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Strong Competitors, More Insecurity

Johnny Iuzzini reveals what he thought about the chefs' critiques of each other's dishes.

How to Watch

Catch up on Top Chef: Just Desserts on the Bravo App.": Going home for a donut?! The live poll this week was whether or not going home for a Quickfire is fair. What do you think? 
Johnny Iuzzini: I think sometimes the "easiest" tasks are sometimes the hardest to get perfect. The chef's all had use of their recipes and could make whatever they wanted. Some spent too much time making accompaniments. I think a dessert should be all-inclusive with the flavors either in the topping, glaze, or filling. It isn't a question of whether it is fair. We need to challenge the chefs skills at every level, sometimes it is with a large sculpture, sometimes it is by having them create a bakery, other times we need to test their building blocks, the basics if you will. A savory chef must first master his knife skills and understand the basics of sauces and soups etc before he/she may move on to become a great chef. It is no different for pastry chefs. If you do not have a strong foundation and are a master of the basics then you will never be that strong- you will never be a master of the trade -- period. What are the key things to remember when making a donut — knowing there are a couple different kinds. 
JI: You know, I have eaten ton of doughnuts throughout my lifetime, in all parts of the country and the world. Some are light and airy, some are dense and heavy. There are many types of doughnuts -- most common are yeast-raised and cake doughnuts. There is no absolute right or wrong way to make a doughnut. The problems arise when they are not proofed properly; they can be rubbery or dense. If not cooked properly they could be raw in the center, or dry or greasy. Maybe the flavors are not strong enough or glazes, fillings, and toppings are not the right texture. A doughnut may seem simple in many ways, but it also complex and easy to over-think. The moment you couldn’t get Megan's donut off your plate, did you know she was dead in the water? 
JI: Not necessarily. There were still a few chefs to go and there were problems with a couple of the prior chefs' doughnuts as well. Megan's doughnut didn't have bad flavor. In fact, it had more flavor than Orlando's doughnut. Megan thought the glaze was too runny, so what happened was, she overcompensated by recooking more sugar to tighten it up and actually cooked the sugar so much that it became a hard crack caramel. She didn't realize it because when she glazed her doughnuts the glaze was warm and she was down to the wire. Once that sugar cooled, it was hard like glass and had adhered itself and the doughnut to the plate. In the end, this one mistake was worse then all the other chefs' mistakes simply because that hard glaze made it almost impossible to eat. On to the Elimination! It was all about chocolate. What did you think of the challenge overall? 
JI: Chocolate is one of the backbones of the pastry kitchen. It is one of the most important ingredients in our pantry. It is very versatile, it is complex, and it is extremely temperamental. So much can go wrong if you do not handle it correctly and respect certain temperature parameters while working with it. Chocolate is the go-to ingredient for many people. It is the thing people crave when they are happy and celebrate, it is also the go-to ingredient for many people when we are sad or depressed. It makes us feel better. As far as the challenge goes, we are giving the chefs what they have been asking for: a challenge that tests their skills using an ingredient that they are very familiar with and use often in hopes of being able to show us what they are truly made or and how truly creative they each can be. I would have liked to have seen all the chefs make their own desserts, as well as be more involved in the creation and execution of the showpiece, but sometimes the strongest personality will prevail. How was it seeing the other chefs critique their competitors’ dishes? Were you surprised at how outspoken, say, Orlando was? 
JI: I think it is interesting to hear anyone's point of view. You know, as chefs, as much as we cook from our own inspiration and creativity we aren't cooking for ourselves. We are cooking for our guests. So everyone's opinions always matter. That said, once in a competitive setting, of course the chefs are going to rag on each other and slam each others' dishes in order to make themselves feel more secure. The true mark of professionalism is the ability to respect everyone else for their styles and always find something positive in every dining experience and highlight it in your thoughts and words. If there are 10 components in a dish, suck suck and one is great. Focus on that one great component, and you will always learn something and grow yourself. As far as Orlando is concerned, he is