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Johnny Iuzzini learns a thing or two from Sylvia Weinstock and her adorable husband, Ben.
Bravotv.com: Some of the chefs didn’t think they were given enough time to create their truffles — how hard are they to make?
Johnny Iuzzini: Making chocolates is an art and skill in all of its own. You need to be comfortable and experienced with chocolate in order to work fast and efficiently. There are a lot of factors that come into play when crystallizing or tempering chocolate. When you buy chocolate it is already tempered, it is shiny crisp, has a nice snap and melts evenly and smoothly in your mouth. Have you ever left a bar of chocolate in a car on a hot day? It gets soft and melty, but if you put it in the fridge or let it cool it will get hard again. It isn't the same though, is it? It gets kind of white and streaky, kind of sandy and grainy, and almost chalky in texture. What has happened is that it has lost its temper or is no longer properly crystallized. This is exactly what happens when you melt chocolate but do not follow a strict set of guidelines in order to reallign the beta crystals in the choocolate. Long story short, the chocolate must be melted to a certain temp, for dark chocolate 45 degrees C, then partially cooled to 27 degrees C, then rewarmed to 31 C in order to work with it and have it set up looking like it did when you bought it. Then other factors come into play, like room temperature. If the room is too warm and the chocolate takes too long to set then you are in trouble as well. Now talking about the fillings, you want a flavorful, pop-in-your-mouth explosion of aroma and flavor. Chocolates tend to be small, so it is important that they are intense. You want the chocolate shel around the chocolate to be thin and crisp. It is true, two hours to make this happen is tough, very tough, although not impossible, as we have been shown. It takes a lot of organization and diligence to make it happen. Some of them had it and some didn't.
Bravotv.com: Which ones stood out to you for better or worse?
JI: Zac had some strong flavor combinations in theory. Chocolate and pretzels is a classic combination and one that I truly love. Peanut butter and jelly? Need i say more? I love it and this is a combination in a bon bon i often make myself for our guests at Jean Georges. Green tea and lemon could be good as long as they are balanced and are not competing. The lemongrass, lime, and ginger would have been better if it were in dark chocolate. I knew it was going to be too sweet. Danielle's combination of coconut was probably one of the most original of the bunch. I never thought about making a pineapple jam for a bon bon, but I may have to steal that one. Chocolate banana is another classic combo that if done right could really deliver. The baseball was pretty cool and all the textures sounded amazing. The rocky road chocolate also packed a bunch of texture in a small package, and probably would have been a favorite of mine. Morgan really poured a lot of himself in his chocolates, and I think it paid off. You also see that Morgan had finished ahead of the others, showing how truly comfortable he is with the medium of chocolate. Passion is a strong flavor and works really well with dark chocolate. Morgan's second chocolate incorporated acai and rose water. Two interesting flavors in conjunction with chocolate, and I think it was finished in a very feminine and classy way. Mendiant and rocher are two unique classics that I have never seen paired together. It was clever and thoughtful, and I am sure Francois was impressed, although his story details were a bit over-the-top and a bit too much information. His last truffle was the second green tea ganache we have seen. Again, if they would have tasted their ganaches before molding they could have balanced them better, but when you are working against a clock -- sometimes you overlook these details and make mistakes. Yigit didn't complete the challenge as he was missing a chocolate. Maybe if he would have been able to make it happen, he may have taken the win. His other truffles looked strong. Apricot pate de fruits and orange flower water with the milk chocolate ganache sounded great. The coconut milk and chai tea looked cool and was is a very special flavor combination. The almond and honey truffle looked good to me because the ganache seemed soft and smooth, and was rolled in that crispy flaky crunch.
Bravotv.com: Yigit is continuing to kind of fall apart — what does he need to do to get back on top?
JI: Again, he needs to really evaluate how much time he has in each challenge and work within those limits. Yigit has a lot of technique and skill, and is always trying to go above and beyond but has come up short a number of times. He needs to focus and choose his path wisely, trust his gut, and cook from his heart if he wants to get back on top and stay there. Bravotv.com: For the Elimination, the chefs create anniversary cakes for Ben, and -- surprise -- Sylvia! What would you have kept in mind/made if these were your clients?
