Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Chef Just Desserts - The Desserts AND The Show Get Better

Top Chef Just Desserts - Black and White

Mean Girls starts. Oh, it’s actually Top Chef Just Desserts with Heather H. being witchy about Heather C. leaving. It's a shame that Heather H. has a legitimate complaint about Morgan being a pig to women and it gets all rolled up into her kvetching about everybody else. She and Zac and Yigit are not a particularly nice trio.

In the Top Chef kitchen, Gail introduces them to Michael Laiskonis of Le Bernardin. Finally, a reason to watch this episode! Maybe he’ll test them and show them the front of his dessert menu and make them guess what it is…at which I failed so miserably.

Michael is standing in front of a table with savory ingredients and says he’s been “raiding the savory kitchen for years.” He says that it’s important to find a balance between boldness and restraint.

Please don’t tell me that I see a piece of fish on that table.

I can handle bacon with something sweet and, while I don’t mind introducing a bit of sweetness to fish – a honey soy glaze for example, PLEASE don’t tell me anyone is going to use fish in a dessert. It’s possible that it’s duck. Actually, I really don’t know.

This is weird. The screen says QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE - Dawn Hand Renewal With Olay Beauty Quickfire.

What the heck does that mean? Is the next thing going to be that they have to cook with SOAP?!!!

Well, no matter what the screen says, Gail says they have to make a dessert with one of the savory items. And it’s going to be pretty tough, because Gail says they can use exactly one pot to make their dessert.

The good thing about that is that all the chefs are at the same disadvantage. But, wait! Listen to this - Gail says they can wash the pot as many times as they need to, “KNOWING THAT DAWN HAND RENEWAL WILL HELP YOUR HANDS SEAL IN THE MOISTURE WHILE YOU DO THE DISHES.”

This is appalling, totally appalling. I know they have to shill a certain amount of the products they use in challenges, but to be HAWKING DETERGENT is really over the top.

Morgan knocks into Heather while he grabs beets away from Zac. Erika is not wrong when she complains to Danielle about Zac taking all the bacon.

They come up with some cool stuff, though. The dishes are here.

Chef Michael didn’t like Danielle’s – He didn’t think it was sweet enough; Eric’s wasn’t particularly dessert-like and Heather’s beets were undercooked. Wow, she is not doing well…ever.

Chef Michael liked Morgan’s dish – He appreciated him taking a risk in using liquid nitrogen for the first time. (How did Michael know that?) Zac’s cake had a beautiful beet flavor and Yigit’s was bold.

Zac wins. He’s happy and he gets immunity for the Elimination Challenge. Gail offers him $1000 to give up his immunity. Zac is actually thinking about it. Is he crazy? Immunity is priceless. Hasn’t he ever watched Survivor?

Zac gets Gail to up her offer. She goes to $5000. Oh c’mon, this is so fake. HE TAKES IT. What a complete moron! Really. It’s a good thing I don’t care if he goes home. That was dumb. He says he regrets taking the money IMMEDIATELY, Duh!

On to the Elimination Challenge, which is to create a black and white dessert in honor of the LA Times’ 128th birthday. The chefs are appalled and mortified by having colors taken away from them.

Danielle gives a horror film-worthy scream (to us). I hate to say it, but I just realized what particularly bothers me about her. She looks like she has fangs and when she just screamed like that, it looked perfectly natural.

Anyway, these chefs are big babies about having to make a black and white dessert. WHAT is so hard about that? Have they never heard of chocolate and vanilla? Hello?

Obviously they can tart that up a bit, but it just doesn’t seem like such a devastatingly hard challenge to me. Michael tells them just because their palette is limited doesn’t mean their taste should be.

Yigit spouts some Turkish expression that means the goats will only drink water from the blue sea. Kidding! Just checking to see if you’re paying attention. He said something about eating with your eyes first. You know, if you REALLY think about that…EW.

Finally, we get to see cooking without an overwhelming amount of nonsense. (It IS weird, though, that they walk out of the store and into the Top Chef kitchen with very few bags.) I spoke too soon. There is a bit of nonsense.

Danielle is making the numbers 1,2 and 8 out of different ingredients and they look like a project you’d do with preschoolers. Zac is frying (to order) whoopee pies. Erika, whom I like, loves her ice cream concoction. I like Eric too. He’s just a normal guy.

Swirly-haired Johnny comes in to chat with the chefs. He’s not happy that Erika is using blackberries and that her dessert is more purple than black. She’s a bit clueless as she says, “But the flavor will be good”. I hope that’s good ENOUGH, because it’s supposed to be black and white.