a very opinionated person in general. I also think he is very confident in his opinion and his ability. What Orlando lacks is respect for his fellow chefs. I guess his mama never told him that if he doesn't  have something to say then not to say anything at all. If you don't enjoy something that is fine. We all have different palates and preferences. He feels a need to completely trash anyone and everything. If his desserts were perfect al the time, then and only then, might that attitude be OK. Some things are just better left unsaid. If he is so much better then everyone else, he should let his food speak for him. Did any of the chefs’ comments differ greatly from what you were thinking? Did you think any of the comments made were just to sabotage their fellow chefs? 
JI: I think all the chefs, even Orlando, made some really good points regarding aesthetics, plating, doneness, texture, flavor combinations, etc. I took everything everyone said into consideration minus the cheap shots and nonsense. Chris was really critical of Orlando's showpiece. They have very different styles, and in Chris' mind, it just wasn't up to par as far as the newest techniques. Chris is also very vocal regarding the other chefs' desserts. I don't think he said a positive comment about anyone else. Matthew played it smart and kept his honest views and opinions to himself. In the end, the self-proclaimed strongest competitors showed the most insecurity. Can you tell us a little bit about the two chocolate showpieces. Did they have an effect on the outcome? 
JI: Chris showed a lot of movement and depth in his design. In his day to day life he specializes in working on new techniques and honing his ability to create visually-stunning showpieces. I loved the way the ribs of the showpiece bent and curved. This is especially hard to do cleanly without the chocolate rippling. His showpiece also didn't flow in simply one direction. It changed directions forcing your eyes to change direction and chase the lines. He kept it very dark. This worked for and against him. I enjoyed the dark showpiece and enjoyed looking into the shadows to find its personality. Orlando and his team chose to create a theme for themselves, and have their piece tell a story. A story about history and culture. In the end it was done well. His flower really came to life with its contours and colors where Chris' flower looked like it was made of chocolate.  I personally was more drawn to Chris's showpiece because of the darkness and mystery of it. They both had flaws though. Uneven edges and sloppy glue points were the biggest issues. In the end, I think the judges panel was split over which showpiece was better and it came down to which team's overall desserts were better. Which plated dishes stood out to you — for better or worse? 
JI: As much as I am so tired of Carlos giving me chocolate, peanut butter, and banana, he has managed to present it in a new and interesting way and in a much more mature style than we have seen from him to date. I liked all the acidity that Sally provided with the use of the Manjari chocolate and fruit in her dish. Chris' dish was very interesting in concept, but I don't feel it truly delivered in flavor and texture. I think it was a bit undercooked and that made a big difference in the final overall texture. Katzie's dessert looked clunky and unrefined. She had way too many flavors going on, and they just canceled each other out. Plus, it was too large and wasn't very refined and beautiful. I couldn't find the main flavor of the dessert being jasmine. Her proportions were out of whack, and honestly, the best part of her whole dessert, the only part i even liked, was her glace. It was creamy and delicious. Matt seemed to play it kinda safe and his overall dessert was on the sweeter side. Other than that, it was a good dessert. Why did the eliminated chef ultimately go home? 
JI: Katzie's dessert was just not refined enough. It was way too big, too rich, and wasn't balanced at all. She didn't edit herself enough to control the flavors she delivered. It wasn't clean and inviting. Maybe if her cubes were half the size and she increased the amount of jasmine and passion, it would have come across better. Plus, she had all that time to work on her dessert since she wasn't involved at all in the creation and execution of the team's showpiece. She should have had the best dessert on the team. Chris and Matt were able to make that showpiece and still put up a dessert that was better then Anything else you’d like to add?
JI: Often the worst enemy of a chef is time. Too little of it and you may have to rush flavor development, skip steps and force things to happen before they naturally would in a perfect environment. Too much time and you begin to second-guess yourself and may start adding more components that aren't necessary and making changes out of fear and doubt.

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