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Top Chef: Just Desserts Recap – “Dessert Wars”


I’m not going to pretend that I am anything other than gleefully anticipatory at the coming episode of TC: JD. Restaurant Wars on the mother-ship almost always yields deliciously fun results, and I’m expecting the same level of drama from this episode.  Besides, Danielle’s gotta be going home this week, right?  Right???

There’s apparently enough to pack into this episode that we skip the opening credits and are treated to almost no hi-jinks at the apartment, and instead dive right into the Quickfire.  Gail is there, and she’s standing with Grease-era John Travolta!  I got chiiiills…they’re multipl-oh, wait, never mind that’s just Johnny Iuzzini.  Although the mental image of Gail suddenly coming out dressed as slutty Sandy Olssen and purring “Tell me about it…stuuud” is kind of awesome.  You know that  Gail’s fun at a karaoke bar.  I digress.  No more immunity will be awarded for Quickfire wins, and the chefs are participating in a classic challenge: the Relay Race.  The chefs draw cookies to divide into teams and Team Go Diva (who it appears have shortened their name to simply “Team Diva”) wind up together and our other three remaining chefs look like they just swallowed sour milk.  Whether it’s because they’re actually intimidated or simply disgusted is anyone’s guess.  The chefs have to mold 12 tart shells, pipe 8 buttercream roses, separate 6 egg whites and whip them into peaks firm enough to defy gravity, and then roast the partridge in a pear tree.  Excuse me, I mean stretch strudel dough over the length of the table and roll the strudel; the winning team gets $3,000 apiece.

I’m not going to attempt to give a play-by-play of the relay race…suffice it to say that Danielle got the lead, Heather tied it up, Zac and Morgan basically tied in the final leg and then Team Diva destroyed the others in the strudel-rolling competition, which sounds like something that would air on ESPN 8: The Ocho (name that reference).  Gail announces to the chefs that their Elimination Challenge is the first ever Dessert Wars; they’ll be working in the same teams to create the ultimate dessert shop experience.  Each chef is responsible for three dishes and Gail tells them that each of their menus must include a bread item, which must be a similar thing to when Padma intones that the chefs must include a dessert over on Top Chef.  We also find out later that at least two desserts must be a la minute and I’m not entirely sure why the producers seem to think I want to find out new details of the challenges from the contestants.  I want as much Gail Simmons face time as you can conceivably give me.  The winning team gets $30,000, and man they are just throwing money at these people aren’t they?

Team Diva settles on “adult candy-shop” as their theme, which doesn’t sound vaguely pornographic.  It sounds openly pornographic.  The other team doesn’t have a fun name, but I like Eric the most over there so I’ll call them Team Eric; they decide that their theme will be “comfort.”  There’s a lot of generalized hating going on between the two teams, but nothing too exciting.  Then Yigit says “margarita sorbet,” and a just a little bit of drool escapes the side of my mouth.  There’s a brief moment of another ingredient gone missing, but it’s really only notable for the fact that Yigit actually deals with it in an adult manner.  While this is commendable, it sadly doesn’t make for riveting TV; luckily, Yigit’s face makes for riveting TV, so he’s fine.

It’s showtime!  Team Diva’s shop is called Pastry Playland, and the judges like their decor but are bewildered by the fact that they didn’t fill up their display case to bursting.  The judges like Zac’s offerings and note that he tackled the bread dessert and one of the a la minute items.  Yigit doesn’t get as good a response, with his fraisier cake getting a criticism I really don’t understand (but at least it’s not a financier cake) and his chocolate tart gets dinged for having a too-thick crust.  Unfortunately we know that it was actually Heather who made all the dough; trouble on the horizon.  His margarita sorbet, however, gets top marks.  Heather also gets a “meh” response from the judges for her offerings, but it’s more interesting to watch her and Zac claw at each other in the kitchen.  It’s gonna be a good stew room tonight, people!

Team Eric’s shop is called Whisk Me Away; they totally win the name contest.  The judges like the look of this shop more, but Danielle’s front-of-house skills are not comparing well to Yigit’s.  Eric gets generally B/B+ reviews from the judges.  Danielle gets good reviews for her ginger ale sorbet float and shortcake, but her coffee cream pie is deemed timid.  Morgan gets good reviews for showing the widest range of any of the contestants.  I’m really not sure which way this is going to go, but I’m going to say that Team Diva came out behind and Heather goes bye-bye.

Judge’s Table!  Both teams are standing to take their lumps, does this mean no Stew Room?  Boo!  At first we just get a long reiteration of the judge’s comments from earlier, though Heather does get a chance to redeem herself when she owns up to making the dough that brought down Yigit’s tart without being goaded into it.  Whisk Me Away gets the win, and it appears that they earned it.  I’m not certain if they’re more excited about the $30,000 or the joy of beating Team Diva.

The day of reckoning for Team Diva has arrived, and Heather gets the boot.  You know what this means: I actually got one right (I know I picked Danielle at first, but that was before I saw the episode.  Let me have this one)!!  Her exit gives her some much nicer colors than the past few episodes.  This also means that we know one thing: the winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts will be a man.  I mean, there’s no way Danielle is winning this thing, right?  Right???

And some cherries on the sundae:

– “Heather is a very good pastry chef, but she’s definitely not the best person to have in the front of the house.”

– I know I’ve been dogging Danielle, but she actually gives some of the best testimonials in the house.  She’s always making some ridiculous face or noise to accent what she’s saying; it’s fun.

– Why did Zac’s drunken donut with a whiskey milkshake become a jelly donut with a verbena (whatever that is) milkshake?  First one sounds better.

– Barring any more upsets, it seems likely that our final three will be Morgan, Zac and Yigit.  I’ll be Team Yigit.