Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top Chef Just Desserts Plus Cake In A Box

Top Chef Just Desserts – Celebritea Party

Things seem a little more toned-down in the house since the mean girl left. Danielle is excited to be the last woman standing. Yigit is still broken up by Heather leaving and being on the bottom last week.

Gail is in the kitchen with
Shinmin Li, “renowned cake decorator”. Zac says she may be pretty, but she “breathes fire”. They have to make an edible bouquet and they’re looking for an “artful decorative dessert”. Shinmin sounds like she has a stick up her…backbone as she describes the challenge.

I think the chefs are all pretty imaginative in their approach. Danielle says she prefers to work with FRESH flowers, so she’s going to use fruit to make her bouquet.

Eric doesn’t do pulled sugar, so he’s making a giant cupcake and he’s going to pipe his flowers.

Yigit decides to make a pulled sugar vase, which is more delicate than Lalique. In fact, it’s so fragile that when Morgan barely grazes it, it shatters. I actually don’t think he did it on purpose, but he IS Yigit’s main competition. Yigit is fairly mature about it. Can you imagine the freakout Sean would have had?

The dishes are

Yigit looks around the room and disses everyone else’s work (to us) and thinks he has a good chance of winning.

Morgan makes chocolate flowers with a pulled sugar bow. The bow is absolutely gorgeous. Shinmin gives him a big smile.

Danielle says she likes natural organic things. I like what she’s planning. She candies long strands of orange zest and then rolls them up to look like roses. She loves hydrangeas, so she makes her own marshmallows to make tasty replicas. She paints sugar cookies to look like flowers. I think her display looks pretty good.

Either Shinmin or Gail (I can’t tell which) requests that Danielle turn her vase around so they can see the back. Uh-oh, the flower cookies aren’t finished on the back.

I think Danielle is completely charming. How did I not like her before?

Yigit explains that his showpiece broke along with his vase and he just threw this bouquet together in 13 minutes. Oh, isn’t he clever?

Yigit made some tropical roses and he says he blew some luster dust on them. I thought we learned that it was bad to BLOW anything on a food item. No one says a word about it.

Zac makes chocolate “flowers” (weird ones) and leaves and mounts them on a mirrored vase of such hideousness that it’s hard to look at anything else. The flowers aren’t good anyway, so the overall impression is pretty awful.

Eric tells Shinmin and Gail that he wanted to keep his “bakery style”. Shinmin says, “You’re more comfortable with PIPING flowers?” as if that’s a really second class way to go.

The losers –
Zac - Shinmin says his chocolate work is messy.

Eric - Shinmin thinks his sturdy base requires something with more height and she also thinks his piping work is messy. “It just looks like a pile of icing.”

I think Shinmin has some real OCD issues.

Eric says (to us) “I love what I did…It was one of the cleanest things I’ve done. And I think Shinmin is rude.”

Danielle – Shinmin dioesn't like her contrasting textures or the fact that her piece wasn’t done on the back.

The winners –
Morgan had the most professional looking presentation, Shinmin says.

Yigit’s is well balanced and each of his flowers “has personality”.

The winner is Morgan and he wins $5000. He says his grand total is $36,000.

Gail tells them the Elimination Challenge is to cater a tea party for Food and Wine Editor, Dana Cowin. This theme is dumbness personified. They have to make 2 small tea party desserts, representing a celebrity couple.

The chefs go shopping. Morgan checks out a gossip rag to help him think of a couple. They get back to the kitchen and find there’s absolutely no chocolate in the pantry. Suddenly Johnny comes in and announces that their desserts have to be chocolate-free.

Zac is unworried (he’s actually gleeful) because he hadn’t planned to use chocolate and neither did Danielle, but the others had. This is dumb. It’s one thing if they had been told BEFORE they went to the store, but this is really unfair.

Zac is mixing butter into something and suddenly there’s a close-up of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Did someone spill that into his or her batter? WHY are they showing us that?

They finish their prep and arrive at the small kitchen of their venue. Morgan is being a bully, Zac says.

Eric is quite unhappy about not being able to use chocolate - his couple IS Oprah and Steadman, so that could be problem. He hates his presentation, but hopes that the flavors will win out.

