Taking the Cake

Dannielle Kyrillos explains what the judges' decision ultimately came down to.

Hi, everyone! I’m kind of in disbelief and a little sad that this is the last blog post of the season. I am so grateful to you all for coming along on this sweet but sometimes scary ride with us. And here we are: after weeks of struggle, sacrifice, and scintillating drama, it all comes down to this: the big finale.  

As the episode opened, it gave me goose bumps to watch each of the three remaining chefs let the reality sink in that this was real, they’d actually made it to the end, after all that time away from family and friends and jobs and normal life.  

Matt, Sally, and Chris each also realized for the first time that the title of Top Chef: Just Desserts and that $100,000 check were actually within reach, which must be such a wild sensation. I think knowing you have a one-in-three shot at that much prestige and money must be quite a mental trip. Energizing and terrifying.

And then the MOFs appear. Holy smokes. To put their importance and the chefs’ reactions to them in perspective, it would be as if you were a young musician working on a new song and all of a sudden Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney walked in and offered to lend a hand.  Some of you are familiar with this French title. It translates to “best craftsmen of France,” and the competitions are held not just in pastry but in all sorts of disciplines, such as mosaics, tailoring, and blacksmithing. The goal is to get as close to perfection as possible in creating a masterpiece.  

Very serious stuff, but spending time with the MOFs was some of the most fun I had all season. Jacques Torres we know from his work in New York and on our last season, and Sebastien Cannone and Stefane Treand were such fantastic and fascinating company, too. All three are sweet, hilarious and, like most pastry chefs, just a little nutty. In the best possible way.The challenge for our finale mirrored such a classic competition, and it felt like a perfectly well-rounded one. Having to prove that you’re a “complete” pastry chef is no small feat, especially in such a short amount of time, and I think Sally, Chris, and Matt all performed gorgeously overall.  Do you agree?  

The chefs are pretty passionate people anyway, but the challenge dictating that their inspiration, especially for the plated dessert, should be a loved one, upped the ante on cooking from the heart. This time, you could taste the love. You really could. I am getting misty-eyed just thinking back on the stories each of them told about their wives, children, mothers, and sisters when they served their desserts.

It probably helped with the stress to have someone very dear in mind throughout the madness. Speaking of stress, you didn’t need to hear some of the cursing we did in the unedited version of this episode to feel the immense pressure the chefs were under. Seeing Sebastien Cannone, the MOF. and co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, zestily washing a sink full of dirty dishes certainly lightened the mood. That was bonkers.

So after five hours with their MOFs came a ten-hour day in which they were each assisted by two of their eliminated colleagues, one selected randomly and one they chose. This is the part that led to some of the greatest debate at Judges’ Table.  

By the way, it was our longest and most grueling Judges' Table by far. We discussed and hashed out and argued, and then did it all again. And again. It was such a close call, and a really tough decision. We each made convincing arguments for our favorites, and then heard everyone else’s equally convincing arguments, and finally, finally reached a unanimous decision.Where do you come down on the big question of whether Sally really proved herself as a complete pastry chef if Orlando did most of her showpiece? As you heard me argue, I wondered whether it was fair to fault her for using her sous-chef to do what he does best and she does not as well. Isn’t that the point of a sous-chef?  She presented a solid, stunning showpiece that didn’t fall apart (as Chris’s did), along with a well-integrated table of bonbons, bread and entremet. And even now, thinking of those rolls makes my mouth water. Her plated dessert could have been smoother, and she knew that, but it was technically complex and very tasty.

Or, do you lean toward the other side, being that Chris managed to make his entire showpiece and a delicious plated dessert (not to mention bonbons and entremet that were not just great, but were also tied so seamlessly and gorgeously into his theme), so he more deserves the win? We went back and forth for hours.

That debate is not to say that Matthew didn’t do a magnificent job as well. His showpiece was perhaps less successful because he pushed himself and tried sugarwork, even though he was more familiar with chocolate, but it was colorful and rich. His whole table was warm and loving, and his bonbons were superlative. I admire his taking such risks in trying things he never had before.

