduated.

“I tried to incorporate beer a lot,” Scott said. “Stout cupcakes, stout pudding, beer creme brulée — I would do a lot of experimenting and whatever I did would end up as the dessert special on the menu that week.”

Creekside owner John Moule said Scott was always a great employee and pastry chef.

“She made this panna cotta one time that was amazing,” he said. “All of her coworkers that remember Lauren were really excited to see her on TV and made sure to Ti-Vo the show or be there to watch it. We were all rooting for her last night.”

Scott’s mother, Kelly, accompanied her on the episode, and said her first dish for the show, a flourless chocolate cake with pistachio bourbon glaze and crispy brittle, was one similar to a family toffee recipe from Scott’s grandmother.

“She always said she wanted to be a cooker,” Kelly said. “The dish was truly her personality and not something just anybody could make. It came from her traditions, but she made it her own.”

Watch Scott compete on “The Taste,” which airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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