Cast Blog: #JUSTDESSERTS

How Melissa Could Have Saved Herself

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

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!

Final Warning for THE CRAIG

How Melissa Could Have Saved Herself

Johnny Iuzzini wishes the eliminated chef hadn't served her green doughnuts.

Bravotv.com: As a pastry chef, what does Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory mean to you? Has it inspired your creations? 
Johnny Iuzzini: I owned this movie on VHS as a kid. I have watched it hundreds of times throughout my life. Its one of those movies that if I am flipping through channels and I come across it, I always watch it to the end. I wouldn't say it has ever directly inspired any dessert directly, but it has inspired a way of thinking. The fantasy of it all is what excites me. Having no limits, creating new desserts that bring happiness to people and surprise them at the same time is what is so fun. The fact that you can create dishes that are not always what they appear to be is where the inner child comes into play. As chefs, especially pastry chefs, your creativity plays such an important part in your daily work. We truly do have a blank canvas to work with every time we create a new dish. People are more open to new flavors and combinations when it comes to dessert rather than their apps or entrees. They have (hopefully) already been satisfied by their meal and the dessert is a bonus, sort of a treasure at the end. They are much more likely to take a chance and order something they may not have had before. 

Bravotv.com: What did you think of the overall idea of the challenge? 
JI: I absolutely loved this challenge. I was so jealous of the chefs, i wanted to be in there with them. I kept thinking about what I would do. This challenge really was a great opportunity for the chefs to show how creative they can be, as well as show a vast array of pastry techniques. There were no guidelines other than having to create a Willy Wonka-like room similar to the factory in the movie. The chefs could truly unleash their creativity and inner child and run wild to create something that would blow any child or adult away. I would think that up until now, the challenges have been a bit more difficult. This one should have been the one that they all went crazy for and allowed them the most freedom and least restriction. 

Bravotv.com: It was Chris’ idea to break up into a Creative Team and a Kitchen Team. Do you think that was wise? 
JI: I understand what Chris was thinking, but I would have done it a bit differently, especially since the creative team didn't live up to their part of the bargain and provide the production team with the items they needed. Its true -- you don't need 10 people each tempering their own chocolate to make decorations, but I do feel that each chef should have been more responsible for both their own "creative" and "production" pieces. I would have designated maybe one or two people to temper chocolate for everyone and maybe work on a larger piece together, but the fact that Chris had everyone working on a giant piece that ultimately he would receive credit for seemed like a waste. I think other teammates suffered and weren't able to execute and live out their wild pastry dreams!

Bravotv.com: Which creations from the movie were you hoping the chefs would execute? 
JI: I was definitely hoping to see the chocolate river, the wallpaper, something blueberry, something carbonated, and the giant colorful mushrooms. For the most part, most of these were there. I was also hoping to see someone make a version of an everlasting gobstopper as well as a life-sized oompa loompa. That really would have sent it home for me. 

Bravotv.com: Some might think that Chris made promises he couldn’t keep — how do you think he handles his responsibilities? 
JI: I think Chris had good intentions. You can tell he is used to being a team leader, as well as being in a competition setting. I think he uses that too his advantage too often and tends to manipulate the other chefs and force his ideas upon people. I think the other chefs really have to stand up for themselves and not allow Chris or anyone else to tell them what they should or have to make, because ultimately, they will go home for an error in judgment, not the person they listened to. I was disappointed when I saw that Chris and the creative team did not make the items they said they would. They should have edited what they were doing to make sure they could finish what they had agreed to do for the others. It seemed unprofessional and selfish. In the end, it also affected the overall final effort for the whole team. 

Bravotv.com: Which dishes stood out to you for better or worse? 
JI: Those doughnuts were so bad. The gummy bears were rubbery and tasteless. They were dry, poorly-glazed and just had a bad flavor. I liked Katzie's carrot cake a lot. She thought out of the box and created a garden that wasn't in the movie but easily could have been, as well as the interactive beehive. This is exactly the type of creativity we were looking for. Matthew's profiterole lollipops were also very unique, tasty, and creative in the way he displayed them. The peanut butter macarons were so good! Chris' waterfall looked a bit like it came from a horror movie and the chocolate milk was OK. He had to keep diluting it to keep it flowing. I'm glad he made the chocolate teacups though. I loved Rebecca's golden chocolate cake eggs. Cool idea. Bravotv.com: What do you think the biggest mistakes the chefs made were? 
JI: Some of the chefs thought about the way their dishes looked a bit more then how they tasted. Sally's wheel barrel dessert was just all over the place and didn't make sense. Melissa should not have served the doughnuts especially when she had a second dessert being the whoopie pie. She didn't like the way they came out, plus the creative team didn't take care of decorating her pole like they said they would. She should have edited herself. Only serve what you are proud of and what tastes delicious. Megan should have expected there to be children on the guest list and not served alcohol. Plus her lavender shortbread was just lackluster and not exciting, and the cream sickle curd was really sweet. She spent too much time running around helping other people and not enough time working on her own products she served. 

Bravotv.com: Why did the two eliminated chefs go home? 
JI: What Craig created and served really didn't contribute anything other then the expected visual effect. Plus, he had to have Sally essentially teach him how to do it as he went along. At this point, he was really holding the other team members behind. All that time and that is all he produced? If it was the most amazing gummy bear I had ever tasted, it would still be a hard argument to keep him since it was all he contributed. He had been struggling to keep up with the other chefs for quite some time, and this was the first time that he had to really face the judges on his own, and it didn't go well for him. Melissa admitted to not even tasting the doughnuts before she served them, which is the cardinal rule for a chef -- always taste your food. Then the way she served them on an uncovered pvc pipe, was just thoughtless, sloppy, and unappetizing. She didn't need to serve them. Had she not, she prob wouldn't have gone gone. I thought her whoopie pies were beautiful, creative, and a great addition to the room. But there is no excuse for food that tastes bad and still served. 

 

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!

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Here's my friend Gina and I with Hasty!

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

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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!