JI: It doesn't matter which division of the industry you are in, a chef, baker, caterer, we are all in the service industry which means we provide a service for our guests/clients or customers. It isn't about what we want it is about what they want and what makes them happy and the main key to that is to listen to them. The things that they like, that make them happy, their memories. Ask them questions. Firstly for me, it is an anniversary cake, not a wedding cake. I probably would have gone in a different direction as far as the shape. A stacked tiered cake is a wedding cake, but not necessarily an anniversary cake. Then i would have tried to incorporate as many of the design details as I could without making the cake kitchy or gaudy. I would include the elements from their story that were most significant to them. The biggest detail is flavor, as is everything food-related. They were very clear in what they liked individually. As a couple, they are individuals that live in harmony together and I would find a way to tie their two flavor preferences together in a similar way, so they complement each other rather then contrast each other.
Bravotv.com: Ben and Sylvia were ADORABLE! How was it to hang out with them as a couple? (You made some amusing comments about marriage.)
These two crack me up. They give us hope that these fairytale stories of true love and lifelong marriage can truly exist. My time with them taught me a lot about love, life, and relationships. They shared a lot with me. The thing the viewers didn't see is how they were off camera, like two smitten little kids that have just met. Still holding hands and sneaking kisses when they think no one is watching. It really warmed my heart, and made me believe that true love could be possible once you find the right person. That you should never settle for anything less, and when it is real it is easy and you know it. Spending time with them definitely changed my life and touched me deeply.
Bravotv.com: What did you think of each cake?
JI: Morgan's cake was simple and clean, but probably could have handled a bit more in the design phase. Each of his cakes tasted good and made his client happy. I wonder of Danielle was happy the whole cake was that gray when she finished. I did really like the way she incorporated the piano keys and her attention to the number of grandkids and children. I also liked the monogram on the cake. Her cake was tasty, and Sylvia and Ben both enjoyed the mingling of flavors. Zac's cake was a disaster as far as the client it was intended for. It was childish and immature, completely not representative of Sylvia and Ben. As Sylvia said, not elegant at all. His flavors were a bit hit and miss. Yigit's cake design was visually appealing and tied in some of their important moments in their lives together including little beach balls. The cake did not cut very well and the pate de fruits was the culprit. He should have incorporated its flavor in a different way.
Bravotv.com: Talk to us about the use of gray in pastry, or any food for that matter. Should we be expecting this as a new trend?
JI: I understand Danielle's thought process, that she really wanted in include the color of Sylvia's dress into the cake. My issue is that the whole cake was gray. Gray is not an appetizing food color. She would have been much better off if she had used tha color to do some of the trim and incorporated some gray stitch work like patterns. As much as this was a showpiece, it is still a cake. something people intend on eating. When you think of the color gray, you think old, lifeless, bleak, dreary. These are not adjectives I think Sylvia and Ben would like to be associated with on their anniversary day. Bravotv.com: Zac dubbed his cake a “caketastrophe.” Do you agree? Were you sad to see him go?
JI: Zac forgot who his cake was for and unfortunately made a cake that he would want to receive, he didn't truly think about who is customer was. He definitely incorporated a lot of the elements that makes their relationship unique but did it in a playful, immature almost childish sort of way. this is where he went wrong, that cake would be great for a kid's birthday not a distinguished, mature couple's anniversary that wanted to highlight the most memorable points of their live together. As a saw his cake coming together, I knew Zac was in trouble. Cakes haven't been Zac's strong point since the beginning, he needed to reach a bit more then the other competitors. Zac has always been lucky to have been unique enough to stand out and stay in the running, this time his playful and flamboyant, boisterous style worked against him and unfortunately this time he came up short
Bravotv.com: What advice would you give Zac now that he’s out of the competition?
JI: Zac has a ton of heart, skill, desire and passion to excel in this industry. He will have no problem rising to the top and becoming one of the premier pastry chefs in this industry and country. I am looking forward to watching Zac's career take off and see what he can do.
Bravotv.com: We now have our final three — were you surprised by who made it or did you expect these three from the beginning?
JI: You know, I was surprised all the way through this competition; there have been upsets at every turn. I think the three finalists definitely worked hard and all deserve to be there. Yigit and Morgan have both been a force to be reckoned with the whole time and have set the pace. Danielle is the biggest surprise for me -- she has been in the middle and bottom most of the competition, and has almost gone home numerous times. But as the rules go, each challenge is a clean slate and no points are carried over, so it is always any man's or woman's game.
Bravotv.com: Anything else you’d like to add? Maybe tease the finale?
JI: The final challenge will definitely test their skills as a chef as well as a pastry chef, testing their ability to flow and lead the guests on a journey.