At the table, Johnny brags to Dana and Shinmin about telling the chefs they couldn’t use chocolate. Gail is all goodie-goodie and says, “It’s a nice opportunity for them to, perhaps, think seasonally”.

THAT’S GREAT IF THEY HAD BEEN TOLD BEFORE THEY WENT SHOPPING. I HATE these stupid twists. It reminds me of PUNK’D, which I also hate.

I think Johnny’s comment is mean and mean-spirited, which is also how I feel about taking away chocolate. It’s like they’re trying to trick the chefs. Really moronic. I don’t give a hoot, if they think it makes them think on their feet or whatever. I hate this nonsense of changing a challenge halfway through. I’m mad.

Shinmin says traditionally tea parties don’t usually include chocolate. That’s all great, but tell them in advance. Don’t pull this mean prank-type stuff on them.

Eric’s desserts come out. He says Steadman’s shortbread is square and savory and Oprah’s is round and more boisterous. (That doesn’t make too much sense, as well as being slightly rude.) The crowd seems to like the flavor. Johnny’s thinks they’re too big. Shinmin says his Oprah is messy, but says the shortbread part of Steadman crumbles in her mouth. (That’s a good thing, apparently.)

Zac steps out from the kitchen and tell the judges he chose Julie Andrews and Blake Edwards. They like the size of the little pastries and that you can stack them on top of each and eat them together. They like the crunch in the cheesecake. “Perfect bite”, Shinmin says.

Danielle is happy to announce that her couple is Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter. She says she put a little jalapeño on top of her strawberry cake for Conan…because he’s hot.

I understand the reasoning for Conan’s dessert, but I don’t get the oatmeal cookie with white icing for Andy Richter, unless it’s because she’s saying he’s bland. She did pipe lines around the edge to represent his podium. Shinmin, as if she’s testing Danielle, asks her if she made her own strawberry jam. Thankfully, she did.

The jalapeño clears Gail’s sinuses. The judges don’t like Danielle’s cake, but they love her idea. Dana thinks the two pastries are mismatched, but Johnny and Dannielle (the judge) like the contrast.

Morgan had planned to make a Sacher Torte, but, of course, it has chocolate, so he made a “blonde” Sacher Torte. T
hat’s fine, aside from the fact that it’s not really a Sacher Torte if it’s not chocolate.

BTW, have you ever had a REAL Sacher Torte? I’m really sorry for all you Viennese pastry lovers, but they’re dreadful. They're made of a rather dry - hardly chocolate - sponge cake, sandwiched with jam (which doesn’t help) and a coating of chocolate on the outside. The chocolate icing isn’t thick enough to make up for the stuff on the inside. The best part is the wooden box it comes in, which actually says Sacher Torte (literally and figuratively.) *

Anyway, Morgan goes into some story about how Reggie Bush can’t make up his mind about Kim Kardashian and so he fills the Sacher Torte with two fillings and Kim is bitter and he uses a heavily citrus-ed filling for his macaroon. (Huh? Plus this whole Kim/Reggie thing really dates the show.) Whatever, it’s kind of a stupid story, but his tea treats do look amazing.

Dana says that even though his macaroon is more than one bite, it’s worth having two bites of. Shinmin says the citrus filling wasn’t evenly distributed in the macaroon. Johnny says it wasn’t finger food, which was part of the requirement.

Yigit comes out with lots of schmutz on his jacket and Johnny says he looks flustered. Yigit says he did Madonna and Guy Ritchie and made two desserts that contradict each other in flavor. The judges think his Madonna yogurt cake is really bland. Dana says if Madonna were a dessert, she’d be “red hot”. Johnny doesn’t like the presentation of the Guy Ritchie dessert at all.

Yigit (and everyone else) thinks Yigit is in a lot of trouble.

Morgan, Zac and Danielle get called in. They have the top desserts. The judges tell Morgan they loved his dessert.

Gail loved Zac’s Pink Panther Pavlova.

Shinmin is annoying as she says Zac’s dishes were the only ones that made her think of a Devonshire tea. She pronounces Devon as if it were French. Annoying.

The winner is Zac. Great, but I really don't care who wins.

