Hi, everyone, hope you have all had a great week! Gail, Johnny, and I had so much fun celebrating the premiere of Top Chef: Just Desserts last Wednesday here in New York. We really missed Hubert, who, like usual, was hard at work at one of his magnificent restaurants (it’s hard to keep track, but I think he was at Fleur de Lys in San Francisco), but he’s promised to come visit soon, and we all get to enjoy him in his role as permanent judge in this week’s episode. He brings so much wisdom, patience and thoughtfulness to Judges' Table, and really is that superbly wonderful all the time.
The premiere was a big success, with 1.6 million viewers! That’s thanks to all of you—thank you SO much for watching, for reading, and for all the insightful comments about the first episode. I’m working on finding answers to your questions (I want to know who designed the loft, too) and will share them as soon as I do.
Like you, I think Top Chef in any of its iterations has always been so compelling to watch because it’s about the food, first and foremost. It’s about seeing chefs test their mettle under highly stressful circumstances, and about judging what’s on the plate. It’s not a personality contest; it’s a cooking contest. I want to assure you that the mission is the same for TCJD. As judges, we look at and taste the food presented to us and evaluate it based on flavor, texture, composition, and how well it meets the stated challenge. We don’t think about whether the chef who made it was a jerk that day.
But sometimes, like on tonight’s episode, personality-driven things happen that have to be addressed on the show. I’m sure all the cheftestants wish they had been able to concentrate on both the penny candy Quickfire and the cocktail Elimination Challenge without all the frenetic energy, drama, and distraction. But no one could have predicted Seth’s meltdowns. Unfortunately, they happened. Sadly, they turned the atmospheres at The Tar Pit, the kitchen, and the loft really tense and uncomfortable. I so wish he had been able to hold it together, and that kind of behavior is never justifiable, but Seth just doesn’t seem equipped to handle the pressure. The chefs are up and working and being interviewed from the crack of dawn until late at night. They hardly sleep, they don’t have a second to themselves, and they are working harder than they ever have. No excuse, but it gives some perspective.
Even under such tricky circumstances, I think everyone did the best he or she could to stay on task, and some extremely delicious desserts were produced. Having Elizabeth Faulkner as guest judge was so much fun. She is so freaking cool, smart, and Zac said it…you don’t just want to be friends with her, you want to be her. Her Citizen Cake and Orson in San Francisco are wonderlands of yumminess, where she works Willy Wonka-like magic. Most of the chefs really embraced the fun and playfulness of the penny candy Quickfire. They reverted to childhood but transformed that nostalgia and those memories into very sophisticated creations. Danielle, Zac, and Heather H. proved that as long as they’re paired with excellent technique, silliness and a sense of humor make good desserts.
I was jealous that the gang got a sneak peek at Mark Peel’s The Tar Pit. What a swanky, sultry spot, and the perfect inspiration for the cocktail challenge. I’m dying to get back to L.A. to check it out; it seems like just the place for a fancy, old-fashioned night on the town. For a lot of people, well-composed, nuanced cocktails can be dessert, so marrying the two in this Elimination Challenge made perfect sense.
Erika’s margarita bomb looked so pretty, so well-designed, and so tasty, it’s no wonder she took top honors. She was literal in her cocktail-to-dessert translation, but without being boring. The surprise of the clear tequila sauce and the salt pushed it over the edge to victory. The simplicity of Eric’s pineapple bourbon upside down cake is what made it so good … he didn’t overcomplicate things, and let just the right ingredients do the talking. If only everyone had let their food speak for them.
Johnny summed up the bummer of Tim going home really well: he has one of the sharpest palates of anyone, but difficulty pulling it together. Ultimately, the great basil, rum and citrus flavors of his “plantation” pudding couldn’t compensate for the soupiness.
See you next episode, as the chefs put on an unforgettable bake sale. Thanks again for reading, and have a sweet week!
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