Johnny and the Beanstalk

Taking the Cake

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Best in Show

Grande Finale

Nobody's Perfect

The Final Four

Default image

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!

Johnny and the Beanstalk

Johnny discusses his new 'do and what he would do in a soda fountain Quickfire. First, a lot of people are going to ask about your haircut. What made you go for it?
You know, every few years i change my look for the simple reason that i get bored. If you Google Image me you will see so many different looks. Long hair, short hair, clean shaven, beard, etc. I was a club kid in my youth and for a long time changed my hair color often, including bleaching it out to a silvery platinum blond. Another reason I changed it was it became a focal point of people. I'd rather them pay more attention to the chefs and their skills then my sideburns and pompadour. Plus, I was a bit to easily recognized on the street. I like my anonymity You and Gail seemed a little disappointed with the number of banana splits made during the Quickfire. What was your first impression of the chefs through these desserts?
Well sure, we are all excited to see what the chefs can do -- but to their defense, they were working with a limited pantry in a quasi-kitchen working in teams with other chefs that they have never met. Some chefs definitely showed more creativity then the others and were faster thinking on their feet. We could definitely begin to see who had some of the stronger personalities of the bunch. What might you have made if you were competing in the Quickfire? Well it's funny, that is always the question I ask myself when we announce each challenge. What would I make? This challenge was about creating a modern twist on a classic soda jerk preparation. I would take all the flavors of a root beer float or egg cream and rebuild them in a new form changing the perception of the dessert by providing texture and turning something classically served in a cup into a plated dessert that, when you eat it, would still transport you and instantly evoke those emotional memories. Onto the Elimination Challenge! What do you think the key was to creating a successful showpiece and plated dishes?
When working in a team effort, you must first identify each member of the teams strengths and weaknesses. Then there always has to be some sort of a team leader, it always becomes an issue when there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. A competition is not the place you should be trying out new techniques or pretending like you are more comfortable with your skills then they really are -- especially when your teammates are counting on you. When creating desserts that are served with a showpiece there must be a strong theme that carries between the two. They don't have to look the same exactly but they should both be easily identifiable and easily connected either through flavor or design. A play on words doesn't really fall into this category. What do you think the biggest mistake the teams made? br>Some teams tried to do techniques they weren't familiar with. They should have done what they knew best and used their time more wisely to make sure the desserts they served made up for any shortcomings of the showpiece. The teams really needed to divide and conquer, rather then having to go back a remake and fix things over and over again. They needed to be honest with each other regarding their abilities and then use those same strengths to push their team to the win. Orlando wasn't too keen on Rebecca's original rice pudding idea. Do you think rice pudding could have been successful?
I think Orlando was smart in advising Rebecca to use the oats rather then rice for the porridge. I think if she would have just made rice pudding that for sure would have drawn some harsh criticism from me. By using the oats it showed adaptability, creativity, and finding a way to connect to the teams fairy tale theme. The point of competition is to raise the bar, not just make the things you make every day in your home kitchen. It has to pop and grab attention. I think some viewers might have been surprised Craig didn't go home. What would you response be to that?
Well, if Craig had been on the losing team then there would have been a strong chance that he would have gone home. But, all in all, Craig's team was not the worst that day. After all it was a team competition and not an individual one. This is one of the benefits and flaws of team challenges. A team challenge, in a sense, may protect the weak because it then becomes an average of total talent. We never really know what people are capable of until the only person they can rely on is themselves. The episode stressed how creating showpieces is a different skill set. Is it something taught in pastry school? Where would one hone their showpiece-making skills?
Showpiece work is one of many specialized skill sets within the vast genre of pastry. More often than not chefs who are really great at showpieces work in either hotels or schools that allow for lots of practice as well as extra space. Chefs that work in hotels are constantly making showpieces for decoration for buffets as well as amenities for guests rooms. Pastry school is great for a foundation and introducing you to basic techniques, but it is really up to the chefs to practice, practice, practice and refine their techniques. Restaurant chefs and bakers traditionally do not make a lot of showpieces (there are always exceptions of course). Which desserts and showpieces blew you away for better and worse?
I think Chris and Orlando are definitely two chefs with the most experience in that category, not only in that they both compete on a regular basis, but that they are both in positions in the industry where they get the opportunity to practice their craft often and work on their chocolate and sugar techniques. I really enjoyed the small details that Chris and his team thought of that did not stand out, you had to look for them a bit. Like the claws of the wolf, granny's glasses, and the fact that they made Riding Hood out of sugar. They also made a very tasty blackout cake dessert. I liked the idea of the pipette for their bomboloni too. I have no idea what a pineapple dessert was doing in the story of Hansel and Gretel. The ginger really blew out the delicate pea flavor on Jack and the Beanstalk, and Megan's cakes really were very bland -- again probably because she had to correct Craig's mistakes. Also the carbonated drink and chocolate cloud were all-ill balanced and just not delicious.

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!