Eric and Yigit get called in as the worst performers this week. The judges give it to both of them. They act as if Eric practically poisoned them, but they were actually tasting his stuff, it didn’t sound that bad. The fact that chocolate was taken away from them really got to both Eric and Yigit. Dannielle says Eric showed a lack of creativity.

Shinmin asks, ”Are you AWARE that the two pieces of shortbread were baked unevenly?” Eric says he stalled and got trapped. He should have said they were jerks to take away chocolate.

The same thing happened with Yigit. He says his desserts were supposed to be chocolate and the judges don’t even address that issue. Everyone has something bad to say about every element of both of Yigit’s dessert.

However the judges did like Yigit’s story about Madonna and Guy Ritchie. Yeah, but how fair was it to take chocolate away from someone who was doing Oprah? I think the whole thing is so unfair.

Yigit and Eric go back to the stew room. I think Yigit should go home. They come back in. Who gets shown the door? Eric. That stinks.

Johnny tells Eric he’s a great chef as he shakes his hand. The most exciting part to Eric is that he got called Chef. He doesn’t actually care that he’s leaving, because his whole Top Chef experience has made him finally think of himself as a chef, and not just a baker. Eric says, “It wasn’t until now that I realized that was my journey. That…I became a chef here.” Sweet.

Johnny says he was mad at Yigit for serving those desserts. I’M mad that they pulled this chocolate thing.

It’s funny how I’ve completely changed my mind about Danielle. She seems like a fun, nice person. Maybe she’s not a Johnny Iuzzini or a Shinmin Li, but she is imaginative. I can’t believe that she will triumph over Morgan, but we’ll see.

*Sacher Torte Note:

These boxes held the two versions of Sacher Tortes as they exist today.

I tasted them eons ago, when my father wanted to test the difference between the two. I didn’t like either one.

The Original Sacher Torte, first made 1832, is made only in Vienna and Salzburg and can be bought and shipped just about anywhere.

The Demel Bakery developed and sold a version of the Sacher Torte at their bakery and then at the Hotel Sacher beginning in 1876.

After a legal battle as to who could use the name, the Demel Bakery had to settle for calling theirs the “Original Eduard Sacher Torte”. The other remains The Original Sacher Torte.

The main differences between the two? The Original Sacher Torte has a layer of jam in the middle of the cake. Demel’s has the jam directly under the chocolate icing.

Even though they’re world famous,
Terri agrees with me about the taste of the Sacher Tortes and SHE had them in Vienna, not out of a box.


Anonymous said...

Does Shinmin have her own bakery? If she's so "renowned", why don't they tell us where she works? She probably has no job because she seems like a rude bitch.

I hated the chocolate twist. And I thought the same thing at Gail's "think seasonally" comment. Hard to think seasonally when you had no idea an entire category of ingredient was going to be taken away from you. So they basically just wasted a ton of money having them all buy ingredients that they probably couldn't use.

I don't understand how Yigit got to stay when he didn't even finish plating all of his desserts. Were Eric's shortbread cookies really that bad, that Yigit didn't even FINISH the challenge and got to stay?

Sue said...

I need to get you to fill in the blanks when I'm too hesitant to say stuff.

The more I think about it, the more I'm amazed anyone came up with ANYTHING after they took away chocolate. I think I might have chosen to walk away.

They obviously kept Yigit based on his past performances, unlike what they do in the "real" Top Chef.

As we're getting to the end, I've definitely decided that this was a lukewarm version of the franchise. I don't know if it was the unfortunate casting or lack of charisma in the hosting and judging, but it really hasn't worked for me.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I don't want Just Desserts (I just can't bring myself to keep up with these shows lately) I did catch a bit of it with the chocolate thing. Yeah, that was pretty low of them.

Think seasonally? I don't think chocolate ever goes out of season.

When I saw the "cake in a box" title though I was sure there would be some aspect of the competition where someone used a boxed cake mix and I would haved loved to have seen your reaction to that!

About 20 years ago some chef had an article in the NY Times (I think) who tried to imitate a sacher torte (since the recipe is a secret). I remember it being my most favorite cake and I begged my mother to make it for every special occasion. It was a dense, near-flourless, super-chocolately delight. I guess it was better to stick to the copycat version!