Hello, sweet-toothed tigers! I hope you’ve enjoyed a spectacular week, as well as tonight’s bake-erific episode. Thanks, as always, for all of the comments on last week’s events … it’s good to know what everyone’s thinking, and I appreciate all of the opinions.
Speaking of which, I bet you have some varying ones on this episode’s focus on baking. While in their real lives, many of the cheftestants work more on ethereal, plated (read: fancy) desserts, others, like Eric, are bakers by trade. Solid baking skills are essential to any pastry chef’s foundations, and when many consumers think about what’s going to satisfy their sweet cravings, it’s often cakes so moist you just want to put your face in them, cookies so chewy you hide some in your purse, and, of course, brownies that come to mind first. So I think it was really fun and informative to watch and taste how the chefs approached classic baked items and elevated them to competition level without alienating the intended audience.
But the most fun (and hilarious, and dare I say thrilling) part of this week (and, well, pretty much this year) for me was the honor of the great Sylvia Weinstock joining us as guest judge. While she never hides it, a lady’s age is better left unwritten, so let’s just say, throughout two days of grueling shooting, late into the night, Sylvia had more energy and spunk than any 20-year-old I’ve ever met. She is a legend, and also a legendary teacher. If you ever want to just smile hugely and feel like all is right with the world, scroll through the photos of her creations on her site and blog (I’ll admit to spending more than a few minutes doing so.) Sylvia is so patient, kindhearted and funny, and so generous with what she’s learned throughout so many decades as a master cake artist. She also had some smart ideas about Johnny’s love life. ;)
One of the most important things she imparted to the chefs was that yes, dessert must be beautiful and enticing and celebratory, but that’s useless if it doesn’t also taste beautiful. The wedding cake Quickfire was an intense way for the chefs to consider how hard it can be to strike that balance. Bakers create cakes to be served on some of the most important days of people’s lives, and they have to look the part. But we’ve all bitten into a good-looking wedding cake and been less than impressed by the icing or filling or cake itself. The hugely emotional component of how customers think about desserts adds a ton of stress to a baker’s or pastry chef’s job.