Sugar High

Taking the Cake

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Best in Show

Grande Finale

Nobody's Perfect

The Final Four

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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!

Sugar High

  • Our fabulous judge, Dannielle Kyrillos, gives us her take on the decadent and drama filled premiere (and makes a few puns while she's at it). 

Well, hello there!  Wow! The first episode of the first-ever season of the brand-new Top Chef: Just Desserts is super-duper exciting for so many reasons, not least of which is that we are finally giving pastry chefs the attention they deserve.  I promise I'm writing this before my daily dose of sugar; it just feels like lots of exclamation points and superlatives are in order when talking about this fantastic new show, the incredibly talented twelve chefs competing in it, and the chocolate-y first elimination challenge.

Dessert is such a big deal.  Can you think of a special occasion that hasn't involved a lovingly prepared sweet treat?  From birthday cakes to romantic chocolate creations to gifts of candy brought back from long trips to ice cream after a swim meet, dessert is how we celebrate.  But we have largely ignored the people who've devoted their lives to making it for us.

For so long, pastry chefs have unfairly played second fiddle to savory chefs…I mean, think about it: dessert is the last bite you have at the end of a memorable meal.  It's the restaurant's goodnight kiss to you, the final taste of a restaurant before you walk off into the night, and it's the pastry chef who created it.  But the savory chef is the one who gets his or her name on the door and so much of the credit.  You can see how this could make you a little nutty if you were a pastry chef. 

So it's no surprise that our twelve chefs have such distinct and awesome personalities.  They're artists, they're mad scientists, they're feisty and funny, fiercely competitive, and they all have something to prove.  Even meeting them for the first time and talking to them about their chocolate indulgences, it was totally clear we were in for one wild ride.

When we arrived at the chocolate tasting, the room was festive and elegant and the guests were all dressed up and seriously ready for the huge amounts of pure chocolate ecstasy that were about to unfold.  The chefs seemed pretty nervous, seeing as how it was the first elimination challenge and Mr. Chocolate himself, Chef Jacques Torres, was in the house.  It was my first time meeting all of them, and the first bites of their food I tasted. 

Everyone had clearly thrown themselves into their work in their own ways (see: Eric's Zen Buddha folding ceremony), and everyone but Tania seemed to feel good about what they'd produced.  It was clear from Tania's first word that she knew her mousse's texture just hadn't worked.  But she put on a brave face.  I think all the other chefs had been so focused on their own work, each one thought he or she had a shot.  You have to, right?  You do your best without comparing yourself to anyone else, you sell the judges on what you came up with, and the rest is out of your hands. 

We got a tiny feel for the chefs' personalities, and I remember Morgan winking a lot, and Zac, covered in his now-famous disco dust from head to toe, whimsically blowing the stuff all over his plates.  He's so cute it didn't instantly strike me as grody, but Mr. Chocolate was not amused.  And once he expressed his extreme displeasure, it sank in that Zac's dust distribution might as well have been sneezing.

Each of the desserts had its merits, of course.  Eric's brownie was masterfully moist and dense, like a good brownie should be, and it had a really nice spice to it. I think he chose a brownie because hey, for many, many people, brownies are chocolate at its best and most decadent.  Actually, typing this, I wish that brownie would appear beside my keyboard.  But I digress.  Once you compared Eric's brownie to some of the more complicated and nuanced desserts, had he really done enough to win?  Then again, Morgan was so eager to impress us, and to not feel like he could have done more, that he ended up doing too much.  That gelatinous cube he called milk chocolate flan that he hoped Johnny wouldn't notice had separated (really, Morgan, really?) had nothing to do with the rest of his plate, and it just kind of sat there quivering like a weird alien about to breathe its last.  So, finding the sweet spot (ugh, really, Dannielle, really?) of easy simplicity, masterful complexity, and just the right flavors is tough.

Ultimately, Zac, Heather H. and Seth hit it just right.  Their dishes were surprising and left you wanting more, even after you'd already had twelve desserts.  By the way, even if you just take a bite or two of twelve desserts, your heart beats so fast you might feel like an alligator is chomping through your ribcage.  And yes, by "you," I mean "me."

It was so hard to see Tania go, after such a short time, because it's clear she is a truly gifted and experienced chef, she just had a bad day.  But just like Top Chef, Just Desserts is about the dish being judged, and only that dish.