Heather, strangely, makes gingerbread and is using cranberries and pomegranates. WHAT is black and white about that? Well, at least, we’re seeing more of the cooking process without an insane person ranting.

Morgan makes a perfect sheet of chocolate that he’ll cut into squares. He also makes a chocolate cake that we see him pouring toffee syrup over. The syrup looks like dirty dish water. It’s really thin and unappetizing-looking. Apparently, there WAS a problem with it and it didn’t soak into the cake. The next day Morgan is left with cake that is soggy on the outside and dry on the inside.

The chefs arrive at the venue, which is set up with black and white tablecloths and framed LA Times front pages of great moments in history.

Before service starts, Yigit is tempering his ice cream and over-reducing a fruit compote. He’s also placing little chocolate squares over little squares of chocolate cake.

Heather can’t find her Rice Krispie treats and she thinks Morgan took them. The funny thing is that nobody seems to care. She seems to be attempting to raise this to the level of the missing pea purée, but no one’s biting.

In fact, I think it’s a lucky break that she lost that element to her dessert. Should Rice Krispie treats EVER be anywhere, where there are no kids…EVEN if they HAVE been made by a fancy pastry chef?

Here are the dishes.


Chocolate Cake with White Chocolate Mousse, Berry Compote & Almond Milk Ice Cream

Yigit says it’s a take on a millefeuille, which I don’t see at all. He has so much stuff on the plate. Johnny says the compote is gummy. Michael thinks that the (many) elements work well together.


Lemon Poppy Seed Ice Cream with White Chocolate Pavè & Blackberry Crème Brûlèe

Johnny gives Erika a hard time, because it doesn’t look BLACK and white. The judges DETEST her ice cream. Dannielle (the judge) says it tastes like glue. Johnny says it tastes like soap. Not good.


Deep Fried Whoopie Pie with Passion Fruit Cream & Asian Pear

As Zac goes into his routine for the judges, Morgan is getting fed up listening to his blathering. The judges seem to buy it, though.

Gail likes that Zac ”brought in a lot of different flavors that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the whoopee pie”. Johnny says “the passion doesn’t come through” that strongly in the passion fruit and he thinks the cake is too sweet. Michael: “It’s a lot of heavy and sticky.”


Chocolate Date Cake, Banana Anise Cream & Coffee Kahlua Jelly

Morgan tells the judges he made his dessert in blocks and columns to resemble a newspaper. (He’s so proud of himself. Ick.)

Johnny thinks it looks South Beach-esque. (That’s not a criticism.) Gail thinks it looks art deco. Dannielle thinks it looks like a little building. Johnny likes it overall, but Gail thinks the cake is really dry.


Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread Torte with Frozen Crème Anglaise & Blackberry Compote

Johnny points out how much red is on the plate and isn’t happy with Heather as far as completing the challenge. Heather isn’t bothered and says she still wanted to use those flavors.

The judges all seem to think it’s “tasty”, even if it’s not all black and white.


Mississippi Mud Cake with Earl Grey Whipped Cream & Hot Fudge Sauce

Gail is super impressed with his presentation (for once) and Eric is VERY happy with that. Johnny thinks he’s pretty close to the idea of the black and white and they all like it.


Lemongrass & Ginger Truffle, Peppercorn Meringue & Chocolate Sandwich Cookie

As I said before, she made the numbers One, Two and Three. Zac says it look like “an amateur mistake”. Let’s get real, it looks like hell.

The judges are most bothered by the fact that the three things don’t relate to each other. Michael puts it gently – “It’s not cohesive.”

Gail says, unbelievably, that they should have a hard time making a decision tonight. There should be no question. Danielle shouldn’t even make it to Judges’ Table, she should be escorted from the room.

They call in Erika, Heather and Danielle. The guys are incredulous.

It turns out the three women have the lowest scores of the night. The judges basically think the Heather is a stubborn witch who decided what she wanted to do, no matter what the challenge is, even if she went outside the boundaries of the challenge. (Which nutcase chef does THAT remind you of?)

Erika says she thought her ice cream was nice and light. Johnny is incredulous. They all thought something was actually wrong with it. Judge Dannielle is funny, “The ice cream tasted like soap. It was really…(wait for it)…disappointing.” I guess that’s one way of putting it. Erika looks confused. That really is a problem if it was THAT bad and she had no clue.

Michael wants to know if Danielle thought about how each of the components would come together. In as word, no.

