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A Glimpse into the Future

Johnny Iuzzini explains the unique challenges the pastry chefs are facing. The season has started and you’re a mentor. When you go and check in on them, are you seeing any mistakes that you used to make?
Yeah you go in there and there’s definitely an added stress because they’re not in their home kitchens. Some of the equipment is new to them and they’re not as familiar with some of the ingredients. Every brand of every ingredient could be a little bit different, and that little difference when it comes to pastry makes a huge difference, and the fact that they don’t have recipes … is insane. The amount of time that they're used to having to do something versus the time they are given on these challenges, it’s incredible. It's all those elements coupled together making for such a stressful and difficult environment for any pastry chef, myself included.

How to Watch

Catch up on Top Chef: Just Desserts on the Bravo App. So in Episode 1's Quickfire they begin creating a dish and are then told they need to turn it into a cupcake. What kind of challenge does that present?
The first challenge was definitely a glimpse into what was to come in the future of the competition. The competitors have to think in the way that there might be a challenge, they might twist it up, so they should probably keep their ideas a little bit looser and not so strict. That way if they have to change it they can. So the first challenge was to make a signature dessert, something wonderful, exceptional something that really showcases their talents and that’s hard. To take that and then have to turn that into a cupcake is very difficult for some of them, but I think everybody ended up adapting really well. For the first challenge, some of them put up some really great products and others didn’t. For the Elimination Challenge the chefs had Jacques Torres judging your chocolate dish. What kind of pressure is that to have him judging your chocolate?
Already they don’t know what’s to come, and then they didn’t know who the judges are gonna be, so for the first one right off the bat it’s Jacques Torres, an M.O.F., the youngest M.O.F. ever in France. It's huge. He’s such a humble person. He’s so sweet, but he does know his craft and he’s not gonna pull a punch. He’s going to let you know what he likes and he doesn’t like, and chances are he’s gonna be right on the money. What would you have made for your signature dish?
I would definitely have focused on multiple components of different textures. I would have probably made a chocolate sponge, a chocolate crispy tuile of some sort, probably some kind of a praline, as well as something whipped or ganache, so I would definitely have something dense, something creamy. I would have a frozen component, maybe a chocolate granita or something. I would just focus on, instead of trying to do one thing, or one or two things, I would focus on probably three or four little things, that if something didn’t work I could still make it happen. Even just talking, you’re saying a lot of like dessert terms that people might not know, and even on we get comments that people don’t know what all the words mean, but is that exciting to you that now people might actually understand?
Yeah, I’m very excited that people are now being turned on to what a specialty, that our craft is. So many people don’t realize how much work goes into being a pastry chef, how much precision, how much accuracy, how much preparation time, how long it takes to do some of the things that you see everyday. You see these challenges, and you go to a wedding and you see a giant wedding cake and you don’t know what goes into making a wedding cake, or you go to a high-end restaurant and you get delivered a dessert and it’s like "Oh this is really good," but you have no idea that it took three days and all the different components to make it. And it's really going to educate people on what it is to be a pastry chef or baker or all the different categories that our chefs are.

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