Bravotv.com: As a pastry chef, what does Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory mean to you? Has it inspired your creations?
Johnny Iuzzini: I owned this movie on VHS as a kid. I have watched it hundreds of times throughout my life. Its one of those movies that if I am flipping through channels and I come across it, I always watch it to the end. I wouldn't say it has ever directly inspired any dessert directly, but it has inspired a way of thinking. The fantasy of it all is what excites me. Having no limits, creating new desserts that bring happiness to people and surprise them at the same time is what is so fun. The fact that you can create dishes that are not always what they appear to be is where the inner child comes into play. As chefs, especially pastry chefs, your creativity plays such an important part in your daily work. We truly do have a blank canvas to work with every time we create a new dish. People are more open to new flavors and combinations when it comes to dessert rather than their apps or entrees. They have (hopefully) already been satisfied by their meal and the dessert is a bonus, sort of a treasure at the end. They are much more likely to take a chance and order something they may not have had before.
Bravotv.com: What did you think of the overall idea of the challenge?
JI: I absolutely loved this challenge. I was so jealous of the chefs, i wanted to be in there with them. I kept thinking about what I would do. This challenge really was a great opportunity for the chefs to show how creative they can be, as well as show a vast array of pastry techniques. There were no guidelines other than having to create a Willy Wonka-like room similar to the factory in the movie. The chefs could truly unleash their creativity and inner child and run wild to create something that would blow any child or adult away. I would think that up until now, the challenges have been a bit more difficult. This one should have been the one that they all went crazy for and allowed them the most freedom and least restriction.
Bravotv.com: It was Chris’ idea to break up into a Creative Team and a Kitchen Team. Do you think that was wise?
JI: I understand what Chris was thinking, but I would have done it a bit differently, especially since the creative team didn't live up to their part of the bargain and provide the production team with the items they needed. Its true -- you don't need 10 people each tempering their own chocolate to make decorations, but I do feel that each chef should have been more responsible for both their own "creative" and "production" pieces. I would have designated maybe one or two people to temper chocolate for everyone and maybe work on a larger piece together, but the fact that Chris had everyone working on a giant piece that ultimately he would receive credit for seemed like a waste. I think other teammates suffered and weren't able to execute and live out their wild pastry dreams!
Bravotv.com: Which creations from the movie were you hoping the chefs would execute?
JI: I was definitely hoping to see the chocolate river, the wallpaper, something blueberry, something carbonated, and the giant colorful mushrooms. For the most part, most of these were there. I was also hoping to see someone make a version of an everlasting gobstopper as well as a life-sized oompa loompa. That really would have sent it home for me.
Bravotv.com: Some might think that Chris made promises he couldn’t keep — how do you think he handles his responsibilities?
JI: I think Chris had good intentions. You can tell he is used to being a team leader, as well as being in a competition setting. I think he uses that too his advantage too often and tends to manipulate the other chefs and force his ideas upon people. I think the other chefs really have to stand up for themselves and not allow Chris or anyone else to tell them what they should or have to make, because ultimately, they will go home for an error in judgment, not the person they listened to. I was disappointed when I saw that Chris and the creative team did not make the items they said they would. They should have edited what they were doing to make sure they could finish what they had agreed to do for the others. It seemed unprofessional and selfish. In the end, it also affected the overall final effort for the whole team.
Bravotv.com: Which dishes stood out to you for better or worse?
JI: Those doughnuts were so bad. The gummy bears were rubbery and tasteless. They were dry, poorly-glazed and just had a bad flavor. I liked Katzie's carrot cake a lot. She thought out of the box and created a garden that wasn't in the movie but easily could have been, as well as the interactive beehive. This is exactly the type of creativity we were looking for. Matthew's profiterole lollipops were also very unique, tasty, and creative in the way he displayed them. The peanut butter macarons were so good! Chris' waterfall looked a bit like it came from a horror movie and the chocolate milk was OK. He had to keep diluting it to keep it flowing. I'm glad he made the chocolate teacups though. I loved Rebecca's golden chocolate cake eggs. Cool idea. Bravotv.com: What do you think the biggest mistakes the chefs made were?
JI: Some of the chefs thought about the way their dishes looked a bit more then how they tasted. Sally's wheel barrel dessert was just all over the place and didn't make sense. Melissa should not have served the doughnuts especially when she had a second dessert being the whoopie pie. She didn't like the way they came out, plus the creative team didn't take care of decorating her pole like they said they would. She should have edited herself. Only serve what you are proud of and what tastes delicious. Megan should have expected there to be children on the guest list and not served alcohol. Plus her lavender shortbread was just lackluster and not exciting, and the cream sickle curd was really sweet. She spent too much time running around helping other people and not enough time working on her own products she served.
Bravotv.com: Why did the two eliminated chefs go home?
JI: What Craig created and served really didn't contribute anything other then the expected visual effect. Plus, he had to have Sally essentially teach him how to do it as he went along. At this point, he was really holding the other team members behind. All that time and that is all he produced? If it was the most amazing gummy bear I had ever tasted, it would still be a hard argument to keep him since it was all he contributed. He had been struggling to keep up with the other chefs for quite some time, and this was the first time that he had to really face the judges on his own, and it didn't go well for him. Melissa admitted to not even tasting the doughnuts before she served them, which is the cardinal rule for a chef -- always taste your food. Then the way she served them on an uncovered pvc pipe, was just thoughtless, sloppy, and unappetizing. She didn't need to serve them. Had she not, she prob wouldn't have gone gone. I thought her whoopie pies were beautiful, creative, and a great addition to the room. But there is no excuse for food that tastes bad and still served.