Technology with attitude

Top Chef: Just Desserts Recap-"Mr. Chocolate"


Welcome to CultureMob’s coverage of Top Chef: Just Desserts!  As an avid Top Chef fan, and long-time dessert lover, I have to say that I’m excited for this show.  Also, I love Gail Simmons like a fat kid loves cake; she’s  a fun, sassy presence when she judges over on the mother-ship, and currently owns my favorite judging quote (“If we wanted food you cook every day, we’d go to your restaurant”).  Gail Simmons, dessert, Top Chef…it’s a recapper’s dream I tell you.

Let’s meet the chefs, and pre-judge them based on their bios, shall we?

Malika is a Chicago-based pastry chef, and her favorite dessert is creme fraiche cheesecake with concord grape sorbet, pecan crisp and ginger caramel.  Malika does not appear to be a fan of “simple.”

Zac currently resides in NYC, and his favorite dessert is “upside down” apple crisp with creme fraiche ice cream.  Zac also is wearing a bow tie in his promo picture and used to work in the wig department for the Rockettes.  Zac seems  fun.

Tania lives in Boston, and I refuse to transcribe her favorite dessert because it contains two ingredients I’ve never heard of and one of them is squash.  I love squash.  I do not love squash in dessert.

Yigit lives in San Francisco and also has a ridiculously complicated favorite dessert, this one containing three ingredients I’ve never heard of.  Malika, I clearly spoke to soon in calling you not a fan of “simple.”

Heather H resides in Atlanta and her favorite dessert is apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream.  Hell, yeah it is.

Tim lives in Oakland and his favorite dessert is apple pie a la mode.  Tim, meet Heather H.  Heather H meet Tim.  Now make me a cake.

Heather C is from Brooklyn (Brooklyn yeah!) but currently resides in DC.  I’m torn between liking her for her origin and feeling betrayed by her defection.  Her favorite dessert is carrot cake with creme fraiche sorbet and candied walnuts.

Seth lives in NYC and is apparently the only contestant to not have a favorite dessert, at least according to  Smells like d-bag.

Erika is from Jacksonville and her favorite dessert is chocolate cherry bread filled with sweet mascarpone cheese with a vanilla milkshake.  I think an artery just clogged.  I mean that in a good way.

Morgan hails from Dallas and his favorite dessert is sticky toffee pudding with banana anise ice dream.  I’m sorry, that just sounds gross.

Danielle resides in South Pasadena and her favorite dessert is roasted pears, cinnamon ice cream, almond brittle and creme fraiche.  Danielle also looks kind of like Megan Fox, at least in her photo…it’s a pity straight men don’t watch Bravo.

Eric is our third NYC-based chef and his favorite dessert is Mississippi mud cake.  I feel chocolate has been under-represented in this list…Eric, a hat tip to you.

We start the show proper with all the chefs piling onto one of those awful red tour buses; I feel for the production assistant that had to exhort them to jump up and down and clap when they saw it.  After the brief intros, I can’t help but notice that pastry chefs seem to be, by and large, significantly more attractive than savory chefs.  Not that I’m complaining.  I’m then distracted from the bus by head judge Johnny Iuzzini’s sideburns; Johnny definitely hails from the “I’m a chef and chef=rock star” school of thought.  Gail Simmons, oozing class as always, announces that the chefs’ Quickfire is to create their signature dessert; no points for originality, but we’ve gotta start somewhere.

The chefs enter the kitchen and the expected melee ensues, with most of the chaos seeming to be coming from Seth.  Just as they get into a groove, Gail walks in (and now that I see her whole outfit, she’s looking very power-lesbian) and announces a twist.  Well, points for originality after all then!  All signature dishes must now become cupcakes, and Morgan notes that “everybody crapped their pants.”  This unfortunately makes me think of DJ Casper’s miserable song “Everybody Clap Your Hands,” and it’s way way too late in the evening for any reference to that song.

Malika, Tim and Zac are the bottom three in the Quickfire; Malika didn’t finish, Tim didn’t make a cupcake and Zac…well, apparently Zac’s cupcake just didn’t taste very good.  Seth, Tania and Heather C make up the top with Seth taking home the win and immunity for the elimination challenge.  This is unfortunate, as Seth is the only chef to really make much of an impression thus far, and it’s not a positive one.

The chefs get to go to their loft, and it makes me realize that I’m not sure where this is being filmed.  With so much emphasis on geography on the original Top Chef, it’s actually a bit disconcerting.  However, I’m distracted when we quickly find out that Seth is an insomniac, Morgan needs the temperature to be cold so he can sleep and Zac needs his own bathroom because he has “bathroom issues.”   I’m not sure if that’s an actual problem he has or just smart game-play.

The elimination challenge is to create the most luxurious chocolate dessert imaginable (the hyperbole is not mine, this is actually the script written by producers) for guest judge Jacques Torres, who’s nickname is apparently “Mr. Chocolate.”  There’s a low level of drama in the kitchen, where we basically find out that if you screw up in baking, you can’t fix it like you can in cooking.  Before you know it, the judges are tasting the food, and it’s here that you can see the show’s youth.  On the original, you can almost guarantee that someone’s food is going to get eviscerated.  Padma and Tom are in no way above spitting things out, sending them back or throwing them into the garbage.  Gail is comfortable here, but you can tell the others are a little more hesitant to really bring the axe down; I suspect they’ll find their way to that by Episode 4.  Or at least I hope so.

We get a touch of drama when the chefs taste each other’s food, and Zac and Danielle set a land speed record on hating each other, when she makes an off-hand comment that she feels sick after tasting his.  It really seemed like she didn’t mean it in response to his dessert but more in the way of “I’ve been eating chocolate all day, no more please,” but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Seth, Heather H and Zac make up the top three for the challenge.  The judges thought Zac’s deconstructed brownie sundae was well-conceived, Heather’s dark chocolate mousse tort was aesthetically pleasing and Seth’s madra curry and chocolate palette was cutting edge.  The win goes to Heather, and it seems like she deserved it.  Seth also looks like he got hit in the face with a cookie sheet when he doesn’t win, so…bonus.

Danielle, Tania and Morgan are the bottom, and Morgan maturely mutters “whatever.”  Don’t let Gail catch you with that backtalk Morgan…she will cut you with words.  Danielle’s chocolate tart with hazelnut brittle was too difficult to eat, Tania’s flourless chocolate torte was grainy and Morgan’s chocolate fried pie was jarring and unfocused.  Points go to Tania for class and self-awareness.  Nevertheless, Tania takes the fall even though I was fairly sure Danielle would be the first to go.  Farewell Tania: we hardly knew thee, though we did find out you were a “Jewish-atheist-artist.”  Power on, girlfriend.

And some bullet points:

-After an episode of Seth, I’d like to upgrade my pre-judgment “smells like douche-bag” to a full on “stinks like douche-bag.”

-Morgan’s a winker.  And, apparently, in a race with Seth for most unlikable.

-What exactly makes a dessert luxurious?

-Apparently, you do not blow on food.

-The exchange of the evening:  “Making dessert is kind of like giving birth to a baby.” -Zac  “And you have a lot of experience in this?” -Gail

-Top Chef: Just Desserts is not a place to be timid. So sayeth La Simmons.