Taking the Cake

Dannielle Kyrillos explains what the judges' decision ultimately came down to.

Hi, everyone! I’m kind of in disbelief and a little sad that this is the last blog post of the season. I am so grateful to you all for coming along on this sweet but sometimes scary ride with us. And here we are: after weeks of struggle, sacrifice, and scintillating drama, it all comes down to this: the big finale.  

As the episode opened, it gave me goose bumps to watch each of the three remaining chefs let the reality sink in that this was real, they’d actually made it to the end, after all that time away from family and friends and jobs and normal life.  

Matt, Sally, and Chris each also realized for the first time that the title of Top Chef: Just Desserts and that $100,000 check were actually within reach, which must be such a wild sensation. I think knowing you have a one-in-three shot at that much prestige and money must be quite a mental trip. Energizing and terrifying.

And then the MOFs appear. Holy smokes. To put their importance and the chefs’ reactions to them in perspective, it would be as if you were a young musician working on a new song and all of a sudden Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney walked in and offered to lend a hand.  Some of you are familiar with this French title. It translates to “best craftsmen of France,” and the competitions are held not just in pastry but in all sorts of disciplines, such as mosaics, tailoring, and blacksmithing. The goal is to get as close to perfection as possible in creating a masterpiece.  

Very serious stuff, but spending time with the MOFs was some of the most fun I had all season. Jacques Torres we know from his work in New York and on our last season, and Sebastien Cannone and Stefane Treand were such fantastic and fascinating company, too. All three are sweet, hilarious and, like most pastry chefs, just a little nutty. In the best possible way.The challenge for our finale mirrored such a classic competition, and it felt like a perfectly well-rounded one. Having to prove that you’re a “complete” pastry chef is no small feat, especially in such a short amount of time, and I think Sally, Chris, and Matt all performed gorgeously overall.  Do you agree?  

The chefs are pretty passionate people anyway, but the challenge dictating that their inspiration, especially for the plated dessert, should be a loved one, upped the ante on cooking from the heart. This time, you could taste the love. You really could. I am getting misty-eyed just thinking back on the stories each of them told about their wives, children, mothers, and sisters when they served their desserts.

It probably helped with the stress to have someone very dear in mind throughout the madness. Speaking of stress, you didn’t need to hear some of the cursing we did in the unedited version of this episode to feel the immense pressure the chefs were under. Seeing Sebastien Cannone, the MOF. and co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, zestily washing a sink full of dirty dishes certainly lightened the mood. That was bonkers.

So after five hours with their MOFs came a ten-hour day in which they were each assisted by two of their eliminated colleagues, one selected randomly and one they chose. This is the part that led to some of the greatest debate at Judges’ Table.  

By the way, it was our longest and most grueling Judges' Table by far. We discussed and hashed out and argued, and then did it all again. And again. It was such a close call, and a really tough decision. We each made convincing arguments for our favorites, and then heard everyone else’s equally convincing arguments, and finally, finally reached a unanimous decision.Where do you come down on the big question of whether Sally really proved herself as a complete pastry chef if Orlando did most of her showpiece? As you heard me argue, I wondered whether it was fair to fault her for using her sous-chef to do what he does best and she does not as well. Isn’t that the point of a sous-chef?  She presented a solid, stunning showpiece that didn’t fall apart (as Chris’s did), along with a well-integrated table of bonbons, bread and entremet. And even now, thinking of those rolls makes my mouth water. Her plated dessert could have been smoother, and she knew that, but it was technically complex and very tasty.

Or, do you lean toward the other side, being that Chris managed to make his entire showpiece and a delicious plated dessert (not to mention bonbons and entremet that were not just great, but were also tied so seamlessly and gorgeously into his theme), so he more deserves the win? We went back and forth for hours.

That debate is not to say that Matthew didn’t do a magnificent job as well. His showpiece was perhaps less successful because he pushed himself and tried sugarwork, even though he was more familiar with chocolate, but it was colorful and rich. His whole table was warm and loving, and his bonbons were superlative. I admire his taking such risks in trying things he never had before.

It came down to the flavors of Chris’s bonbon being so wonderfully complex, his entremet being so masterfully built, and his plated dessert being honest and scrumptious. As Johnny put it, it was the only plated dessert his whole table ate in its entirety.  

It being such close final battle means the right competitors had made it to the end, which is a happy ending.

Thank you again for being a part of this season. If you miss me, I’m always @DKyrillos on Twitter, or please enjoy my column on CityUnlisted.com.  Until next time, lots of good wishes.  XO