Bravotv.com: What do you think the key to making a successful dessert for the Quickfire was? Do certain flavors lend themselves better to gum production?
Johnny Iuzzini: This was all about explosive flavor in a small package. This means not too many flavors and you need to taste everything. It also should be something that people can relate to and would want to chew. You want flavors that provoke happy emotions. You also need to think about the flavors/taste, and in the end how they would affect your breath. I would think that brighter flavors and acidic flavors work best.
Bravotv.com: Craig finally won something! Were you intrigued by his pancakes?
JI: Hooray for THE CRAIG, as we called him. He is constantly on the bottom and feeling like he is under-experienced compared to his fellow competitors. He really needed this to raise his spirits and to start feeling like he belonged in this competition. He won 25K! Damn boy. Hysterical that instead of paying off school loans that he would rather just go shopping. His dessert flavors actually sounded really good. Simple and identifiable. Something almost everyone can relate to. Totally not the way I would have gone, but again, I am always surprised, and I am always learning from the creative minds of our chefs.
Bravotv.com: On to the Elimination, the chefs were told many things about Lisa Vanderpump’s “likes.” What things would you have taken away from the conversation with her husband?
JI: Ken gave some pretty detailed items Lisa likes, as well as some pretty specific keywords when speaking of what she likes and her style. He said she loves the color pink. Also that she is very meticulous and loves fresh flowers. The idea was to turn her restaurant Villa Blanca into Villa Rosa for one night only. He spoke of the love of her life being her dog, Giggy. Things can be glitzy but In good taste, pink roses, and crumble. This is pretty specific in one way yet leaves it wide open for creativity. I would say you can be playful but on a sophisticated level. This is a pitch for a party for worldly distinguished women, not for children. I would keep it clutter-free and sharp. I would think about the ease of eating it -- no one wants to fight with their food, or in a woman's case, take a chance on messing up their makeup. The two most important words Ken said were meticulous and tasteful. I would focus on that and make sure I had a delicious crumble to boot.
Bravotv.com: What are things to keep in mind when creating a dessert “pitch”?
JI: You should always ask a lot of questions. Get as much detail of the customer's vision as possible. Remember, its not about creating a showcase based on your likes and preferences -- it's about the customer. They are paying -- therefore, it is up to you to give them what they want. Your creativity, skill, techniques, and experience come into play in the execution and design of those elements and how they come together in a unique and beautiful way. Give the customer what they ask for and more!Bravotv.com: What do you think the biggest mistake the two teams made were?
JI: I think when you have so many people on a team, it becomes tough to edit. Egos and feelings get in the way. Both teams may have added a bit too many components to their tables. Craig's team added items that could not be eaten as well as cluttering the much-needed sparse white tablecloth with rose petals. Orlando made an awesome and very beautiful, elaborate sugar piece, but once he added all the greens it really detracted from the final piece. Also, Sally chose to do a sorbet that was just about liquid by the time it was served. On Amanda's team, they used a pink tablecloth that was a bit too much with all the other pink on the table. I think some of the portion sizes were too large. Melissa's cremeux was too soft and not set. All in all though each team's tables truly were a feast for the eyes.
Bravotv.com: Which dishes and décor stood out to you the most, for better or worse.
JI: On Amanda's team, I liked the progression and how it started with something fizzy and acidic. Carlo's dessert was fruity and crispy. Great texture. We see another macaron but this time it was macaron 2.0 served with a pipette. It was cool but a bit large for this setting. Melissa's white chocolate brownie really wasn't pretty to look at but lucky for her it had a lot of flavor. The rose and rhubarb really cut through the sweet fatty white chocolate. Megan's dessert seemed a bit large to me for this type of affair, and again we encounter a melted sorbet. This was not a great choice for a dessert buffet. It was smart of Amanda's team to make something for Lisa's beloved pooch. Craig's team used too much candy on and around their display and desserts, Candy reflects "childish" in a way and that has nothing to do with how Lisa carries herself. Craig's lemonade was really acidic, and the way it was served was difficult to drink for the ladies. No one liked it at all. I liked Matt's gateau -- it had great flavor and texture, and the fact that he was smart enough to dip the lower 20% of his cake to make his secret pistachio layer was a bonus. That color would have drawn negative attention but instead its flavor was a star. Nelson's dessert on the other hand was very difficult to eat for the ladies and was just cloyingly sweet. The flavors just didn't work together. Rebecca did double duty, making a chocolate beet cake as well as a rhubarb crisp. This was because Orlando was focusing on the showpiece the whole time. In the end, Lisa's favorite dessert of the day was the crisp! They didn't make something for Lisa's dog though, which as Ken mentioned is very important to her.
Bravotv.com: Even though he had immunity, you made a point to tell Craig he would’ve gone home if he didn’t have it, and it really affected him. Were you surprised to see his reaction?
JI: I was disappointed with THE CRAIG's effort. Even though he had immunity, he could have worked a little harder to make something more special, more elegant, more substantial for his team to try for the win. Like the old saying goes, "You are only as strong as your weakest link." His efforts were menial. Even though he helped the rest of his team here and there with their desserts, he was team captain and that is his duty. He needed to step up his game and lead by example and try to do even more since he had that cushion of knowing he can't go home for his desserts. I wanted him to understand how disappointed we were in his effort, to make him understand the severity of the situation. Since he was lucky enough to stay in the competition, he needed a kick in the ass to step it up. Final warning for THE CRAIG.