Top Chef: Just Desserts recap: A Chocolate Traves-tea
The chefs compete to make an edible bouquet and tea party desserts inspired by celebrity couples
I was once told that you go to cooking school to be a chef and pastry school to be an artist, and last night, the cheftestants might as well have been given smocks, berets and happy little clouds because it was time to get their art on.
For the Quickfire, they had to create an edible bouquet, taking a cue from famous cake decorator Shinmin Li, who served as guest judge. She’s famous for creating gorgeous cake decor, but for someone who is so entrenched in the world of pretty flowers, she looked like she could cut them. “That girl breathes fire,” Zac explained.
The majority of the group was clueless. For starters, Eric went for a “kitschy” cupcake. Does the Top Chef kitchen look like his personal bakery? Why does he insist on “his way”? His giant cupcake was flat, uninteresting and overly simple, and to start with such an easy base, some height would’ve been nice. And perhaps actual sugar flowers.
Danielle, being a lover of incorporating all things natural (see couture challenge heinous vegetable dress), doesn’t do sugar flowers, so she also did her own thing, which is always a good idea. In last night’s case, it meant fresh fruit to represent flowers. Interesting idea, but it looked more like Edible Arrangements than a creation of top five caliber. Plus, major point deduction for not finishing the back of the display. It was like a Project Runway contestant not finishing the seam. If only we had Michael “the crotch on those pants is insane” Kors to provide his commentary here.
Unlike the others, Zac openly admitted that he had no idea what he was doing, so he used what he knew best — disco, in his case, natch — to make sense of it all. He arranged his chocolate disco flowers, which Shinmin called “messy,” in a mirror vase, explaining that a flower blossoms at the disco. Not quite, Yigit thought: “Zac’s piece looks like a flower arrangement that had a rough night then just forgot to go back to bed.” But to be fair, would Zac really have it any other way?
Morgan and Yigit were the only ones to earn Shinmin’s praise. Morgan was obviously not hesitant to tell us that he’s done this before. He crafted a chocolate flower arrangement with — I’ve got to admit — a pretty amazing sugar bow. It was just the right amount of ambition to make an impressive presentation. Yigit, on the other hand, took it a notch too far, trying to make his own vase out of sugar. Did Morgan continue to prove his obnoxiousness by knocking it over and thus breaking it? Yes. Was Yigit asking for it with such a fragile piece? Also, yes.
Despite what the promos had you thinking, the drama over the sugar shards played out for a good 0.5 seconds. Yigit went on sans handmade vase with a tropical display that had color and the kind of delicacy Shinmin was looking for. But color turned out to be less important than presentation, so Morgan took home the win and $5,000.
NEXT: It’s teatime!
So what could be daintier than delicate flowers? Well, a tea party of course! (No, not that tea party.) But it wasn’t just any tea party; this one involved dessert and trashy celebrity gossip. The cheftestants catered a party for Food & Wine‘s Dana Cowin, but the two bite-sized desserts they were making had to be inspired by a celebrity couple. Tea + tabloid gossip = ultimate mix of high and low?
The challenge gave the cheftestants an opportunity to play with their creativity, and as much as I’ve dogged on Danielle, I loved her Conan and Andy Richter dessert, not just because I love CoCo, but because she was the only one to think outside the box in terms of couples.
Morgan didn’t know anything about celebrities, probably because he’s a heterosexual man he’d tell us, so the ever-resourceful pastry chef turned to a nearby magazine rack to see what all the fuss was about. He settled on Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush. That’s right, not obvious choices like Brangelina, but the girl who rose the ranks by baring her bottom.
As for Zac, would you have guessed that he likes Broadway? Well, this may shock some of you, but he does! He made the inspired choice of Julie Andrews and husband Blake Edwards, director of the classic Pink Panther films. Also shocking: Yigit loves Madonna, and wanted the Material Girl and Guy Ritchie. I almost forgot about Eric, which is becoming a frequent occurrence. Mr. Mopes chose Oprah and Stedman.
Everyone finished their shopping and started to prep when Johnny came in to drop a bombshell: no chocolate allowed! No chocolate in the pastry world is probably a lot like Danielle without those facial expressions or Zac with no disco; it just doesn’t make sense.
Speaking of those two, the news didn’t affect either of them because neither had planned to use chocolate anyway. But for everyone else, it was a dessert disaster. Morgan had a chocolate cake in mind, one of Eric’s desserts was chocolate-based and possibly worst off of the bunch, Yigit’s entire concept relied on contrasting chocolate flavors. Add to it that he couldn’t even finish plating, and it was not a good day for Yigit.
NEXT: The celebratory results
I guess Morgan truly is the real deal because he managed to sidestep the chocolate problem and put a creative twist on two famous people he knew nothing about. To represent Kim, Morgan made an almond sponge cake with bittersweet citrus macaroon, meant to symbolize her sour attitude over Reggie not proposing. The woman as the nagging, sour girlfriend — how original!? In any case, the judges were happy enough with the macaroon to let its overfilled center slide, but his tasty almond cake was better eaten with a spoon than as a finger food as they had originally asked.
Danielle’s aforementioned Conan-Andy Richter dessert also wound up in the top three. The judges all liked her creativity and the fact that she finally committed to a concept and followed through, but they did acknowledge that the proportions for the strawberry-jalapeno cake were off, and the oatmeal cookie seemed ill-fit. It was like a refined version of her “128” black and white party dessert.
Zac had a similar dose of fun with a Captain Von Trap Crunch and spoonful of sugar (ha!) alongside a pink pavlova as a nod to the Pink Panther. Zac’s explanation and presentation were both flawless, and were made even better when he said, “Oh my god, I am such a dork. I cannot stop giggling!” Having the balls to serve Dana Cowin Captain Crunch and actually make her like it? That smells like an Elimination win to me!
Of course both Yigit and Eric had epic problems with their desserts, and the judges ripped each a new one. For starters, both were absolute basket cases when they presented their tiers. With Yigit’s dishes, forget that he didn’t finish plating, the quality was made for a cruise ship, Johnny said. And Danielle tried, for once, to make an interesting point — something about how Madonna’s rock-hard body should’ve inspired a non-“jiggly” dessert, but I usually try to tune her out. At least he embraced the celebrity part of the challenge, right?
Eric embarrassed bakers worldwide by presenting unevenly baked shortbread cookies. Johnny told him he wasn’t just disappointed, but “a lot” disappointed. “I left the building,” Eric admitted about his mind not being in the game. And because his Oprah dessert was more Gayle-interesting than Big O-interesting, he was sent home. Surprised? Probably not. But his tears and gushing admiration for the other pastry chefs, not to mention the adorable moment when he could call himself a “chef,” was priceless.
What did you guys think of the episode? Which Elimination dessert did you like best? And what do you think of the top four now that Eric is out?
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Top Chef: Just Desserts