Cast Blog: #JUSTDESSERTS

Scary Good

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

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

Scary Good

Episode 4: Tears are shed (on the part of Bravotv.com's Senior Editor) as the chefs meet the cast of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Hello my little Augustus Gloops! (I saw some of your tweets requesting his presence.) I can't express how much I loved this episode. It's one of those that gave me the chills, had me tearing up, and just had me lovin' life. So, let's get right into it!

The chefs were brought to a screening room of some sort, with a concession stand outside. Matthew continues to impress me, as he was the only chef that commented that he chose his confections based on what he would want to cook in a Quickfire. Absolutely brilliant. This just showed that he knows how to play a game -- that anything, even a seemingly harmless invitation to a "relaxing night out" from Gail -- could become a challenge. (That Gail is a wily one, after all!)

Fortunately for Matt and the other chefs, he could just enjoy his candy and a screening of the classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I have to admit I've never seen the Johnny Depp remake because, well, it just looked frightening to me, and the original actually scares me sometimes too, but it also delights. I saw it more times growing up than i care to comment (not more than Newsies, don't worry.) After the screening, a few audience members emerged, and Gail introduced them as the original cast members of the film. Orlando's reaction was probably the funniest, not knowing he was sitting next to the Veruca Salt. She obliged Rebecca and the other chefs by uttering her famous line, "I want it, and I want it now." What great sports these guys were.

So, for the Eliminated Challenge, the chefs had to create their own world of Pure Imagination -- a pastry chefs' dream come true. I honestly would've loved to have seen what Johnny Iuzzini would have come up with! Johnny was right in saying the chefs' real hindrance was their own imaginations. Even though they don't usually have to build such an elaborate environment, one would think that they try to concoct desserts stretching their own imaginations every day. Chris suggested the group split up into two teams -- a creative team and a food-producing team. As all of the chefs worked on their own items, it became clear the creative team might not be able to hold up their end of the bargain. I'm starting to wonder to what extent Chris is playing the game -- is he sabotaging his competitors? I'd prefer not to think so because I like Chris. The reason Chris couldn't help out as much as he may have liked was due to the time spent (and others' time spent) creating the classic chocolate waterfall from the film. I actually agreed with him that that piece was maybe the most recognizable element from the film. But then again, Hubert suggests in his blog this week that a chocolate lake could have been equally effective and taken less time, and even Charlie Bucket himself suggests that the chefs could focus more on new ideas, rather than simply recreating ideas from the film. Chris lands in the middle. 

Megan, a member of Chris' team, was all over the place, certainly trying to hold up her team's part of the deal, and her desserts suffered because of it. I love love loved that Carlos stood up for Megan at Judges' Table. He's good peeps, and super-talented. He killed it with his edible wallpaper. 

Megan was safe, but Sally, Craig, and Melissa were in trouble. Sally was spared, although Gail reveals just how close she was to going home. Craig goes home for his poorly-executed gummy bears and Melissa's green donuts sent her home. I'm sure many of you are happy to see Craig go home, and honestly, I'm excited to see what Sally can do without worrying about her former student. Katzie pulled out the win with her amazing carrot cake patch and beehive. She deserved this win -- I thought her ideas were new and very clever. And, well, i love carrot cake!

Before I go for this week, I promised a pic of my friend's Ron Ben-Israel original wedding cake. Here it is!

It was a Brown Butter Cake with Hazelnut Praline Crunch and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Filling. It was ridiculously delicious. I always make a point to try the cake of whatever wedding I'm attending, but I made a special point to sit down and really taste this one. It was exceptional. 

Anyone else have any fabulous wedding cakes lately? And, tell me if you cried during this episode, so I don't feel like a crazy person!

Until next week, Have a Nosh!

 

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Gail Simmons elaborates on the judges' agonizing final decision.

 

Bravotv.com: So we’re at the finale, and you introduce the three MOFs. What was the reaction in the room?
Gail Simmons: I should explain what an MOF is, because we keep calling them MOFs, but I don’t think we actually say what it stands for! MOF stands for Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. In France, it is the highest honor, the highest award given in a number of different occupations, for being the master of your craft. For a pastry chef to become an MOF, you have to do very rigorous training, and then you have to compete. Chefs train all year for it. If people want to learn more about it, there’s a film called Kings of Pastry, about Jacquy Pfeiffer’s preparation for the competition, and the incredible lengths he goes to reach this goal. In France, it really is considered the greatest height of someone’s career. 

So, we wanted to emulate the competition for our chefs, but obviously they don’t have any way to prepare for it and it was on a much smaller scale. Similar to how on Top Chef we did the Bocuse d'Or challenge, this is sort of the equivalent in pastry. We asked them to make a sugar sculpture, a bread, a plated dessert, a bon bon, and an Entremet (a layered mousse cake). We brought the three MOFs to the Top Chef: Just Desserts kitchen to assist us and to assist our finalists, and then Jacquy and others were at the final tasting, which is sort of amazing. They really are the gods of pastry in this country. Another interesting thing about MOF status is, once you’re honored with this award, you are no longer ever allowed to compete again. You cannot enter competitions, you cannot be competitive because your job is now to teach and mentor, only. That is why we didn’t have the chefs specifically assisting one contestant or specifically competing against each other. Instead, they alternated between the chefs and just gave their overall, general help and assistance any way they could. I wish there was more of a chance to explain all the things the chefs were doing in more detail because their work for this finale was really quite extraordinary. I mean you get to see a little of it but the process is so fascinating to watch. 

