Bravotv.com: In the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs had to create a souffle. What are the key elements to baking a soufflé? What causes it to collapse?
Johnny Iuzzini: There are three main variables to making a soufflé: the base mixture, whether fruit or chocolate or other, the meringue which is a specific ratio of egg whites whipped with sugar, and the temperature of the oven. What happens when you make a soufflé is that the air bubbles in the meringue expand as the soufflé is cooked as well as steam released from the moisture content of the base. So you want the perfect amount of moisture to be released as well as a certain amount of air must be incorporated in your meringue coupled with the rate at which you bake the soufflé. The hotter the oven is the faster it will rise but also the faster it will fall. A soufflé that is baked at a slower rate, or in a water bath, will be much more stable.
Bravotv.com: Sherry Yard is presented as the guest judge. Why is she a good fit for this week’s challenges?
JI: I love Sherry -- she is a bundle of sweet happiness. I have known her for awhile and she always has a smile on her face. She truly loves what she does and you can taste it in her food. I admire her work and I am sure the competitors do as well. She has a whimsical style, not pretentious at all. Be careful though -- don’t let her Cupid-like smile trick you into thinking she doesn’t know her stuff. She has a very strong technical understanding of baking science and has no qualms with setting someone straight.
Bravotv.com: Which souffles stood out for you for better or worse?
JI: I was excited that Zac went for a soufflé glace, but he couldn’t execute it properly. Too bad It ended up just being a dense ice cream-like consistency rather then a light airy consistency. I was happy to see some lemon and herb soufflés. One ended up being better then the other. I am also glad people thought about adding sauces and ice creams for contrast in flavor and temperatures. I also thought the fig soufflé sounded really delicious. I wish I got to taste these; I really enjoy a well-made, super-light, and flavorful soufflé. On second thought, maybe it’s better that I didn’t!
Bravotv.com: A lot of people made chocolate souffles, and Yigit even won with one. Did that surprise you that he won with something so traditional?
JI: A chocolate soufflé may be traditional but that doesn’t make it easier! Actually it is quite the opposite, because you are not only dealing with the meringue, but the base has a large amount of fat from the chocolate and cacao butter that if not mixed correctly can destroy the light airy meringue, and you will end up with a chocolate hockey puck. I think Yigit’s soufflé won because it had the perfect balance in flavor, a great rise, and was cooked properly, meaning a decent amount of crust yet a soft subtle interior.
Bravotv.com: For the Elimination, the chefs had to create “edible fashion” inspired by shoes, what did you think of this theme overall?
JI: This is actually quite a common challenge within our industry. The chocolate show has been going on worldwide for many years and many chefs have taken a shot at this challenge, including yours truly. This also shows how deep a chefs technical knowledge and understanding of different ingredients really is, as well as give them a true stage to be utterly creative.