Top Chef: Just Desserts season finale recap: And the Winner Is...
Morgan, Yigit, and Danielle get help from celebrity pastry chefs in the final battle to be named the show's inaugural winner
Before I delve into the final showdown last night, I have to share two thoughts that were competing for attention in my brain last night moments before the winner was announced.
First, I still can’t believe I was on vacation last Wednesday night, the same week that Zac was eliminated. True, he is the definition of crazy-pants, what with his disco dust and blue cake, but I dare you to show me another person this season who’s been truer to himself—and one who can somehow make disco work in almost any situation. (Emphasis on “almost any.”)
Second, Yigit has a boyfriend?! Ugh, of course. I’m sure gay men and, let’s face it, some women, are still hurting from that revelation.
Okay, now that I’ve got those things off my chest, let’s move on.
Last night’s finale opened with the same offensive sentiments that left a bad taste in some of your mouths last week. “Zac is an annoying little fairy,” Morgan said, kicking his “like a little girl” insult up a notch. Is Morgan actually homophobic? The (well-edited) video evidence might make some of you think so, but “ignorant moron with no tact” is probably the description we can all agree upon.
After Morgan spouted off another insult (“[Zac] acted like a bitch and he went home like one.”), Gail was on hand to announce the final challenge: Create a progressive four-course dessert menu to serve to 12 elite members in the pastry world. A fairly unsurprising task for a finale, but what came next was
a good and shocking twist.
Downstairs waiting in a bordello, er, restaurant, Johnny tried his best to get into peer mentor role, as he swirled his cocktail and revealed that pastry pros Sherry Yard, Claudia Fleming and Elizabeth Faulkner would serve as the finalists’ sous chefs. I’d say that was the right time for a Danielle facial tick: “That’s like being a director and having Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese…it’s like HUH?!”
She got Elizabeth Faulkner, while Yigit got Sherry Yard and the pairs got along quite well. (I particularly loved how adorable Yigit and Sherry were.) But Morgan, being the arrogant, insensitive guy that he is was totally rude to Claudia, talking to her like a child, not the, oh I don’t know, superstar pastry chef that she is. They may be two different personality types—she’s old school, he’s chemical-loving—but Morgan could’ve been paired with a judge who would be deciding his fate, and he’d still create problems. “Will [Claudia] approve or will she just think I’m some ass clown who doesn’t belong here?” Morgan wondered. His words; not mine!
Sherry and Yigit had a nice rhythm going, and though I’d like to say the same about Danielle and Elizabeth, it was a little kooky to see the latter woman shelling pistachios. Shouldn’t Danielle have been poaching tips from her?
Well, if Danielle was saving Elizabeth’s skills for day two, it was a waste, because on the second day, the three finalists were in for yet another surprise: no professional sous chefs. Instead, they used the cookie jar to pick a new assistant from the crop of eliminated contestants through this season. (Seth was, of course, noticeably absent.)
NEXT: Is that karma or just plain sabotage?
The duos were less memorable than I would’ve liked: Yigit with Tim and Danielle with Tania, who I had totally forgotten about. But because reality TV can be so good sometimes, Morgan picked Heather H. and I wondered, will she play fair or sabotage the heck out of his final challenge?
I suppose it’s more virtuous to play fair, but Morgan, you make the choice so hard! His pigheadedness went one step further when he confessed that he wanted to knock Zac’s skull off. Heather H., of course, didn’t hear this at the time, but already armed with an arsenal of ill will, she managed—intentionally or not—to ruin at least some of Morgan’s desserts by sugaring the soufflé molds. She probably didn’t even realize she was doing something wrong, but it was nice to see karma make its way around.
The only other fairly interesting thing in the kitchen before service was the flurry of conversation over yogurt caviar. So sue me if I’ve never heard of them before, but with Yigit and Morgan both stressing over these tiny pearls, how did this challenge suddenly become about those little suckers?
