Bravotv.com: This week's Quickfire Challenge is the mise en place relay race. I know that when we ask our chefs on Top Chef, they say they sometimes have races like that in their professional kitchens, etc. -- does that happen with pastry chefs? Are these skills that every pastry chef should know how to do?
Johnny Iuzzini: Man, you have no idea what goes on behind closed kitchen doors. We are definitely a competitive bunch. A lot of times when there are menial tasks at hand like peeling a case of apples or juicing a ton of grapes we set up races and go head to head. It serves two purposes, 1) it's more fun, and 2) when you are pushing yourself to go faster the work gets done faster. This challenge had some basic skills that everyone who calls themselves a pastry chef should have a strong grasp of.
Bravotv.com: Were you surprised that some of the chefs had never rolled out strudel, for example?
JI: Strudel unfortunately is a lost art. Culinary schools spend a small amount of time on it, but in order to truly master it, you need experience doing it often. I was lucky enough to work for a German pastry chef earlier in my career and he really taught me about strudel dough. The key is really to work in smooth, gentle motions, always working with the back of your hands from the center of the dough to the outside. It is definitely harder than it looks. What is funny is that Morgan has experience with strudel dough and explains to his team how to work with it, and yet they completely shred their dough.
Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination Challenge — Go-Diva is put together randomly. Do you think things may have turned out differently if they were mixed up with people from the other team?
JI: You know, I really wish they weren't on the same team. I think it would have been for the best for the whole group of chefs if they were separated, but as we saw during the challenge itself, Team Diva started to become unraveled a bit and started bickering. It would have been really interesting to see Morgan and Yigit on the same team -- they are both are natural team leaders, and I wonder if they had to work together how that would have panned out.
Bravotv.com: Which dishes on both sides were highlights and lowlights for you?
JI: Zac is a master of many things fried, and his doughnuts were no exception -- they were slamming. That said, the lemon verbena milkshake was bland and flat. His fennel brioche bread was tasty and made up for it. Yigit's tart had the potential to be amazing, but the crust just ruined it. The margarita sorbet was a welcome surprise that you wouldn't normally see in a pastry shop, elegant and refined. His fraisier fell a bit short for me. I worked in France for a while, and it was missing the punch of strawberry. Heather also suffered from the thick tart dough. I was really excited when i saw her lemon tart, but it just didn't deliver the flavors or textures I was expecting. The key lime bar looked like something you make in culinary school, plus the obvious finger prints and lack of key lime flavor. Her pudding was my favorite of the three, but even so, not very exciting.
On Team Whisk Me Away, as expected, Eric made a chocolate chip cookies, which no bakery should be without. Although a bit pedestrian, I also liked his big classic stacked cake, but he made it a bit more interesting with his use of the malted milk balls for both flavor and texture. The idea behind the banana loaf was great. Imean bananas, brown butter, and tangerine all sound delicious, but unfortunately the recipe was off and it ruined the cake. Danielle's pistachio shortcake was cool, tasty, delicate, and served in an interesting way. Her coffee cream pie was sweet and missing coffee, whose bitterness would had helped balance that sweetness. I liked that she did a refreshing and light float. The flavors were good, and although she used an untraditional combination of sorbets, it worked to her advantage. Morganza's pretzel really made me happy until it glazed my face with butter. His chocolate cake was awesome, great texture of the mousse, flavorful, and then having a brulee center really showed some skill. This is his second fried pie. This time it was definitely better, and the lemon flavor really came through.