"Sugar is Not a Flavor"

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

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!

Final Warning for THE CRAIG

"Sugar is Not a Flavor"

The chefs struggle more with a carnival-inspired Elimination Challenge than a one-handed Quickfire Challenge!

Hello my little macarons! First, I must say that I stole this week's recap title from Johnny Iuzzini. I'll explain further down. I hope you all had a very sweet week, and were ready for this week's episode featuring none other than Francois Payard. I think my senility has hit an all-time high because i literally forgot that he guest-judged last season until Gail reminded me. Remember?

Oh well -- I got excited all over again. It was like seeing him again for the first time.For this week's Quickfire Challenge, the chefs had to make pie, and Chef Payard explained how important the pie crust is. 

If you want to make Hubert Keller's perfect pie crust, he'll show you how here.

I looooove pie (although I go back in forth in my head whether I prefer pie or cake -- which one do you prefer?) The chefs didn't just have to make pie, though, they had to make it with one hand tied behind their backs! Now they sort of know what Rebecca went through most of the season!

The chefs took it in stride, though, and the only one who had a real problem was Matthew. He accidentally moved his dish with his extra hand. Thus, he was out of contention for the win. I looove when contestants say they hope no one saw them break the rules … to the camera. No, Matthew. No one saw you.  Sally tried, once again, to play to the guest judges' favorite flavor profiles (she mentioned the same strategy for Pichet Ong), this time, however, it sort of backfired in that Chef Payard thought her pie was a little too tart and her crust wasn't quite up to snuff. Chris' pie was a tad too sweet -- when discussing Chris' pie with Gail, she brought up a great quote from Johnny Iuzzini: "Sugar is not a flavor." I just love this. It's so true, and such a perfect comment for so many desserts we eat all the time. Orlando's pie was successful, but, ultimately, Carlos won. He too knew the flavors Chef Payard enjoys, but -- unlike in Sally's case -- that knowledge actually worked to his benefit.

For the Elimination Challenge the chefs are told they will be creating upscale carnival food for a Top Chef Carnival hosted by Food & Wine's Dana Cowin. There's upscale and there's wearing cocktail dresses to a carnival. I have to say i was kind of nervous for everyone when I saw what the guests were wearing -- the event was actually much more upscale than even i expected!

We'll start with my personal favorite dish of the night -- Sally's. Sally pretty much won me over at "corn." There are a few ingredients that perk me up immediately. Even my friends know which ones they are. If i'm at a restaurant, it's not rare for them to say, "Well, I know what you're ordering." Inevitably, that dish has either corn, bacon, or both! Sooo, Sally's would have been the dessert I would have ordered. Thankfully, it was received well by the judges, but not as well as Matthew's. Matthew made an apple empanada. The judges love their fresh fruit with their cooked fruit, huh? A Matthew hater would say that Matthew's dish looked like a glorified McDonald's apple pie (I thought it too). And guess what? McDonald's apple pies are delicious. But this one was fried, and the crust on Matthew's just looked like flaky deliciousness.Now, to our bottom dishes. I know a lot of you will be upset that Orlando didn't go home, especially since judging from your comments, most of you are over him. Well, i think Gail explains very well why he didn't. I was very nervous for him, though. Johnny warned him that his use of chocolate was a mistake, and he didn't listen. And, it was. What's interesting is that the chocolate wasn't a huge disconnect for me, as usually chocolate and nut-coated apples can usually be found right next to caramel apples, but Orlando didn't reference that. And it probably wouldn't have mattered. Chris' funnel cake ice cream sounded pretty great had it been executed correctly, but he just had way too many things going on on his plate.

Neither Orlando nor Chris' dishes were worse than Carlos'. He really just fell apart after the demise of his beloved macarons. This killed me because he made such wonderful macarons in the Wonka challenge. Unfortunately, his quick thinking in making angel food cake as a replacement just didn't hold up. Macarons and angel food cake have very different textures, so it seemed like a long shot to me, but i was hoping it would work out. Unfortunateyl it didn't, and Carlos went home. I really, really liked Carlos, and I'm happy this show introduced his talent to us. He's super-talented and hopefully a lot more people will go to experience his desserts in Las Vegas.

Here's a preview of next week's episode:


Until then, Have a Nosh!!



Grande Finale

Hubert Keller explains why Chris ultimately edged out Sally for the win.


So here we are, at the grande finale, as they say in France. This is where the culminated talents of our chefs are put under a microscope and the strongest overall performance by the most confident chef prevails and wins the competition! This is the final round, the final challenge, and finally, we will have a winner!

The stage is set, and Matthew, Chris, and Sally are waiting nervously to hear what Gail and Johnny have to say about the final challenge.

The challenge: to prove that they are the most complete pastry chef by creating a show-piece, an entremet cake, bonbons, a form of savory bread, and a dessert that focuses on a special person in their life!

Wow!  So much to think about, so much pressure… and just after Johnny shared an emotional moment, expressing the joy he has knowing that he was able to present his mother with a home-made birthday cake he baked for her just before she passed away; and you could start to see tears well-up in the cheftestants' eyes. Suddenly, their frowns became overwhelmed with a surprised excitement. They were all astonished to see MOFs Jaques “Mr. Chocolate” Torres, Sebastian Cannon, co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, and Stephane Treand, owner of The Art of Pastry, walk into the kitchen to help assist in their final challenge! Gail informs our competitors that our guest pastry legends would be sitting down as diners when all is complete to taste and help critique their final presentation. With their jaws dropping to the floor, they quickly scurried over to meet these pastry icons and without hesitation, and the competition began!

