Choctails! (Woo-oo)*'s Senior Editor sympathizes with Seth. For now.

By: Monica A. Reyhan i

*This title is meant to be read in the same inflection you would "Duck Tales woo-oo."

Hello my little choctails! (This is a word that my good friend and Television Without Pity editor Mindy Monez uses for "cocktails," but it seems especially appropos for this week's show. It's chocolate! It's cocktails! 


So, I skipped a couple of weeks of Top Chef D.C. commentary because, well, I was swamped. But I'm re-emerging from the mess that was last week, and can start anew with Top Chef Just Desserts, which I believe I may have mentioned in one of my previous posts is amazing. Like, I love this show. And, I really hope you guys are enjoying it as much as I am. Last week, I had the good fortune to spend some time with our judges. Gail and I go way back, and I've met Johnny on a few occasions during my Top Chef time, but I finally met Dannielle Kyrillos, who I had only had conversed with via e-mail until this point. Well, she's absurdly nice, and she might be the most chipper woman I've ever met (in a good way). I also got to meet her husband (equally friendly) at Johnny's premiere party at the Ava Rooftoop at the Dream Hoteal. Here's a pic of the two of us outside our 50th Street adn 6th avenue free desserts truck last week!


So, the premiere, in my opinion, was very, very strong and left me wanting more. A colleague said in a meeting that they never got as hungry watching Top Chef as they do withDesserts, and I have to agree. You literally just want to lick your screen (don't try that at home!). I've always had a sweet tooth, and always, always order dessert so this show is pretty much right up my ally.


But, let's focus on this week, where the drama really came out. I've seen some comments on the site about peole not liking the focus on the drama. I think we're just starting to see that these chefs have larger-than-life personalities and really are this dramatic, something the chefs on Top Chef don't always let out. Maybe pastry chefs are simply a bit more over-the-top. And maybe those pastry chefs will forgive me for that baseless overgeneralization! 


In the Quickfire, Gail introduced Top Chef Master and Top Recipe host Elizabeth Falkner for a candy challenge. I immediately wanted to head to Dylan's and grab as much loose candy as I could, but I guess I had to sit and finish watching. Sigh. The challenge was to create a dessert inspired by penny candy. When I think of penny candy I think of the old-timey-type stuff like root beer sticks and peppermints, but it looks like the category was expanded to modern-day goodies. Danielle won with her "worms in dirt" dessert. I thought this could have gone either way for her as sometimes adding a shot of something -- which she did -- can ruin the whole dessert, and I wasn't sure the judges would be down for her slightly -- what I thought -- amateurish inspiration. I kind of wanted something more adult. But what do I know? The judges loved it. The other standout for me that could have gone horribly wrong was Zac Young's Fireball-inspired Ho-Ho. Let me divulge that Zac's desserts are the only ones I've ever actually had. I'm a fairly frequent visitor to his Upper East Side restuarant, Flex Mussels. If you go there, you have to order the Bisque mussels, which are my personal favorite, and then there are Zac's desserts which are just fun and decadent. I know the donuts are a diner favorite, but the fried whoopie pie is tops for me. Go visit and let me know what you think! Anyway, his dish sounds a little gross to me, but was apparently successsful. I'll take the judges word on that.


Of course, I have to mention Seth. As a child I couldn't really eat fireballs because i have a really mild palate, but I thought it was sweet that he wanted to create a dish for his mother, inspired by a candy she could no longer eat when she got sick. Now, say what you will about his actions later in the episode, but as far as his self-admitted breakdown during the Quickfire, I sympathized with him. Although it seemed like his crying came out of nowhere, I understood where it came from. As someone whose mother passed away from a chronic illness, I know how it can be -- you never know what will set you off. And I applaud Morgan for trying to comfort his fellow chef. I think the reason the chefs later became so enraged was becuase Seth became defensive about his situation, and as Yigit (who I'm sure I'll be talking about a lot because I think he's adorable) said, Seth has no idea what the other chefs are going through in their personal lives. They're just not bringing that emotion to the kitchen. I don't know -- should Seth be ostracized for bringing that emotion? Who's to say? Now these thoughts are based solely on the Quickfire "breakdown." I'm not sure yet what to think about what transpired later.


But enough about that, back to the food! In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs headed to Chef Mark Peel's new joint, The Tar Pit. They had to go behind the bar to choose ingredients for their dish, which would be inspired by a cocktail. I have to say I kind of hate when desserts taste like alcohol. This goes for candy too. Those liquer chocolate cherry things that always seem to pop up around the holidays are vile to me, but i was interested to see how the chefs would be inspired. I sort of knew Erica would win. Why? Because she calmly changed up her plating plan when she saw she didn't make enough "bombs." Also, margaritas are my favorite, and if you want to know where to get the best ones in NYC, just ask. I think Yigit's looked pretty awesome too, even though I'm still not sure what agar agar is.


