Cast Blog: #JUSTDESSERTS

Time to Make the Donuts!

Taking the Cake

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Best in Show

Grande Finale

Nobody's Perfect

The Final Four

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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

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

Time to Make the Donuts!

Episode 7: Two chefs go home, while others reveal their true colors to the judges.

Hello my little donuts! Before we get to this week's challenge, I just have to point out the amazing recap at the top of this episode. Our fabulous production team, the Magical Elves, shoved as many Beastie Boys references into such a short amount of time! But Gail tackled them like a pro. 

OK, now onto this week's insane Quickfire Challenge -- talk about high stakes! The bottom chef goes home! It was interesting to see how everyone kept saying, "We could go home for a donut?!" like a donut is any easier to make or less important than any other dessert. In my opinion, donuts are the new cupcakes! And to prove that point, there was no better guest judge than Doughnut Plant owner Mark Israel. I have never had the donuts from the Lower East Side shop, but I have had from the Chelsea Hotel that opened this year. I was planning a housewarming brunch, and I kind of got it in my head that I needed tohave donuts from Doughnut Plant. So, I woke up early, got to the shop about 30 minutes before they opened, and I wasn't the only one waiting!! Here are a couple pics of the ones I got.

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If you're interested in what flavors I got, let me know in the Comments below, and I'll try to remember.

Anyway, the chefs all created their own versions of donuts -- some yeast, some cake. Some sticks, some round. In the end, Carlos killed it with Orange & Lemon Zest Bombolinis with Passion Fruit Cream. This might have been a little too much citrus for me, but it sounded interesting and bright. And Carlos won $10,000! Unfortunately, one chef had to go home, and that chef was Megan. Megan was kind of dead in the water when Johnny couldn't get her donut off his plate because the glaze hardened. Although it was ultimately a sad moment, watching Johnny try to get the donut off the plate was like watching Goldie Hawn in Overboard when her "sons" glue her hands to plates. You know which scene I'm talking about?OK, onto the chocolate-tastic Elimination Challenge with guest judge Wylie Dufresne! Love Wylie, and happy to offer this video of the self-proclaimed egghead demonstrating how to poach the perfect egg. I've had more conversations recently about how to poach an egg than I care to mention, so here you all go:

The chefs broke up into two teams, and not only had to create plated desserts, but also chocolate showpieces. The showpiece aspect of the competition put showpiece rivals Orlando and Chris head-to-head. And you know what? Orlando came out on top! Although from afar, I think Chris' showpiece was more enticing, the judges pointed out that up close, Orlando's was more nuanced. And frankly, like the judges, I preferred the story behind Orlando's showpiece -- the history of chocolate. I never go to museums (I know, I know), but I did go to a chocolate exhibit the American Museum of Natural History put on a few years ago, which walked you through how chocolate is made, and Orlando's showpiece brought me right back there.

What Orlando surely didn't win points for was how vocal he was during the tasting. See, this week the judges allowed the chefs to taste their competitors' food and comment. Aaand Orlando did just that. Perhaps too much! It was amusing, but also good insight for the judges into the chef's personalities -- something they usually don't get to see. Fortunately for Orlando, his team won.Therefore, someone on the losing team, the Red Team had to go home. I was personally more nervous than I've been all season with the thought of any of these chefs going home. Unfortuantely for Katzie, it was her time to leave. But I think Matthew or Chris could just as easily have gone home, and I'm sure this challenge proved to be a big wake-up call for them. But alas, their adorable bromance continues.

Do you think Katzie deserved to go home? Let me know what you think in the Comments below.

Anyway, this episode got me super-psyched for my trip to L.A. in a couple weeks, where I will hopefully be visiting Mrs. Jacques Torres herself, Madame Chocolat, and indulging in some chocolate treats! I'll be sure to take pictures of as many pieces as I can, and share them with you when I get back.

Until next week, 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!