It came down to the flavors of Chris’s bonbon being so wonderfully complex, his entremet being so masterfully built, and his plated dessert being honest and scrumptious. As Johnny put it, it was the only plated dessert his whole table ate in its entirety.  

It being such close final battle means the right competitors had made it to the end, which is a happy ending.

Thank you again for being a part of this season. If you miss me, I’m always @DKyrillos on Twitter, or please enjoy my column on CityUnlisted.com.  Until next time, lots of good wishes.  XO

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Best in Show

The final three chefs compete for the ultimate title of "Top Chef: Just Desserts."

Bonjour, mes petits amis! Well, we made it. It's finale time, and wow, was it a nail-biter!

The opening of this episode gave me the chills -- the finalists were greeted by Jacques Torres and his fellow MOFs, Sebastien Cannone and Stefane Treand. I've actually heard the term "MOF" before, but I didn't know much about it. Gail recommends watching Kings of Pastry, and discusses it in her finale blog. You can actually watch it streaming instantly on Netflix -- I plan on doing so this week!

Chris, Matthew, and Sally were issued their finale challenge -- a Meilleurs Ouvriers de France-style challenge where they'd have to make a bonbon, bread, a showpiece, and a plated dessert, truly testing many different pastry skills. Each of the chefs consulted with the culinary legends, as they prepared their desserts. They were also given actual sous-chefs later, in the form of their former cheftestants. They each chose and drew some of the best competitors of the season. I was wondering if anyone would pull Craig (sorry, Craig!) and how they would utilize him. But that didn't happen. Sally seemingly pulled the best pick in Orlando, who executed her showpiece for her -- more on that later!

This challenge was also interesting in that the chefs' plated desserts had to be personal and they presented a story to the diners along with their dishes. This was the first time the judges and their guests really got to get a taste of what everyone was fighting for, what was driving them this whole season. Le's start with Matthew.

I've been saying all season how smart Matthew is, but, unfortunately he sort of faltered this time around. I thick in a lot of ways Matthew was my front-runner going into the challenge in that he always makes smart decisions, satisfying the challenge and the judges, while staing true to his style. First the showpiece. He used sugar. I honestly don't know enough about showpieces to know what was wrong with his because it looked pretty amazing to me. But, the judges seem to think that he should have used chocolate. His bonbon was well-received, and his bread, though tasty, seemed to be too simple. Then came his plated dessert, which looked abstract and messy all at the same time. Although the dish was beautiful in a way, it wasn't composed, and much like Katzie's Beastie Boys challenge dish, the diners didn't know how to eat the components. Matthew has a stunning future ahead of him, regardless of whether or not he lost. The same can obviously be said for Sally. Sally's bonbon went over well and her bread seemed to be the most well-received that evening. I would eat the s--- out of that thing! But her plated dessert, while tasty, was sloppy (she ran out of time), and her showpiece was done completely by Orlando. There was an interesting debate at Judges' Table about this, and honestly, I see both sides, but I'm glad Dannielle stood up for Sally, saying that Sally simply utilized her sous-chef. That's what they're there for, and it was completely within the rules. You can see more of the judges' discussion in our Extended Judges' Table footage.

Finally, we have Chris. First off, congrats Chris!!! Obviously Chris' showpiece was exceptional, despite some falling pieces, and he threaded his concept of industrialization through all of his dishes. His bonbon was polished and flavorful, and his bread was decent. But I really think it came down to this plated dessert, which people loved. It sounded yummy, for lack of a better word. And so, Chris got the money, and I couldn't be happier that he now has the funds to take care of his daughter. He had to step it up that day, and he did.

All I have left to say is that this session was such a pleasure to watch, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

On a sidenote, I had the pleasure of visiting MOF Jacques Torres' wife's, Madame Chocolat's, shop this past week in L.A. and she, well, spoiled me rotten. Now these are bonbons!


Here's my friend Gina and I with Hasty!


Look at all the loot I ended up with! I'm going to turn into a bonbon!


If you've never had Jacques or Hasty's chocolates, you're missing out, so you should definitely stop for some next time you're in either L.A. or New York City. 

I'll see you all next week for the Top Chef: Texas premiere, Until then, Have a Nosh!


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