Then Johnny says something interesting. He says that Danielle should have thought about the order that people would eat her dessert in. He said she should have told the tasters if there was a special way to eat the dessert that would give it the most impact. (There wasn’t.)

The weird thing is that the judges question the gals and then tell them to send in ALL the guys, without deciding who is going home. The other weird thing is that the gals don’t tell the guys that they (the girls) are on the bottom. The guys go in really anxiously. When they’re told they’re on the top, they practically plotz.

Gail asks if Zac is happy that he gave up immunity for $5000. He says NOW I am.

Okay, yada, yada, yada. The judges NOW say to the guys that they like everything, even though at the event, various elements were too dry or too sweet. The winner is…Yigit. Eh! Whatever, let’s get to the part where Danielle goes home.

Oy, Erika goes home. I guess Danielle’s was bad, but there wasn’t one element that was really awful and Erika’s ice cream was completely unpalatable.

This was not a terrible episode. We saw more cooking and more creating of the individual elements of the desserts. When there are fewer chefs, they have time to concentrate more on the actual cooking. Also there is no totally over-the-top character left, stealing air time. This still isn’t the most appealing cast of chefs, but hopefully the remaining episodes will only improve.


Anonymous said...

I think they told the girls not to let the guys know that it was the girls who were on the bottom. Probably to make Zac sweat it out a bit more, since he'd traded his immunity.

I wonder if maybe in between scooping ice cream Erika swished her scoop in soapy water? How else could they all think her ice cream tasted of soap, and she didn't? It had to be something in between her making it and serving it.

I also thought it was interesting that Johnny told Danielle she should've explained to her guests how to eat the dessert. Angelo tried to do that with a dish in the last Top Chef, and tom said diners shouldn't need a road map. Though, perhaps if she *had* gave those instructions, Johnny would've told her the same thing.

It was very weird that Heather accused Morgan of stealing her rice krispie treats. She is really kind of getting on my nerves, and though she appears good on paper she doesn't do as well in challenges - it's kind of like she's old school "make it look beautiful but it can taste like crap." Either that, or yes, she had good training, but even if you went to Harvard, somebody graduated on the bottom.

Sue said...

Hi Amy,

I think that must be true about the girls.

You could be right about the soap, which is a very distinctive taste. The only other thing I've ever heard described as soapy is cilantro and I'm pretty sure her ice cream was cilantro-free. But there are other tastes that are weird. Erika was using poppy seeds, wasn't she? Could they have been rancid?

That's so true about Tom! Good call! Danielle's dessert was so pathetic that the only thing that would have helped would have been - not a roadmap - but some newspaper to wrap them in before tossing them in the garbage.

Heather is annoying me too. But even the last person in the class at Harvard had to have SOME smarts just to get in.

Two Rivers Soap Company said...

I've got to stop reading your posts at work! I burst out laughing and everyone looks at me like I'm a nut job.

I'm with you, why is Danielle still there??

Tracy said...

As much as I love Top Chef, I can't seem to get into this. There's not a single personality I like, and few desserts I'd really like to eat. (Deep fried whoopie pies sounded good, though.)

Sue said...

Hiya TRSC,
Don't stop! Everyone loves a kook!

You are SO not the only one. Sean ruined the beginning of the season and it's only now starting to get barely watchable.

Emily said...

Eric is kind of loveable, isn't he? I like him. Although I don't think there's any way he can win.

I hope the remaining shows do improve. A lot of the cast seems evil. Well, Heather does anyway.

Yeah... I agree with you and everyone else. Danielle hasn't made anything that I thought sounded good.

Anonymous said...

The person who graduates last in their class at Harvard got in because his daddy bought his way in. Kind of like George W.

I like Eric because he is so sweet and doubts himself based solely on the fact that his stuff doesn't look as fancy as everybody else's. But aside from a few missteps I think he really is doing very well! Clearly his stuff tastes wonderful as he's beat out people whose stuff looks better.

astheroshe said...

Black and White...

I really do not know why some of the chefs added so much color. This really was not a hard challenge.

Danielle's Dish was primitive! OMG It look like my child made it.

I like Eric as well. He seems like a kind person. If he had a little more education he would be kicking all their-A-----. He may still win, with all his experience .

I really think Heather has a crush on Morgan, or she is soo pissed he does not give her the time of day. That is why she is always fusing at him, accusing him of all kinds of things. He is not that bad. I do not think he is a woman hater.

I am glad Yi won ! HurRAY for GAY! ^^

Looking foward to tonight :)