Then the second day of their work they were given two sous-chefs from eliminated contestants, one that got picked at random through a number system and one that they chose themselves.Bravotv.com: What was it like hearing their backstory, because you guys never really hear that until you watch the episodes later, but these pieces were supposed to be pretty personal, so they finally kind of exposed themselves?
GS: Yes, they were very personal, and actually I don’t think the way it was edited the viewers heard even close to what their full stories were, especially Chris’. They were all so moving and it really showed how personal the process or cooking and baking can be. When you create something unique and artistic, that creative process takes so much out of you emotionally and physically, and it really is such a personal expression. All three of them did a great job. 

Matthew took on an extra challenge because he’s a restaurant chef, always has been. He’s never really worked with showpieces, but he chose to do it all himself, regardless of his sous-chef. Plus, he made it out of sugar, which is a very difficult thing to do. It’s very delicate, and temperamental, and temperature-sensitive. He used very warm, bright red tones that stood out from everything else in the room, all for his wife and his daughter. I also loved his Key Lime bon bon. His bread was a focaccia. It was lovely and delicious, but in the spectrum of bread dough and bread-making, focaccia is a pretty basic dough. Although he did a very good one and certainly there is a difference between a bad and a good focaccia. It was moist, and it had a great olive oil flavor, and tasty coarse salt on it. But it was not anywhere near as complex as either of the doughs for the bread items that the other two chefs made. His entremet was very good too. It looked great and tasted great, but it was not as precise as the other two either. His flavors were excellent though, and the passion he has for pastry was literally oozing out of him. You could just see how hard he worked. It’s an amazing feat that he accomplished all that he did with such thoughtfulness and creativity. I hope he's proud of it!

Bravotv.com: His plated dessert was kind of abstract. . .
GS: His plated dessert was very abstract. It was a lovely concept. I just don’t think he was able to fully realize the idea in his head, and he wasn’t able to translate it properly to the plate. It was all for his daughter. He wanted to make it like a playground, where you jump around, go in one direction and then another, and you can skip from one taste to the next. But the idea of that hominess and childlike comfort that he kept talking about wasn’t there. Also the idea of the chocolate cookie he described wasn’t there. There were so many different components that you couldn’t figure out how they all worked together. It’s just one of those desserts that if he had more time to work out, he could probably make perfect.

I’m such a Matt fan, and I think he’s so talented. I’m a big fan of both of his restaurants. I think Matt is a really terrific pastry chef who has a huge career ahead of him.Bravotv.com: So then there’s Sally. . .
GS: The competition was so close! Sally did a fantastic job in many respects. Her entremet was magnificent. When I was watching the episode this week I thought that slice of her entremet they showed was drool-inducing: mango, chocolate, caramel… yum! Her showpiece was also beautiful -- I know that’s going to be a big issue with people, that she did not make her showpiece herself. She had Orlando do it as her sous-chef. However, she’s allowed to. That is the point. That’s why we gave them the sous-chefs. If we wanted them to make everything themselves, we wouldn’t have given them assistants. She was smart to assign people work based on their strengths and what they’re most capable of. It was her concept, and it went very well with the rest of her work and her vision. Her bonbon was well done. But in my memory, I think it was my least favorite of the three. It was very pretty, but just a little bit more ordinary compared to the other two. I’ve seen salted caramel, milk chocolate bon bons before. Her bread by far was the best. It was amazing and complex. You could see the skill that went into making it. Her plated dessert, flavor-wise was excellent. The coffee, the cream, the cashews -- those are all great in combination. The story about her mother and her sister, which you didn’t hear all of, was really inspiring, and she accomplished with it that sense of personal emotion that Johnny wanted them all to feel. But there were pieces of her dessert that were messy, and at this level, we just can’t accept that. The sphere that she made wasn’t glazed and wasn’t clean. There were a lot of layers to her dessert, so it was pretty dense and rich. Our final decision really was so close though. We agonized over it...

Bravotv.com: And there was Chris…
GS: Chris had very few flaws. Yes, a couple of pieces of his bread fell off his showpiece, but it did not detract from the immense amount of work and the stunning quality of that showpiece. It overwhelmed the room when we walked in. It was so powerful and strong, and then it had these delicate flowers on it. It really made a huge statement and told his story well, which he followed through with throughout his entire presentation, including his plated desserts. It had an industrial quality, which I loved. Reading into it, the story showed how he needed to be strong and separate his emotions so he could come to this challenge and not worry about his sick child at home. This idea of needing to be like these steel beams that he created so that he could muster the force to keep going every day he was away from his family. At least that is how I saw it. His entremet was spectacular. The textures, flavors ad layers were lovely. His bon bon was exceptional -- the shape, the flavors. His bread was good, but not as good as Sally’s. It was more interesting than Matt’s. He made a bacon butter with it, but I wish he had put that flavor into the bread itself. His plated dessert was by far my favorite of the day. It looked very simple. When I first saw it, I was surprised. I thought he would do something much more complex, much more over-the-top, modern, in presentation and style. But it tasted exactly how I hoped it would t. It had great texture. It had great flavor, and it gave me this amazing sense of satisfaction. It was warm and sweet, but not too sweet. It was balanced. Bravotv.com: And now, we have a new Top Chef.
GS: I was actually with Yigit this weekend, and I asked him if he was ready to give back his tiara, and he said, “No.” Hopefully we can make Chris an equally beautiful tiara. Chris is an outstanding pastry chef. From the very first day, he worked exceedingly hard to get to where he is. I’m so grateful that I had could work with all three of them. All three of them are so talented, but that day, judging from the three presentations that we saw and ate, Chris’ deserved to be in first place. 

Then, right after we shot this finale, I took off my cocktail dress, put on a pair of cowboy boots, and headed to Texas with Tom and Padma! And that’s where I’ll see you all next week! Thanks for a truly wonderful season.