No Whangdoodles or Hornswogglers Here!

Dannielle Kyrillos shares her Oompa Loompa-like lessons.

Hi, everybody! Hope you’ve had an extremely tasty week, and were as filled with childlike wonder and excitement as I was by this nostalgic, mesmerizing episode.  

It would be nearly impossible to find many grown-up Americans of a certain age who weren’t totally obsessed with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory when they were little. To imagine being invited to a world where everything is not just beautiful, but edible, even now makes for some pretty good daydreaming, especially if your day-to-day life is dessert.  

For pastry chefs to have complete creative freedom to recreate that magic world for some of the people who were closer than any of us to seeing it as reality was a challenge they might have awaited since childhood. A dream come true, as Katzie said. I got goose bumps when Sally said the movie had influenced and inspired her not just as a pastry chef, but also in terms of how she thought about what was possible. The potential is unlimited!

Maybe I’m just a goody two shoes, but another big thing from the movie that always stuck with me was the moralizing in the Oompa Loompas’ songs. After each kid’s downfall, the industrious, playful and very, very wise little guys would remind us, in rhyme, that chewing gum is gross, eating too much makes you fat, and watching too much TV is for morons. I know they’d have pulled life lessons from this challenge… here are what some of them might have been.  (Sorry they don’t rhyme!)

It’s never just a day at the movies. Of course everyone was so relieved and happy when the GailMail invited them out of the kitchen--finally! But you have to give it to Matthew for assuming a Quickfire or some trick was around the corner and choosing his movie theater snacks based on what he could whip up out of them. That was really cute and smart.

There is such a thing as magic. When Adult Violet says seeing the edible landscape in the Just Desserts dining room for the first time was even better than what we can imagine the original was like, I almost cried. The chefs did it! They created a real world of pure imagination, filled with real treats to gobble up, to rival anything from the movie. They used 300 pounds of chocolate! Carlos’ wallpaper was even better than the movie version. I bet he’ll be flooded with calls from people (even beyond all the Violet Beauregarde types out there!) wanting their own. Amanda’s raspberry fizzies actually fizzed! Watching the kid guests’ faces as they walked in and completely freaked out at what they saw was magic itself. And Ron Ben-Israel is the perfect guest judge for Wonka, as it’s as if he grew up on the set of the movie. He is so fanciful, so wild, and lavish… he knows a thing or two about creating edible worlds.Protect yourself before you extend yourself. We all saw it coming watching Megan scurry around, giving her all to Chris and the rest of the creative team, and then worry, correctly, that she hadn’t put enough into her own dishes. Johnny said it best: you should have seen how much of your own, individual dish work you could have gotten done, and then decided how much time you had to help, and you did the opposite. You can’t trust that others are going to hold up their end of the bargain (and in this case, it didn’t seem like they did.) Sally fell into some of the same trouble helping Craig. It was encouraging, though, to see the others stand up for Megan and explain that nothing would have turned as great as it did without her working so hard on it. That was solid of them, and competition or not, the right thing for them to do.

Little boys and girls should not drink bourbon. I think the answer to, “What in the heck was Megan thinking, making alcohol the star ingredient of a dish to be served in a wonderland crawling with children?” is, she just wasn’t. While it was smart of her to say in the early planning stages that the judges would be looking for “some kind of sense behind it, some kind of cohesive thought,” she just ran out of steam on the logic behind her own dishes. And after all the trouble she got, the bourbon flavor was lost and hard to taste. Poor Megan.

Believe in your ideas and fight for them.  Katzie won because her ideas were the most fancifully stunning and fun and out there, and of course the best executed and most delicious — exactly what limitless creativity should have produced. I like that she didn’t whine that Chris was too bossy and then blame him for stifling her vision or dragging her down (which happens often when one chef is especially vocal in the planning), but rather stuck to her guns, convinced everyone that her beehive and carrot patch were going to work, and then executed perfectly.

Just because you think you won doesn’t mean you did. The look on Chris’s face when he figured out that the judges had called in the top and the bottom, and that he was stuck unnoticed in the middle, was kind of priceless. He was so convinced his precious waterfall was going to change people’s lives that he was almost blinded by his own sense of awesomeness. Confidence is important, but can turn to hubris.

Taste your food. Melissa, how, at this point in Top Chef history, could you ever serve anything you hadn’t tasted?? It’s like the golden rule: don’t give someone something you haven’t determined yourself is delicious and worthy. I suspect she knew, as we all sort of felt, looking at those donuts that they were beyond saving and that they probably tasted gross so why bother, but why didn’t she chuck them? The green monsters sent her home.

Give it your all, until that’s not enough. It seemed like in the midst of this challenge, Craig finally, after all his fits and starts and highs and lows, realized he was done. He expressed it by making fun of his work, which rightly irritated Hubert, but it was like watching a car run out of gas. But at least we got to see Johnny looking like Augustus Gloop when he picked up Craig’s giant gummy bear and bit off the ear. Priceless.

For more sweet musings and happy inspirations, please follow me on Twitter @DKyrillos.

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