Bravotv.com: A lot of the chefs used bananas — is that trendy now? Or, did that surprise you?
JI: Yeah, a banana definitely wouldn't be my first choice. I think the chefs were thinking of familiar flavors that lend themselves well to being in combination with chocoate. Banana is a no-brainer. Bananas are always a popular choice on dessert menus. I was surprised we didn't see more caramel and more outrageous flavor combinations. I thought Sally's forbidden rice candy bar sounded great. Totally out of the box.
Bravotv.com: Water parks! Did you go to them a lot growing up?
JI: I was an amusement and water park fiend as a kid growing up. I loved them. My brothers and I would go whenever we could. We liked all the super steep/fast slides and flumes where you would get completely soaked. Our absolute favorite was the tubes though. We would all go at the same time and spend the whole time trying to knock each other off our tubes. Wrestling and double-teaming each other all the way to the bottom. I think we got kicked out of the water park almost every time we went for rough housing and being crazy kids.
Bravotv.com: Can you tell us more about your connection to L&B Gardens?
JI: My families roots after coming to America from Italy are primarily in Brooklyn. L&B has been around for a long time. It started out as a horse-drawn buggy business of selling the spumoni around the neighborhood. My dad went to high school not far from there and would always go there. I didn't grow up in Brooklyn, but every time we went fishing or went to see friends and family we would try and stop by L&B for a square slice and spumoni. We would sit there and my dad would tell stories about the neighborhood and how it has changed and of the trouble he and his brothers would cause. I love it. It is a family-run business since the beginning. They have slowly expanded over the years and now have a pizzeria and restaurant as well as an outdoor seating area. It's funny, you know, growing up, you are always introduced to people as your uncle this or your aunt that or your cousin this. By the time I was in my 20s, I had no idea who I actually was or wasn't related to. It's kind of a running joke in the family. So Camille Barbati, one of the actual L&B family members was introduced to me as one of my "family" members a long time ago. So ever since then I have considered her family. We see each other at holidays and they come to visit me at the restaurant from time to time. So as far as I am concerned, THEY ARE FAMILY.
Bravotv.com: What do you think the biggest mistake the teams made was?
JI: I think the teams made some crucial mistakes. First of all, on a hot day, the last thing you want to eat is a hot dessert. Another major flaw that some of the chefs made was that their desserts were too sweet and not refreshing. Also, did the chefs really think about who their customers were? When they choose the flavors and combinations, were they thinking families and kids at a water park or judges in a competition? Another issue was that some of the chefs didn't think about ease of eating or drinking it.