But, alas, Tim went home for his basil pudding. His dish was something I may have ordered out of curiousity, but probably wouldn't have enjoyed. I don't like basil unless it's in a tomato sauce of some kind, and I'm not one for citrus-y desserts, let alone a citrus granita. If I'm having fruit on my dessert, which I do love, it has to accompany chocolate or something doughy to break up the tartness. It's moot though because my Assistant Editor Andrew and I (OK, just me) couldn't care less about the actual challenge and just keep calling Tim Nugent Tim Nougat because he's in the sweets business, see. I hope this catches on.


And now that I've made a significant number of random references in this blog, I bid you adieu for the week. 


Happy Noshing!  


Best in Show

The final three chefs compete for the ultimate title of "Top Chef: Just Desserts."

Bonjour, mes petits amis! Well, we made it. It's finale time, and wow, was it a nail-biter!

The opening of this episode gave me the chills -- the finalists were greeted by Jacques Torres and his fellow MOFs, Sebastien Cannone and Stefane Treand. I've actually heard the term "MOF" before, but I didn't know much about it. Gail recommends watching Kings of Pastry, and discusses it in her finale blog. You can actually watch it streaming instantly on Netflix -- I plan on doing so this week!

Chris, Matthew, and Sally were issued their finale challenge -- a Meilleurs Ouvriers de France-style challenge where they'd have to make a bonbon, bread, a showpiece, and a plated dessert, truly testing many different pastry skills. Each of the chefs consulted with the culinary legends, as they prepared their desserts. They were also given actual sous-chefs later, in the form of their former cheftestants. They each chose and drew some of the best competitors of the season. I was wondering if anyone would pull Craig (sorry, Craig!) and how they would utilize him. But that didn't happen. Sally seemingly pulled the best pick in Orlando, who executed her showpiece for her -- more on that later!

This challenge was also interesting in that the chefs' plated desserts had to be personal and they presented a story to the diners along with their dishes. This was the first time the judges and their guests really got to get a taste of what everyone was fighting for, what was driving them this whole season. Le's start with Matthew.

I've been saying all season how smart Matthew is, but, unfortunately he sort of faltered this time around. I thick in a lot of ways Matthew was my front-runner going into the challenge in that he always makes smart decisions, satisfying the challenge and the judges, while staing true to his style. First the showpiece. He used sugar. I honestly don't know enough about showpieces to know what was wrong with his because it looked pretty amazing to me. But, the judges seem to think that he should have used chocolate. His bonbon was well-received, and his bread, though tasty, seemed to be too simple. Then came his plated dessert, which looked abstract and messy all at the same time. Although the dish was beautiful in a way, it wasn't composed, and much like Katzie's Beastie Boys challenge dish, the diners didn't know how to eat the components. Matthew has a stunning future ahead of him, regardless of whether or not he lost. The same can obviously be said for Sally. Sally's bonbon went over well and her bread seemed to be the most well-received that evening. I would eat the s--- out of that thing! But her plated dessert, while tasty, was sloppy (she ran out of time), and her showpiece was done completely by Orlando. There was an interesting debate at Judges' Table about this, and honestly, I see both sides, but I'm glad Dannielle stood up for Sally, saying that Sally simply utilized her sous-chef. That's what they're there for, and it was completely within the rules. You can see more of the judges' discussion in our Extended Judges' Table footage.

Finally, we have Chris. First off, congrats Chris!!! Obviously Chris' showpiece was exceptional, despite some falling pieces, and he threaded his concept of industrialization through all of his dishes. His bonbon was polished and flavorful, and his bread was decent. But I really think it came down to this plated dessert, which people loved. It sounded yummy, for lack of a better word. And so, Chris got the money, and I couldn't be happier that he now has the funds to take care of his daughter. He had to step it up that day, and he did.

All I have left to say is that this session was such a pleasure to watch, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

On a sidenote, I had the pleasure of visiting MOF Jacques Torres' wife's, Madame Chocolat's, shop this past week in L.A. and she, well, spoiled me rotten. Now these are bonbons!


Here's my friend Gina and I with Hasty!


Look at all the loot I ended up with! I'm going to turn into a bonbon!


If you've never had Jacques or Hasty's chocolates, you're missing out, so you should definitely stop for some next time you're in either L.A. or New York City. 

I'll see you all next week for the Top Chef: Texas premiere, Until then, Have a Nosh!