Sally confided in Sebastion Cannon and admitted that she was uncomfortable with the showpiece element of this competition. She went over her plan, which seemed well thought-out and moved forward with her ideas, determined to use assertive, exotic flavor combinations and the inspiration of her mother and sister, to win the hearts of the judges….

Matt told “Mr.Chocolate” that his wife and daughter would be the motive for his dessert presentation and he would try to impress his way into the winner’s circle by choosing to take risks and using combinations of items and ingredients he has not really worked with before, such as sugar as the base of his show-piece. Matt hoped to prove to the judges that he is not afraid to gamble, and to get out of his comfort zone and push himself to new-heights! A gutsy move, but would this come back to bite him in the sugar-bun, at the end of the challenge?

Chris went over his plan with Sebastian Cannon. Chris wanted to have a clean and well thought-out presentation, that connected his showpiece idea with the rest of his dessert. His theme: mechanical, industrial, and impressive. Would he impress enough?

So, after one day of putting their ideas together, and getting input from their culinary heroes, they were back to the grindstone to continue the final round, only to find out that all the eliminated TCJD2 cheftestants were in the kitchen waiting for them!

What was this new curveball going to be? Come to find out, our final three chefs had to pick a number, and whichever of the previous cheftestants had the number, taped to the back of a very large un-edible cookie that they were holding; that person, randomly, would make up part of that chef’s team. They got to choose one more former cheftestant to make up teams of three individuals… the plot thickens, and the cookie crumbles!

The Teams:

Sally chose Orlando to help her with her showpiece; a great move! She got stuck with Van as an assistant by drawing the number he was holding. He made a nice cheerleader in the kitchen while the other two were hard at work! Sally discovered that her entremet-cake had been layered incorrectly and had to re-do it with time running out. She put the gas on and was able to produce one of the most beautiful desserts of the whole competition! Orlando, with Sally’s vision, pretty much built that show piece on his own, while Sally got caught-up from her mistake from the day before. A great effort, Orlando built an elegant, towering showpiece out of chocolate. Sally had a chocolate mousse, mango vanilla cream, caramel cremeux, lime, and almond sponge as her entremet. Parkerhouse rolls with bacon, green onions, gruyere, and bay leaves, for her savory bread, and salted caramel milk chocolate bonbons. She killed it! Everything was bursting with flavor. I love Sally’s work! 

Matt drew Megan and called upon Carlos to be his wingman in the kitchen. They put out a hazelnut dacquoise, passion fruit gelee entremet, focaccia with olive oil and malden salt with fresh thyme for the bread loaf, and keylime ganache and speculoos bonbons. Great flavor, great passion… nice job, Matt!

I must say, I was surprised that Matt didn’t go for a spectacular chocolate showpiece since that is his forte, but the light, playful color of his sugar piece did show well!

Chris had Rebecca from the pre-challenge draft, but with both arms available, he still didn’t really let her participate; and he picked Amanda, someone who seems to be very helpful and takes orders well historically throughout this competition. His entremet was delicious: a chocolate mousse with vanilla cream and raspberry jam. His bread was a classic brioche with a maple butter and bacon and salt, and his bonbons were coffee infused ganache with a very thin crunchy shell. Chris and Sally had the best bonbons!…And now it’s time for the plated desert!

The plated dessert was very important and really showed us who put the whole package together!

Sally’s plated dessert was a white chocolate espresso mousse with chocolate cremeux, cashew nougatine, and ice cream. Inspired by her mother and her sister, the flavor’s that Sally put together were again, simply put, the best! Unfortunately, the presentation was missing the glaze, and her dessert, to the eye, wasn’t as alive as it was on the palate. She lost a little of that finesse that had become her trademark in this competition. In the last round, we saw that Orlando edited himself and by doing so, he shot himself in the foot. I thought by not glazing her dessert for the final Judges' Table, Sally did the same. 

Matt was inspired by his wife and daughter and made a whimsical playground of chocolate chip cookie with raspberry ice cream… if it were a piece of art, it would have been Picasso; colorful chaos on a plate… very cool and edgy, but maybe not the right choice for the grand prize. And as "Madame Chocolate” mentioned, I think some people at the Judges' Table really wanted a chocolate chip cookie.

Chris did well! He made a very vibrant butter almond cake with mango sauce, banana ice cream, and continued his structural design from the showpiece as an accent on his plated dessert… a cool touch. Johnny was right, our whole table devoured his dessert. The flavors were well balanced; a home-run!

It was a tough decision… flavor-wise, for me it was Sally; although I thought Chris deserved to win. It just was unfortunate that Sally fell a little short in the final, but I’m sure she’ll move on to be quite a success anywhere she decides to go!Matt brought some exciting ideas to the table and put some wonderful flavors in our mouths, but it wasn’t his best night either. The way he sets his high standards for himself, he too will be a star in someone’s kitchen, maybe even his own!

Chris deserved to be crowned the winner. He was Mr. Consistency, always impressing with ideas, skill, creativity, and managing ability in the kitchen, a true Top Chef! Bravo, Chris! Congratulations!

I think that these contestants in TCJD2 raised the bar to a new level this year. It was fun, exciting, dramatic, and electrifying. I was proud to see how these guys came together and grew throughout these episodes and challenges.

I hope that watching and supporting our program gave you the inspiration to have a sweeter time in the kitchen and perhaps be our next Top Chef!

Thank you!