Celebrity Cook-Off's Taylor Dayne wins hearts with matzah ball soup
I happen to think “Leslie Wunderman” would’ve been a fine stage name, conjuring up images of a sort of Jewish Wonderwoman, but I guess ‘90s pop star Taylor Dayne didn’t agree. Born in New York to Jewish parents, Dayne originally chose the stage name Les Lee before adopting the name she goes by now. The singer, who has had 17 hit songs since releasing “Tell it To My Heart” in 1987, was one of eight celebrity chefs who competed on the first season of the Food Network’s Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, which drew to a close on Sunday night.
The new show featured two teams of four celebrity cooks, each competing to win $50,000 for his or her favorite charity. Dayne, whose team was led by bubbly chef personality Rachael Ray, played for Cambodian Children’s Fund, which provides education, nutrition, shelter, and other forms of aid to impoverished children in Phnom Penh.
Dayne became the last woman standing in the competition when she ousted teammate Summer Sanders (Olympic gold medalist and former Nickelodeon game show host) in a last-chance battle to stay in the game. Called “a ringer” by Ray and her competitors, Dayne pulled off a couple surprising – and surprisingly impressive – wins, including beating *NSYNC heartthrob and proud Italian Joey Fatone in a pasta challenge. Her Bucatini with Tomato Sauce and Fresh Basil (recipe here!) won the judges’ hearts and stomachs, despite Dayne’s fear that no recipe created by a Manhattan Jew could beat Fatone’s bona fide Italian cooking.
"What I love about cooking is it brings people together,” Dayne says in her Food Network bio. Unfortunately, only one member of each team could go on to the Celebrity Cook-Off finale, which meant Dayne faced her own teammate, La Bamba actor Lou Diamond Phillips – and lost. In another last-chance cook-off (her real last chance!), she cooked against Fatone, the other team’s losing chef, for the opportunity to win $5,000 for her charity. With just 20 minutes to cook, Fatone whipped up a fried rice dish while Dayne got back to her Jewish roots – by making matzah ball soup! Unfortunately, though they agreed that Dayne “nailed” the flavor of her soup, the judges determined Fatone’s dish to be the more creative of the two, and the former boy band heartthrob walked away with $5,000 for the Fatone Family Foundation.
Dayne’s final recipe isn’t available online, but the Food Network’s massive online recipe archives reveal matzah ball soup how-tos from the likes of Bobby Flay and Ina Garten. You’ll even find a recipe for (almost offensively unkosher) bacon-wrapped matzah balls!
Despite the somewhat gimmicky premise of bringing celebrities together on a cooking show, the competitors proved themselves committed to their charities of choice – and I wouldn’t mind trying the food they served up, either! Though she didn’t win any money for the Cambodian Children’s Fund, it doesn’t seem like Dayne is likely to walk away from her commitment to the charity. Along with other celebrities like Heather Graham, Ethan Hawke, Hugh Jackman, & Salman Rushdie, Dayne has hosted events for the organization and donated money of her own to the cause.
As a finale of my own, I present you with Taylor Dayne’s epically crimped bangs, bright red lips, and pleather dress in her 1987 hit “Tell It To My Heart.” Sing it, Wunderman!
Can I get a karaoke mic, please? This will be stuck in my head all day.