My job as an entertaining expert and editor at DailyCandy for more than eight years has been to uncover all the stuff that makes life sweeter, from new fashion designers and artists to restaurants, family-run bakeries, and specialty food artisans.  My favorites are those with great stories behind them, about people with great passion taking a chance and following their dreams.  Kind of like contestants on Top Chef: Just Desserts, right?  So I bring an editor's perspective to the judges' table, that of someone whose job it is to know what looks good, is well-constructed, delicious and likely to become popular.

So, next week is the inimitable Hubert Keller's turn at judge's table (we alternate episodes), but I'll see you here at  Trust me when I say, all the hints of drama you saw tonight only get bigger and nuttier.  Each challenge is more magnificent than the next, and no one is safe from the pressure.  Until next time…

Follow me on Twitter @DKyrillos


Best in Show

The final three chefs compete for the ultimate title of "Top Chef: Just Desserts."

Bonjour, mes petits amis! Well, we made it. It's finale time, and wow, was it a nail-biter!

The opening of this episode gave me the chills -- the finalists were greeted by Jacques Torres and his fellow MOFs, Sebastien Cannone and Stefane Treand. I've actually heard the term "MOF" before, but I didn't know much about it. Gail recommends watching Kings of Pastry, and discusses it in her finale blog. You can actually watch it streaming instantly on Netflix -- I plan on doing so this week!

Chris, Matthew, and Sally were issued their finale challenge -- a Meilleurs Ouvriers de France-style challenge where they'd have to make a bonbon, bread, a showpiece, and a plated dessert, truly testing many different pastry skills. Each of the chefs consulted with the culinary legends, as they prepared their desserts. They were also given actual sous-chefs later, in the form of their former cheftestants. They each chose and drew some of the best competitors of the season. I was wondering if anyone would pull Craig (sorry, Craig!) and how they would utilize him. But that didn't happen. Sally seemingly pulled the best pick in Orlando, who executed her showpiece for her -- more on that later!

This challenge was also interesting in that the chefs' plated desserts had to be personal and they presented a story to the diners along with their dishes. This was the first time the judges and their guests really got to get a taste of what everyone was fighting for, what was driving them this whole season. Le's start with Matthew.

I've been saying all season how smart Matthew is, but, unfortunately he sort of faltered this time around. I thick in a lot of ways Matthew was my front-runner going into the challenge in that he always makes smart decisions, satisfying the challenge and the judges, while staing true to his style. First the showpiece. He used sugar. I honestly don't know enough about showpieces to know what was wrong with his because it looked pretty amazing to me. But, the judges seem to think that he should have used chocolate. His bonbon was well-received, and his bread, though tasty, seemed to be too simple. Then came his plated dessert, which looked abstract and messy all at the same time. Although the dish was beautiful in a way, it wasn't composed, and much like Katzie's Beastie Boys challenge dish, the diners didn't know how to eat the components. Matthew has a stunning future ahead of him, regardless of whether or not he lost. The same can obviously be said for Sally. Sally's bonbon went over well and her bread seemed to be the most well-received that evening. I would eat the s--- out of that thing! But her plated dessert, while tasty, was sloppy (she ran out of time), and her showpiece was done completely by Orlando. There was an interesting debate at Judges' Table about this, and honestly, I see both sides, but I'm glad Dannielle stood up for Sally, saying that Sally simply utilized her sous-chef. That's what they're there for, and it was completely within the rules. You can see more of the judges' discussion in our Extended Judges' Table footage.

Finally, we have Chris. First off, congrats Chris!!! Obviously Chris' showpiece was exceptional, despite some falling pieces, and he threaded his concept of industrialization through all of his dishes. His bonbon was polished and flavorful, and his bread was decent. But I really think it came down to this plated dessert, which people loved. It sounded yummy, for lack of a better word. And so, Chris got the money, and I couldn't be happier that he now has the funds to take care of his daughter. He had to step it up that day, and he did.

All I have left to say is that this session was such a pleasure to watch, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

On a sidenote, I had the pleasure of visiting MOF Jacques Torres' wife's, Madame Chocolat's, shop this past week in L.A. and she, well, spoiled me rotten. Now these are bonbons!


Here's my friend Gina and I with Hasty!


Look at all the loot I ended up with! I'm going to turn into a bonbon!


If you've never had Jacques or Hasty's chocolates, you're missing out, so you should definitely stop for some next time you're in either L.A. or New York City. 

I'll see you all next week for the Top Chef: Texas premiere, Until then, Have a Nosh!