Choctails! (Woo-oo)*

Taking the Cake

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Best in Show

Grande Finale

Nobody's Perfect

The Final Four

Default image

Puff Piece

Big News!

Bon Voyage

Carlos vs. Orlando

Life is a Carnival

"Sugar is Not a Flavor"

Original Sin

Strong Competitors, More Insecurity

Civilized Conversation

Rest in Peace, Coco Chanel

Time to Make the Donuts!

I'll Be Back!

Must Love Chocolate

Sugar Rush

Brothers from Another Mother

Everybody Likes a Fried Chicken Skin

Too Sweet to Be Sour

Finger Lickin’ Good

Ad-Rock, Light Up the Place

Top Banana

Splish Splash

Wet and Wild

Like Family

How Melissa Could Have Saved Herself

California Girl

Scary Good

No Whangdoodles or Hornswogglers Here!

Glaze Me a Doughnut

A Chocolate Lake?

Fair Fare

On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink

Glass Half Empty?

Gone to the Dog

If Only Katzie Would Have Won!

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!  


Grande Finale

Hubert Keller explains why Chris ultimately edged out Sally for the win.


So here we are, at the grande finale, as they say in France. This is where the culminated talents of our chefs are put under a microscope and the strongest overall performance by the most confident chef prevails and wins the competition! This is the final round, the final challenge, and finally, we will have a winner!

The stage is set, and Matthew, Chris, and Sally are waiting nervously to hear what Gail and Johnny have to say about the final challenge.

The challenge: to prove that they are the most complete pastry chef by creating a show-piece, an entremet cake, bonbons, a form of savory bread, and a dessert that focuses on a special person in their life!

Wow!  So much to think about, so much pressure… and just after Johnny shared an emotional moment, expressing the joy he has knowing that he was able to present his mother with a home-made birthday cake he baked for her just before she passed away; and you could start to see tears well-up in the cheftestants' eyes. Suddenly, their frowns became overwhelmed with a surprised excitement. They were all astonished to see MOFs Jaques “Mr. Chocolate” Torres, Sebastian Cannon, co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, and Stephane Treand, owner of The Art of Pastry, walk into the kitchen to help assist in their final challenge! Gail informs our competitors that our guest pastry legends would be sitting down as diners when all is complete to taste and help critique their final presentation. With their jaws dropping to the floor, they quickly scurried over to meet these pastry icons and without hesitation, and the competition began!

Sally confided in Sebastion Cannon and admitted that she was uncomfortable with the showpiece element of this competition. She went over her plan, which seemed well thought-out and moved forward with her ideas, determined to use assertive, exotic flavor combinations and the inspiration of her mother and sister, to win the hearts of the judges….

Matt told “Mr.Chocolate” that his wife and daughter would be the motive for his dessert presentation and he would try to impress his way into the winner’s circle by choosing to take risks and using combinations of items and ingredients he has not really worked with before, such as sugar as the base of his show-piece. Matt hoped to prove to the judges that he is not afraid to gamble, and to get out of his comfort zone and push himself to new-heights! A gutsy move, but would this come back to bite him in the sugar-bun, at the end of the challenge?

Chris went over his plan with Sebastian Cannon. Chris wanted to have a clean and well thought-out presentation, that connected his showpiece idea with the rest of his dessert. His theme: mechanical, industrial, and impressive. Would he impress enough?

So, after one day of putting their ideas together, and getting input from their culinary heroes, they were back to the grindstone to continue the final round, only to find out that all the eliminated TCJD2 cheftestants were in the kitchen waiting for them!

What was this new curveball going to be? Come to find out, our final three chefs had to pick a number, and whichever of the previous cheftestants had the number, taped to the back of a very large un-edible cookie that they were holding; that person, randomly, would make up part of that chef’s team. They got to choose one more former cheftestant to make up teams of three individuals… the plot thickens, and the cookie crumbles!

