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Hey, everybody! How’s it going? Just awesome, I hope! I’ve turned my baking affections from apples to pumpkins these past few weeks, which has brought back so many happy autumn memories. Just the smell of pumpkin makes me think of some of my life’s “golden moments,” so I was especially excited to see the chefs reveal theirs through their truffle creations in this week’s Quickfire.
First, I have to ask: did you, like I did, find the great François Payard delightfully terrifying? He is such a legend, such a wizard, and has such a presence, that he doesn’t need to say much to strike fear (not terror, just a jangly nerve sensation) into anyone. I hadn’t realized that Morgan used to work for him, and so was understandably especially nervous, and Zac pretty much summed it up with, “I am scared out of my pants to cook for this man.” Luckily he managed to keep them on. (A quick aside—Chef Payard just opened a new bakery here in New York, FPB (François Payard Bakery) on Houston St. near my office, and of course it is a wonderland of baked goodness, both sweet and savory. A big window into the kitchen lets you watch the chefs at work, which is hypnotizing. Definitely check it out when you’re in town.)
I liked getting to know a little more about the chefs’ lives outside the kitchen, and I think the way in which they translated these personal memories into confections also told us a lot. I was glad they showed Yigit mumbling to himself, going through his mental checklist, something I think we all do in high pressure situations. Or maybe it just made me feel better about talking to myself, like I am right now as I write this!
What an episode of surprises. Yigit started the Quickfire saying that he was confident he could handle it because of his experience doing bonbon service for each table when he worked at Daniel, but then he came up short when his strawberry truffles broke as he unmolded them. And then, Danielle. I will admit, when I saw the bumpiness of some of Danielle’s truffles, I worried that Gail and Chef Payard would think they weren’t refined enough, that they were too rough around the edges. I mean, he has such exacting standards, that nothing was going to get past him. (Not to mention Godiva’s.) To my mind, his love of the roughness, and the flavors, confirmed that she hit the mark. And onto the "Surprise, it’s Sylvia" scenario! When she was our guest judge in the bake sale episode, I think I told you how much fun we had talking for hours with her about her life, love, and advice for happy relationships. I remember thinking, “Wow, 61 years of marriage. That is a triumph.” She told me that throughout all 61 years, every evening, she fixes her husband (and herself) a drink, and they sit and talk about what happened that day. No matter what, they make a point of it.
For the chefs to be invited to bake an anniversary cake for her and Ben was a really big deal. This turned out to be a huge lesson in knowing your audience. A lot of people wanted to count Danielle out, but she was onto something when she said to Johnny as he made his rounds in the kitchen,“Sylvia likes simple things.” And she does. Doing something simple really, really well will almost always trump overcomplicating something, whether it’s a cake, a restaurant dish, or a dress. This is especially true when that something is a very intimate creation that’s supposed to celebrate two people’s six decades of love.
Zac knew he put too much of Zac in his “cake-wreck,” but also knew there was no going back once he realized his initial vision wasn’t going to work. While Danielle’s battleship gray wasn’t the most festive color choice, the judges, and Sylvia, made it clear her cake’s texture and flavors sailed past the others.
I still can’t believe that next week, we will decide who is Top Chef: Just Desserts. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Who do you want to win? Who do you think will win? See you on Wednesday!!
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