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!