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Brothers from Another Mother
Johnny Iuzzini talks about his experience judging with Ad-Rock.
Bravotv.com: It comes to light that some other chefs don’t care for Katzie. Did you guys have any idea this was happening? Why do you think the other chefs are hard on her?
Johnny Iuzzini: You know, I really have no clue what goes on outside of what I see either during my walk-throughs, at the events, or during Judges' Table. Normally, they are all on good behavior at that point, and unless it comes out during a dispute on Judges' Table, we never find out until we watch the actual episode. I think Katzie is a strong-willed person -- she has a very strong personality and isn't bullied easily. I think she also realizes that it is a competition, and it's every man for himself, so she exerts herself as much as she can and doesn't allow the other chefs to steer her in her creations. In some of the challenges, she ends up triumphant and then she may get a bit cocky and arrogant, which never pans out well in this type of setting. I think it is important to be humble at every point in your career, and she is young and still learning that. I think the other chefs were probably jealous of her success and annoyed at her attitude all at the same time.
Bravotv.com: What can you tell us about Jordan Kahn and his style of desserts?
JI: Jordan is a very unique pastry chef. I met Jordan very early on in his career and have kept tabs on him ever since. He is very serious about his craft and puts a lot of himself into his work. I think the most important qualities that he possesses are that a) as much as his food is quite modern, not only in technique, flavor combinations, and presentations, he has a strong training in the classics. This is what gives his the foundation to build upon. b) Jordan pulls from all walks of life -- he is very inspired not only by art, but by nature. I believe he was probably a painter in the 16th century in another life.
Bravotv.com: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever made a dessert out of?
JI: I am not a shock jock pastry chef. I don't create desserts using strange ingredients just for the sake of doing so like so many of my colleagues in the industry. I spend a lot of time developing my desserts, as well as researching flavor combinations and to be honest, a lot of trial and error. If you would ask me some of the ingredients that people are my surprised by that could appear on m menu are such things as bleu cheese, vegetables like parsnips and rutabaga, bacon, pork fat, fois gras, truffles, and olives. When working with ingredients like these, you have to analyze them independently and figure out what makes them special. Highlight their most important qualities and pair them with other ingredients that help them sing. There are lots of ingredients found in the savory pantry that, when understood, can easily be balanced and transformed into a delectable dessert.
Bravotv.com: Some of the chefs (Rebecca specifically) said they didn’t know how to “cook” -- how did that make you feel?
JI: Well, it's true -- a lot of pastry chefs nowadays come right out of high school and go directly to culinary school for pastry. These schools offer very little in their curriculum in the way of training these young pastry chefs the ways around a savory kitchen. Not everyone has the luxury of growing up with a family that cooks and learning the traditions through the generations. I think the same could be said of savory cooks too though. As we have seen time and time again on Top Chef proper, the dessert challenges always seem to be one of the toughest for the chefs. I think it is definitely easier for a pastry chef to cook culinary than a savory chef to do pastry. Pastry chefs are more meticulous and calculated, which lends itself well to all areas of cooking while a savory chef is trained to cook by taste and feel, which doesn't always apply nor is an option in the pastry kitchen
Bravotv.com: What’s something someone should keep in mind when working with root veggies?
JI: Root vegetables are great. There are so so many things you can do with them. The most important thing to do is identify the flavors of the vegetable and figure out complementary flavors to pair with it. Also, the handling of the vegetables -- some are very hard and need to be cooked to remove the starch and break down the tough cell structures so they are tender, while others can be simply sliced or juiced and used as is. Its important to always understand your ingredients and to learn the preparations that brings out the best flavors from them.Bravotv.com: Adam Horovitz! How excited were you to have him join the Judges’ Table?
JI: Oh man! I went ballistic when I found out Ad-Rock was coming in. I have been a fan of the Beastie Boys ever since I can remember. I have a ton of heir music on my iPod and even still have a t-shirt from a show I saw when I was a kid. I even had it with me by chance in L.A. and brought it in for him to sign. It's funny, the day he came I had just downloaded a new DJprogram on my iPad and was learning how to use it. I was mixing different Beastie Boys songs together when he walked in and looked over my shoulder and said, "That's pretty cool." I was blown away by how down to earth he still is after all his success. Plus, he was wearing a hat that said "Catskills," which is the region of Upstate NY where I am from. He is my Jewish brother from another mother!
Bravotv.com: Which dishes stood out to you for better or worse?
JI: I was really surprised that Orlando opted to use store-bought cookies as a large component of his dessert. Plus, he really didn't do much with his peas, just froze them. Especially since he used those cookies, he should have had more time to do something more creative with the peas. Megan's cake was really dry and didn't have a great flavor, but her Brass Monkey sorbet was tasty. Sally's dessert was crazy -- the fact that she incorporated all those ingredients and had to break down a chicken, and not only incorporated the flavor of he chicken, but the skin as a texture was genius. I didn't love Katzie's idea --when you give to much power to the guest and allow them to create on their own and combine flavors a lot can go awry. Plus, the flavors of her main ingredients definitely were not the stars. The idea in general was not very creative overall. Rebecca's dessert actually tasted like a falafel, but not in a subtle way, the garlic blew out my palate, and I couldn't taste anything after that. Chris had some really difficult ingredients to work with -- he kind of just masked it all with chocolate by making a brownie. Matt's dessert was super-creative, and the process he used to make it showed some serious skill. I was definitely a fan.
Bravotv.com: The chefs seemed to have a lot of excuses — was that bothersome?
JI: Yeah, definitely. For sure, this challenge was difficult for the chefs because we gave them ingredients that they don't normally use. That is the whole point of the competition: to challenge them, not to allow them to make what they make in their home kitchens on a regular basis. Part of what makes a great chef is the ability to adapt, cook, and to taste. A great chef will use all their food knowledge, food memories, and senses to work with each ingredient and apply themselves to the dish they are creating. It was tough for all of them -- that was the point!! The bottom line though, is they are chefs and the food source shouldn't be an excuse. The individuals passion for the profession is what really sets these chefs apart and the hunger and desire to win. The more you want it, the harder you will try. Bravotv.com: Why did the eliminated chef go home over the other two bottom chefs?
JI: In the end, each of the three chefs on the bottom had just cause to go home. In circumstances like this, it really comes down to flavor and taste. Which chefs dish would you really not want to ever try again. Which failed the most delivering on flavor and adhering to the restrictions of the particular challenge. Megan made a pudding cake that was actually really dry and was more like a biscuit or muffin, and rather the incorporating that onion marmalade into the actual dessert, it was an after-thought on the side. All in all, I didn’t like it, but it didn’t taste horrible. Katzie’s dessert lacked imagination. Her ingredients that she was supposed to highlight definitely were not at the forefront of her dessert. The other problem was that the dessert lacked a direction; there were too many variables for the customer to screw up and create a not-so-pleasant flavor combination. That said, she served French fries. The fries were hot and crispy and tasted good on their own. In the end, the dessert was mediocre, but not appalling. Rebecca’s dessert on the other hand was revolting. As soon as I tasted it my palate was overcome by the strong garlic flavor, which made it impossible to taste any other flavor. It’s rare that I can’t finish a dessert, even a bad one. I actually had to wash my mouth out and chew a quick piece of mint gum before continuing to judge the other chefs. She obviously did not taste her food, during or when it was fully assembled, or she would have known that something had to be corrected