The Teams:

Sally chose Orlando to help her with her showpiece; a great move! She got stuck with Van as an assistant by drawing the number he was holding. He made a nice cheerleader in the kitchen while the other two were hard at work! Sally discovered that her entremet-cake had been layered incorrectly and had to re-do it with time running out. She put the gas on and was able to produce one of the most beautiful desserts of the whole competition! Orlando, with Sally’s vision, pretty much built that show piece on his own, while Sally got caught-up from her mistake from the day before. A great effort, Orlando built an elegant, towering showpiece out of chocolate. Sally had a chocolate mousse, mango vanilla cream, caramel cremeux, lime, and almond sponge as her entremet. Parkerhouse rolls with bacon, green onions, gruyere, and bay leaves, for her savory bread, and salted caramel milk chocolate bonbons. She killed it! Everything was bursting with flavor. I love Sally’s work! 

Matt drew Megan and called upon Carlos to be his wingman in the kitchen. They put out a hazelnut dacquoise, passion fruit gelee entremet, focaccia with olive oil and malden salt with fresh thyme for the bread loaf, and keylime ganache and speculoos bonbons. Great flavor, great passion… nice job, Matt!

I must say, I was surprised that Matt didn’t go for a spectacular chocolate showpiece since that is his forte, but the light, playful color of his sugar piece did show well!

Chris had Rebecca from the pre-challenge draft, but with both arms available, he still didn’t really let her participate; and he picked Amanda, someone who seems to be very helpful and takes orders well historically throughout this competition. His entremet was delicious: a chocolate mousse with vanilla cream and raspberry jam. His bread was a classic brioche with a maple butter and bacon and salt, and his bonbons were coffee infused ganache with a very thin crunchy shell. Chris and Sally had the best bonbons!…And now it’s time for the plated desert!

The plated dessert was very important and really showed us who put the whole package together!

Sally’s plated dessert was a white chocolate espresso mousse with chocolate cremeux, cashew nougatine, and ice cream. Inspired by her mother and her sister, the flavor’s that Sally put together were again, simply put, the best! Unfortunately, the presentation was missing the glaze, and her dessert, to the eye, wasn’t as alive as it was on the palate. She lost a little of that finesse that had become her trademark in this competition. In the last round, we saw that Orlando edited himself and by doing so, he shot himself in the foot. I thought by not glazing her dessert for the final Judges' Table, Sally did the same. 

Matt was inspired by his wife and daughter and made a whimsical playground of chocolate chip cookie with raspberry ice cream… if it were a piece of art, it would have been Picasso; colorful chaos on a plate… very cool and edgy, but maybe not the right choice for the grand prize. And as "Madame Chocolate” mentioned, I think some people at the Judges' Table really wanted a chocolate chip cookie.

Chris did well! He made a very vibrant butter almond cake with mango sauce, banana ice cream, and continued his structural design from the showpiece as an accent on his plated dessert… a cool touch. Johnny was right, our whole table devoured his dessert. The flavors were well balanced; a home-run!

It was a tough decision… flavor-wise, for me it was Sally; although I thought Chris deserved to win. It just was unfortunate that Sally fell a little short in the final, but I’m sure she’ll move on to be quite a success anywhere she decides to go!Matt brought some exciting ideas to the table and put some wonderful flavors in our mouths, but it wasn’t his best night either. The way he sets his high standards for himself, he too will be a star in someone’s kitchen, maybe even his own!

Chris deserved to be crowned the winner. He was Mr. Consistency, always impressing with ideas, skill, creativity, and managing ability in the kitchen, a true Top Chef! Bravo, Chris! Congratulations!

I think that these contestants in TCJD2 raised the bar to a new level this year. It was fun, exciting, dramatic, and electrifying. I was proud to see how these guys came together and grew throughout these episodes and challenges.

I hope that watching and supporting our program gave you the inspiration to have a sweeter time in the kitchen and perhaps be our next Top Chef!

Thank you!