When the final hour was upon them, they were serving to not just the judges, other former contestants and pastry chefs from hot spots like Bouchon, Fleur de Lys, and Ciudad, but the cheftestants’ former sous chefs, too! Oh sweet justice. I was ready to see Claudia rip into Morgan’s desserts, but then I remembered that she’s not a petty reality show contestant but an actual accomplished chef who will go back to her illustrious career after the taping. Instead, she simply said he’s a “typical male pastry chef,” which I believe is made up of one part hair gel, two parts Todd English and six parts ego.
But I digress…onto the desserts!
Yigit made an impressive comeback after his floundering performance from the last few episodes. Forgoing his normal repertoire of bells, whistles, ding dongs, curly cues and everything under the sun, he showed restraint and precision, and was the only one who pulled off an actual progression. His cucumber and lime sorbet (with yogurt caviar!) had bright flavors, his sorbet tasted like “a field of wild strawberries” (which I guess was good), a muscavado braised pineapple had a nice herb pairing, and he finished with the boldest and best of the four—a hazelnut dacquoise, which the judges raved was “brilliant.” In case it wasn’t clear, Gail reiterated, saying she wanted to bathe in the milk candy Yigit had made. Alrighty then!
The judging panel gave kudos to Morgan for pushing himself, and I must admit, they were right to do so. The piano in last week’s episode, the ruby ring in the couture challenges—he definitely is a master of sophistication. Morgan started off strong with a passion fruit cannoli, but things started going downhill with the blueberry pavolva, which, if we’re going to get all picky (and we should at this point in the game), was more violet than blue. If Roy G. Biv taught us anything, it’s that violet is so not blue. Oh, and then there was his disastrous manjari soufflé. Well, it was disastrous for everyone except Danielle. The others weren’t baked evenly and collapsed on site. But what goes down must come up, and his final plate was a yowza moment: white pepper crème brulee, perfectly assembled baumkuchen (new favorite word alert!) and his go-to dessert, the almighty macaroon. The task was to create a progression, but Morgan’s foursome didn’t seem cohesive to me.
NEXT: A somewhat unexpected win goes to…
As for Danielle, obviously her report card was all about being most improved. She was lucky to have skated by in a few middle challenges because it gave her the chance to finally find her footing in the last few episodes. She started with a hazelnut cake paired with Spanish goat cheese that showed a lot of work and thought. Dish number two was a palate-cleansing lemon parfait that looked like a bowl of watery baby food. But Johnny, who seemed to always defend Danielle during judges’ panels, loved the citrus flavor. She also pulled off a risky ice cream trio that cheerleader Johnny was concerned about: a baked Alaska, strawberry sundae, and root beer float that incorporated texture in a smart way and totally worked conceptually. Her last dish put Elizabeth’s pistachio-shelling duties to good use for a chocolate pudding cake with pistachio ice cream. But it didn’t leave the same powerful taste that her other dishes offered. It lacked salt and was, once again, not so easy on the eyes.
Based on their praise of his baumkuchen alone, I thought Morgan had it in the bag. He had won the most challenges and always impressed the judges with an elegant touch that the Yigit and Danielle seemed to lack, not to mention the fact that the judges could see how badly (and visibly) Yigit was unraveling toward the end of the season. But in the end, Gail named…
…Yigit the first winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts! The losers were surprisingly upbeat, lauding Yigit’s talents and giving me no real ammo against either of them. No fun!
Were you guys happy with the outcome? What were your thoughts on the finale? And how would you size up the show’s inaugural season?
Plus: Have you got any burning questions for Yigit? I’ll be talking to the champ about his big win tomorrow, so leave your queries below and check to see if yours were answered when the interview hits ew.com tomorrow.
EVER WISH EW.COM HAD A RADIO STATION? Quit living in the past, man or lady! In this week’s TV Insiders podcast, Annie Barrett, Dalton Ross, and Michael Slezak grade the first week of Conan, pick the funniest Modern Family character, and discuss the trouble with the Survivor: Nicaragua cast and Bristol Palin’s improbable run on Dancing With the Stars. Click here to download the TV Insiders podcast to your MP3 player, or listen to an embedded version below!
Top Chef: Just Desserts