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Bravotv.com: For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs have to make innovative ice cream sundaes. What approach would you have taken to this challenge?
Johnny Iuzzini: You know it is easy to say how I would take a different direction, but to be fair, I am not on camera, I am not working against a stop clock, I am not in a foreign kitchen, nor am I working with a bunch of other crazy pastry chefs running around like a bunch of nutbags. That said, I would probably take the elements of what a sundae represents and focus on changing the way in which it was presented. Break down the traditional components, ice cream, chocolate sauce or other sauce, fruit, nuts and manipulate these ingredients into an untraditional take on a sundae. I would first see what was in the pantry and depending on what ice cream flavor i pulled, try and do a vegetable version. Maybe make salty nougatine sheets. Pipe the ice cream into molds, to shape them and plate it in more modern style. Maybe some quick sweet confit or compressed vegetables. Who knows?
Bravotv.com: Seth’s time in the competition comes to an end. What was it like going in and being the one to tell the other chefs what had happened?
JI: I’m very sad to see Seth have to leave the show. He is tremendously talented, and I believe he would have shown us great technique and made really delicious food. Having been in a very similar situation a few years back when I lost my own mother, I sympathize and can relate to his emotional state. The best thing for Seth was to leave the show and to rejoin his family.
Bravotv.com: Which dishes really stood out to you (for better or worse?)
JI: Keep in mind, I didn't get to taste anything here. Just like you guys, I just watched on a monitor. I liked that Zac fried his ice cream -- you know i am a freak for contrast in texture and temperature. Erika did the s'mores with Frangelico. I am not really a fan of s'mores in general, and it just didn't seem like something that grabbed my attention or that I would order. I like the way Morgan thought out-of-the-box a bit and took the elements of a sundae with familiar flavors and did something more creative with them, including a warm drinkable component. I was a bit disappointed with Heather H.'s sundae. She has shown us that she has some serious skill, but here was a chance to get creative and I think she just played it too safe. Maybe if it were an elimination she would have done more??? Eric's sundae actually sounded really delicious to me. I was surprised the judges didn't like it, but then again, I didn't taste it. Malika made one of the more classic-style sundaes we saw, with the exception of the malted milk powder. I thought it sounded a bit pedestrian. Did she really put a canned maraschino cherry on top? Yuck! Yigit took a more plated style approach. It looked good but sounded sweet to me and there is that pesky s'mores again. Also, why does everyone need to use peanut butter so much? Danielle's sundae also sounded appealing to me -- there was a fresh-roasted fruit element. I think if she would have used a bit less honey and introduced a little acid like balsamic vinegar to help cut the sweetness and balance it, that dish would have been much better.
Bravotv.com: Can you say a little something about guest judge Gale Gand?
JI: Gale has been a big name in the industry for quite some time. She has mentored many young chefs and her style of food is very American, so this Quickfire was a perfect fit for her to judge.
Bravotv.com: For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to be inspired by the Lucent Dossier Experience. You seemed fairly amused with the show — what did you find most inspiring?
JI: I love those crazy theatrical performances. Was my mouth open the whole time? Ha! I find the human body very seductive, the shapes, the curves. That coupled with motion and sexuality brings me to my knees. Oops? Is this blog rated PG? Anyway, it is important to find a way to incorporate all these sensations and emotions into the dishes and showpieces. Some did it better then others.
Bravotv.com: The chefs had to work in teams to create a show piece, which probably isn’t something a chef does everyday. What kind of skills and thinking go into creating a show piece?
JI: Well a showpiece requires a separate skill set. You need to be a chef as well as have a sense for architecture meaning flow, balance, integrity, and then incorporate creativity and a whimsical design if you want to stand out. Color and use of different mediums meaning, sugar, chocolate, gum paste, fondant, etc. all allow you to bring different textures, finishes, and depth to a final piece.
Bravotv.com: Again, which dishes stood out to you (for better or worse)?
JI: Definitely my two favorites were Morgan's, and Malika's. They looked great, they were clean, and had a great pop of flavor especially since I am not a fan of saffron. Heather H.'s, Yigit 's, and Erika's were all super tasty dishes as well. Plus they each showed a grasp of technique and finesse. I thought Heather C.'s dessert was weak, boring, and lacked any creativity or technique. I was really disappointed. I know Heather H. was pissed that Morgan won, but she choose to take on that showpiece. I think other teams had showpieces that were as good if not better. The showpiece is not what won it for them. Morgan is a good team leader and allowed each of them to excel in their own ways.
Bravotv.com: You seemed particularly peeved that Yigit’s team didn’t flambe in front of you. Why were you so bothered?
JI: This really annoyed me! They had to create a flaming experience, and I wanted my experience like the other chefs provided. It was part of the challenge; they simply chose not to do it for the judges. So lame. They didn't complete the challenge in my eyes. They lost major points for this and possibly the win.
Bravotv.com: The judges didn’t really get to eliminate anyone because Malika took herself out of the competition. Thoughts on her departure?
JI: Malika was battling her commitment to the competition since the first challenge. She missed her sons, and was homesick. Just because you love to cook and your are good at in your home environment doesn't necessarily mean that you are cut out for competition. It is a different animal and requires you to approach cooking in a very different way. You have to have that fire burning inside and be able to let criticism roll right off your back. If you take everything personally and to heart, it will tear you apart. Take criticism, learn, adjust, and move on. She saved another competitor from going home, for better or worse. It was an honorable thing to do considering she admitted that winning wasn't a priority to her. Although she kept saying how she wasn't going to give up, she came all this way? I guess she had a change of heart.
Bravotv.com: This episode was pretty intense — what can viewers expect from the competition moving forward?
JI: Now that Seth has left the competition, the atmosphere has definitely lightened, and there is much less stress on them all. Each episode brings new challenges on professional and personal levels and they sure as hell don't get any easier. The viewers are going to be really surprised and impressed by what the competitors show us all over the duration of the competition.