Top Chef: Just Desserts recap: The Last Days of Disco Dust
The field gets narrowed to three after the contestants bake cakes for Sylvia Weinstock's wedding anniversary
Hello, Top Chef fans — I’m filling in for the vacationing Archana Ram this week. I’ve only seen the last few episodes, and I’m harboring an overwhelming urge to call Yigit “Yeast”! I shall do my best to keep these shortcomings from ruining the recap.
Top Chef is like a box of Godiva chocolates: You always know which product placement you’re going to get. [GRAPHIC OF CHERRIES.] For this week’s Quickfire Challenge, the final four chefs — Danielle, Morgan, Yigit, and Zac — had to create four chocolates that represented unique milestones in their lives, including a “Golden Moment” that they cherish above all others. Morgan used bittersweet ganache to represent his failed marriage. Clever! Yigit folded an entire religion/philosophy into a coconut milk and chai tea bonbon, “cause you know in Buddhism, you kind of go through your crunchy core to get to your soft center.” Ha! Zac demonstrated impressive sit-and-reach skills in his attempt to attach significance to ingredients, putting peanuts in one chocolate thanks to a brother-in-law from Virginia and green tea and lemon into another because his friend likes to order Diet Coke when they go out for sushi. Sure! Whatever works. Ever the literalist, Danielle made a baseball for her dad and a “rocky road” — that at one point involved a technique that resembled turds in a litter box — to represent her tumultuous career.
Yigit’s fourth little paper cup was empty due to a strawberry ganache time crunch, so Morgan won. Guest judge Francois Payard, Morgan’s old boss, chose Morgan’s “Top Chef” bonbon — in which he used mendiant to represent “the two plates coming at me from both sides, crushing my soul” — as the one Godiva should use as inspiration for a new chocolate to be sold nationwide. Danielle grossly over-imitated Morgan’s composed reaction to the win, adding a few wacky facial tics of her own and a “Bah, humbug!” for good/awful measure. Lady, Morgan’s face looks nothing like that! You seem insane! Zac had HAD it with Danielle and her cartoon-character ways. “Danielle, you can’t cook,” he confessionalized. “You look like Marilyn Manson; please go home.” It may have been awful thing to say, but I can’t help but marvel at the “logic” of that second sentence. There is beauty in its absurdity. Unlike his anniversary cake….
Side note: Morgan’s “culinary school” treat — a passion fruit and milk chocolate bonbon — made me crave a Trinidad from Fannie May Candies like never before. Do you know about these? “The bright pastel, toasted coconut gives way to a rich velvety chocolate center!” They even come in the form of giant cream eggs (seasonal)! I tend to pack on a pound or three every time my mom sends me Trinidads from Illinois, but the 20 hours or so between ingestion and realization of weight gain have been some of the happiest times of my life. Trinidads are my Golden Moments. Oh, god, I’m suddenly so sad.
The show must go on! An adorable elderly man named Ben and his white sneakers wandered in to inform the final four of their Elimination Challenge: Create an anniversary cake for Ben and his wife of 61 years, Sylvia. You never forget your 61st! Of course, Sylvia was Sylvia Weinstock of Sylvia Weinstock Cakes, who also guested on the third episode. Good thing, because the cheftestants’ blank stares were screaming “really? this guy?” when it was just good old Ben.
NEXT: Ganache! (What, that’s not enough enticement to keep reading?)
The facts: Sylvia loves lemon, Ben loves chocolate, Sylvia wore a gray wedding dress and held pink flowers, Ben followed Sylvia into the ocean, they kissed under a piano, and sex is a wonderful thing. “The word was ‘smooching’ at the time,” Sylvia explained, and I could have sworn she’d said “smushing” à la Jersey Shore. Ah, progress.
The winner would receive “FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS FURNISHED BY DAWN HAND CARE RENEWAL,” boomed Gail’s voiceover that never comes even close to matching the rest of the scene. After a second round of the ultimate kitchen caper, The Case of the Missing Piping Bags, Danielle and Morgan continued to bicker like siblings who can’t stand each other. “I’m sick of your s—, stupid,” muttered Morgan. We were only really shown his side of the dialogue and a bunch of indignant Danielle faces. Luckily, Gail stepped in. “I think it’s time that we all eat some cake!”
