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.
Bravotv.com: What did you think about the fact that two of the chefs didn’t even make sweet ensembles?
JI: I think the fact that two of the contestants couldn’t think of a way to incorporate dessert/sweet elements into their dress showed a bit of arrogance and just lack of seriousness. Maybe their thinking was to separate themselves from the rest of the group, but I think they could have achieved that while still using ingredients more readily found in a pastry chef's pantry. Not just slicing and stringing vegetables.
Bravotv.com: You seemed fairly amused by Zac’s dress, what did you think when you saw it?
JI: As usual, Zac was over-the-top in his approach to the challenge. I think in Zac’s perfect world he would ride a unicorn to work every day. I was happy to see his use of hardware aka the plunger head as a chocolate mold. It was smart and looked awesome. I often use hardware in my own kitchen as well to lend a certain industrial look to things. There are definitely some great low-tech tools to be found in common household stores; it’s just a matter of your own creativity and what you can do with it. Some of my favorites are grouting tools, paint scrapers, textured rubber mats, sea wool and textured sponges, paint brushes and paint sprayers.
Bravotv.com: Which other ensembles stood out to you? Which “girl” would have caught your eye?
JI: Morgan may have gone a simpler route, but his dress was visually striking. It was sleek, elegant, sexy, and if each dress had the same model wearing it side by side, I would choose the one in Morgan’s dress. I also like the fact that even though he finished early, he pushed himself to make another additional accessory that actually looked really sharp as well.
Bravotv.com: The second part of the challenge was to create two petits fours accessories. What were the biggest mistakes people made? (There was a comment that most of them were too big.)
JI: A petit four is small treat at the end of the meal usually served with coffee just before the check. A final little pleasure. Most contestants treated them as a full-on plated dessert. There were some major clunky oversized "petits fours" going on. Some were difficult to pick up and eat, others just didn’t taste good. A petit four should be a little burst or pop of flavor. I think some of the chefs just overthought it and couldn’t help themselves.
Bravotv.com: Which petits fours were the most successful/the least?
Erica's petits fours were too large and difficult to eat, just visually unappealing. Zac really took the challenge to heart, his petits fours accessories were small, bite sized, and cute, but they fell short in execution of fillings. The ganache wasn't emulsified correctly and was grainy on the tongue. Eric's cheesecake was delicious, even though it didn't resemble anything any women I know would ever wear. Heather C's caramel was great and her use of salt was a bonus. There could have been a few grains more though to cut through that sweet caramel, and the shell of the chocolate could have been a touch thinner. The hairpin looked great, very clever. Yigit's icicle pops and brooch looked like desserts not so much like accessories. They were a bit tame in flavor compared to what Yigit has shown us in the past. Morgan made a red hot macaron earring using a spicy cinnamon. It had great texture and was super tasty. His spiced raspberry bonbon ring pop was also quite clever. It looked cool, and some of the other judges even tried putting it on. I think it was important to note that Morgan really focused on the details of the challenge. Going the extra mile is what gave him an advantage. Heather H. also made a macaron, hers was lemon based. It was good, but in comparison to Morgan's it just didn't have the same punch of flavor and texture. Her second petit four just looked like a little cake and not so much like an accessory at all. It tasted great but fell short in the visual department. Danielle's purse looked really cool, lots of detail and the red velvet cake is a fan favorite although a bit sweet for me. When it came to her second petit four, I was confused, I didn't know what it was. It looked more like a time bomb than a watch.
Bravotv.com: Heather H. makes a comment about Morgan’s professionalism in the kitchen. Care to comment?
JI: Morgan definitely has a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove. He is a bit raw and crude in the kitchen, as well as being cutthroat competitive. He treats the women no different then he treats the men, which is all fine and good as long as you treat everyone with respect. I am happy to see that they are standing up to the bully.