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Learning a Lesson

Gail Simmons thinks that Heather H.'s elimination taught the chefs that no one is safe.

By Gail Simmons This week we started with a Top Chef Classic: the relay race. What did you think of that?
It was painful to shoot. I'm not going to lie. There are two things you don’t know as a viewer when watching it. One: I was at the beginning of a bad cold. I wasn't feeling well and it was by far my personal hardest few days on set. Two: When we got to that strudel roll-out, it was excruciating to watch. It took about 17 times longer than you saw on television, but that would have just bored the audience to tears. It really took forever, but in the end, it was exciting to see that it was actually possible.

Team Diva prevailed, good for them. To address the whole Team Diva issue: we didn't know much about the way they were all acting because all the Team Diva stuff only comes out in the kitchen when they're cooking or in their interviews when we're not there. We didn't really know the level of cliquey-ness that was going on. Obviously it's edited, but it's still a surprise to me. It makes me feel like I'm reliving high school, and no one wants to go back to high school. You announce that Dessert Wars will be different than Restaurant Wars, that they have to make their own shop.
Yes, and there's a difference between a dessert shop and a bakery here. They made baked goods, obviously, but they also had to make plated desserts, which is something very different and much more difficult. That's the key to understanding the challenges they had. So not only did they have to run a full shop in terms of front of house and retail, but they also had to run somewhat of a restaurant because they were doing plated, sit-down service. That is a big deal, and incredibly challenging. On top of which, they each had to do three desserts. And on top of that two of the desserts had to be a la minute, which means they had to be plated to order. We were incredibly impressed by the results from both teams. We are getting nit-picky here -- there has to be someone to send home every week. So it was a really tough decision, going required a lot of back and forth. There were great moments and low moments to both teams. Do you want to go through the highlights?
Let's start with Pastry Playland. I think Zac really shined in this challenge. From a pastry perspective I think his wild blueberry doughnut was outstanding, although it didn't even need the milkshake. That doughnut was good on it's own. And it was really beautifully made. That was a highlight.

Yigit's service was incredible and his margarita sorbet was surprisingly refreshing and full of flavor.

Heather did some really beautiful things. I really liked her Key Lime Bar with the chocolate. It was beautiful but it just didn't have the boldness that it needed.

At the end of the day, the biggest mistake of the day, and this just shows you the kind of minutiae that we're down to here, was the pastry tart shell, which was used for both Heather and Yigit's tarts. It was almost impossible to cut. It's especially too bad for Yigit’s tart because the filling was quite amazing.

I just want to say that Heather is a super strong pastry chef. There is no doubt in my mind that she has super solid skills. I'm rooting for her, no matter what she does next, because I ate so many delicious and memorable desserts she produced, and I would be happy to do so again anytime.Team Whisk Me Away was the underdog. I kind of like when the misfits win, although that has nothing to do with why they won of course. They won because together they created a menu that was strong, creative, and individually they all made fantastic desserts. They also had a warmth to their shop that was very inviting. They really made the extra effort to keep the vitrine (the display case) filled. That's part of what a great dessert shop experience is about, and was certainly part of the challenge -- giving your shop a personality, making people want to stay, want to linger, and want to order more. We felt all those things at Whisk Me Away. Did I wish Danielle had been a little more enthusiastic? Yes, but, that's who she is, and it didn't offend us in any way. When you come away from Zac and Yigit in the front of house, you can't help but feel a little let down if the next server does not have their energy. Danielle's just not one of those spunky people, that's tap dancing her way to the table. And that's OK.

I know people may be annoyed with Morgan as a personality but that doesn't play into the game here. Morgan put out three exceptional desserts that day. And he made a huge effort to accommodate some pretty picky diners. Although it was buttery and greasy, I really loved that pretzel bread. It was the perfect salty counterpart to everything else we ate. I also loved his chocolate mousse cake. Beautiful and technically impressive. It was an accomplishment to create that in the time he had.

Eric played to his strengths. He forgot the banana recipe, so it wasn’t perfect, but the flavor combination was outstanding. That tangerine icing on the banana was something I would have never thought of, and let me assure you, I'm a massive banana cake fan. It was a really smart, lovely, delicious dessert. Also, the man knows how to make a chocolate chip cookie. No joke. Oh, and his malted cake was gorgeous, crazy good. I loved it. Malted chocolate is one of my favorite flavors. It's a classic. Part of creating a shop like this at the end of the
day, is that it's about the customers and making things people want to eat. As much as his desserts might not have been the most innovative, he gave people what they craved, and there's something to be said for that.

And then Danielle. I thought her ginger ale thing was really cool, creative, different. The coffee pie could have been a little stronger, as Nancy said. We wanted it to give us a little caffeine jolt, and it didn't.

Overall, we couldn't poke that many holes into what Whisk Me Away made that day. There was not one thing that stood out as being wrong or poor. That's really what helped us make the decision, and I was proud to see them win = $30,000! That's a big deal! And sadly now, one member of Team Diva is Do you almost wish Team Diva hadn’t worked together, to see what they would have done separately?
We would have gotten different results in any other team combination -- that's part of the challenge, but I actually think it was interesting to see them have to work together, because what you saw was that although they have this little clique, when they're put together and put to work, it doesn't go so perfectly. I think it taught them a lesson. They are not invincible. No one's invincible. It is hard work, and you need to prove yourself every time. You can't expect to get a free pass just because you're BFFs.

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