Morgan, who presumably spent the last 90 minutes of the challenge creating the perfect dangle of Sylvia’s yellow bikini top from the piano bench (what a sexcellent detail), kept the outside of the cake a simple white. Inside were two tiers: lemon sponge and raspberry panna cotta vs. dark chocolate sponge with ganache. (I love typing and saying the word ganache. Ganache!) Once again, Morgan’s product looked the most professional, sophisticated, and finished to my untrained eye. Judge Johnny loved the three-dimensional work on the top: a piano filled with pink flowers. But he called out the shell border for being uneven, and Hubert said the chocolate part of the cake was a little dry.
Danielle did a chocolate cake with sour cherry compote and Greek yogurt ice cream, but we’ll all remember it as Battleship Cake due to its unfortunate, unfinished-basement-floor hue. Yuck. She did nail the details, though, with piano keys running up the sides of the cake and the smaller pink roses to represent Sylvia and Ben’s kids and grandkids. That part was brilliant. Danielle somehow won the challenge. The judges liked the taste, so there you have it. Danielle’s ability to skate by as other people fail finally resulted in a personal win. No time like the present, right?
Zac’s initial plan was to “really cook for the client,” but he quickly veered off the plank into his usual cesspool of ridiculousness. I couldn’t believe my eyes, starting from the very first in-kitchen shot of this blue-layered nightmare. BLUES. On a CAKE. How does that even happen? “I just love the whimsy of the water,” Zac trilled in an attempt to distract the celebrated couple from the fact that his cake looked like something out of a roughly handled children’s coloring book called Pirates Just Want to Have Fun. “The white chocolate is a sea foam and kind of a play on your bikini strings,” Zac urged Sylvia, who wasn’t buyin’ it at all. “It’s like a woman who wears all her jewelry to the occasion. Don’t do it,” Sylvia warned the judges at the tasting table. “It would be a great bar mitzvah cake.” Ooh. The ultimate burn! The spectacle of it all was hilarious, so I have to thank Zac for being completely nutters. (And what I loved most about this entire scene was Sylvia’s giant, sequined collar.)
NEXT: Zac gets offended by Morgan’s comments at judges’ table.
Yigit did two tiers: almond cake with chocolate mousse and sponge cake with lemon cream. Even though the judges found the cake way too complicated (not to mention he had trouble carving out a single slice), Yigit received praise for his ambitious efforts. Johnny liked that he flavored his buttercream, and Francois called Yigit’s the most elegant of the cakes. But later, during the judges’ deliberation, Francois admitted he couldn’t remember how any of it tasted. And Johnny said he just didn’t like it.
At the JUDGES’ TABLE [knife sound!], Zac tried to talk his way out of the damage he’d done: “Sylvia’s a force to be reckoned with in the cake world, so how do you do a cake for her without insulting her?” Anything, Zac. You do anything but that! Zac kept spiraling and eventually directed his insecurity and rage onto Morgan, somehow equating “people who play it safe” with Morgan’s “couldn’t care less” attitude after winning some of the challenges. “It’s not part of my character to jump up and down and flail and sing show tunes,” Morgan shot back. (Interesting: When they first showed this, before a commercial break, they edited out the word “flail.”) “I don’t think it’s polite to jump up and down and say ‘I won!’ I would rather remain composed than freak out like a little girl.” [Cut to Zac looking personally offended!]
Whoa. Morgan definitely should have cut that off after the word “composed,” but I gotta take his side here. Zac was just grasping at Krazy Straws — and understandably, as he was about to go down and he knew it! Morgan is under no obligation to overreact to his own incremental success for the purpose of meeting another contestant’s approval! That’s just insane. Basically Zac is disappointed in Morgan as a character on a reality show (who just kicked his ass). That’s not your job, Zac; that’s our job as viewers! We got this. Now shut up and bake me a cake that doesn’t look like something Boardwalk Empire just threw up.
But he can’t. Zac has been eliminated.
Sorry Zac. I was just trying to be as bitchy as you. You love it. Long live the disco dust! Air kisses!
Are you happy with the final three? What kind of weird cartoon-character drug did Danielle slip into her cake to win the judges’ favor? Have you ever tried a Trinidad? Discuss Top Chef: Just Desserts below!
Annie on Twitter: @EWAnnieBarrett