Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top Chef: Just Desserts 8/24/11--"Showpiece" summary

Do you think they can beat the crazy from last year? I’m not sure they can. Winner gets cash and prizes, as usual. Magazine article, some cookout, $100,000.

UPDATED: I came home and checked my DVR, and one of the later tapings had enough audio for me to fill in the gaps. (click for more)

Our judges are Gail Simmons, Johnny Iuzzini, Hubert Keller, and Dannielle Kyrillos (Editor-at-large of DailyCandy). Just as last year.

OK, can I just point out that when the caption in your bio says “Favorite Simple Fall Dessert Recipe”? It should be simple. Pecan and cashew pie with pumpkin ice cream, OK. Vanilla Basque cake with confit apples, apple cider sabayon with cinnamon candied walnuts? Not simple.

Chris Hanmer shows up to the boardwalk and orders a Coke. He is cute. He says he’s the youngest world champion pastry chef. Orlando Santos knows Chris, and he’s competed against him already. Nice. Nelson Paz has worked in 17 different kitchens. Craig has only run the pastry for his restaurant for a year. Sally Camacho was his teacher. Well that should be interesting. Rebecca Masson looks like Stephanie, season 4 Top Chef winner. Gail and Johnny show up, and Vanarin Kuch talks about how beautiful Gail is but Johnny’s eyes stare into your soul. And the first Quickfire starts now! They have to work in pairs, so pair up right now! Ha, awesome. Lina feels bad because no one would pair with Craig so she’s stuck with him. Gail talks about soda fountains and says they must go inside and make a dessert that “takes a soda fountain treat to the next level”. Johnny says a root beer float will not cut it. They have 30 minutes to make something. Winners get immunity.

Everyone runs inside to make soda fountain desserts. Matthew Peterson wants to keep it simple, and I have to say, Matthew looks very much like my friend Neil. (Kmanpat: “Oh gawd, that IS Neil. Hottie.) Katzie Guy-Hamilton is making an egg crème. Katzie? OK. Carlos is making a shake with Cap’n Crunch? Or that’s something he makes at his restaurant? Lina says she’s a good team player if the rest of the team knows what it’s doing. That…seems like a big “if”. She is thinking bananas and Elvis. Melissa Camacho says they don’t have soda shoppes in Haiti where she grew up, but she makes beautiful plates so she’s confident. What does that have to do with anything? Also I know Sally and Melissa have the same last name, but Melissa is Haitian, and Sally is Asian and also from L.A., so I’m pretty sure they’re not related. Amanda Rockman is worried that they’re using bananas, and everyone else is using bananas. She says she’s going to make pickled cherries and plan the rest of the dish around that. Everyone freaks out at the end, pretty much. Orlando says he would have done better by himself.

Chris and Sally: Chris is plating and his hands are shaking pretty badly. Sally notices and hopes he doesn’t screw up. Caramelized bananas, wafer crunch, white chocolate and butter pecan ice cream. Melissa and Vanarin: micro cake with shattered banana carpaccio and white sauce. Orlando and Megan: feuilletine, bruleed bananas, chocolate ice cream, and chocolate syrup. There’s chai spice there. Yum. Oo, garnished with a vanilla bean that you can’t eat. Carlos and Rebecca: “breakfast” milkshake, chocolate chip ice cream with bananas and Cap’n Crunch. Katzie and Matthew: chocolate egg cream with ile flottante. “Ile flottante” refers to the lemon poached meringue on top. Amanda and Nelson: chocolate sponge cake, pickled cherries and pistachios. Craig and Lina: almond crispies, raspberry sauce and butter pecan ice cream. Sadly Lina cannot answer how this is modern.

Orlando and Megan made a banana split, boring. Lina and Craig, even though Johnny is an Elvis fan, they did not step up a classic. So it was also boring. Carlos and Rebecca, had good flavor and texture. Amanda and Nelson had great presentation and flavor balance. Amanda and Nelson are the winners and have immunity. Gail sends them to the kitchen to meet her later.

For the Elimination challenge, Gail presents a shelf of old books. They must pick one but not open it, everyone except Amanda and Nelson. Each book contains one of four famous fairy tales. This will assign teams. Hee. Orlando has “Goldilocks”, along with Sally and Rebecca. It looks like the books are boxes, with inset pages with names. Not real books. Chris, Carlos, and Matthew are “Red Riding Hood”. Craig, Megan, and Katzie are “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Vanarin, Melissa, and Lina have “Hansel and Gretel”. Amanda and Nelson can pick their teams. Nelson doesn’t even know what fairy tales are, as he’s from Argentina. He picks Goldilocks, and Amanda picks Red Riding Hood. Each team will have to make a showpiece and two plated desserts. There is a fairy tale costume gala, with 150 guests. Man, showpieces are tricky. They have 6 hours now, and 4 hours tomorrow.

Planning happens for 30 minutes. For some reason, Carlos never heard of the end of the story, where the wolf gets cut open. Craig is talking about clouds and beanstalks. Nelson has to admit he doesn’t know the story he picked out. Rebecca wants to make rice pudding, for “porridge”, and Orlando thinks rice pudding is for old people. Then he laughs and says he has an evil laugh. The Hansel and Gretel team are probably going to make a gingerbread house. Lina wants to make cake for the showpiece, except that showpieces are usually sugar and chocolate, not cake. The rest of her team tries to talk her into a candy house, obviously, but she has been making cake for too long and refuses to consider other options.

Everyone gets to work on cooking and also showpieces, because those have to set up and molds must be made and all of that. Team Jack is making a beanstalk, of course, out of sugar. Chris is working on his team's showpiece while the other three do the desserts. He says Orlando is known for is showpieces, but Chris is going to make some sugar. Everyone else is using chocolate so he feels it will set him apart. Orlando is confident he can kick Chris’s butt. Melissa is annoyed at Lina because Lina is supposed to be working on the showpiece, but she’s busy trying to work on the desserts too, and put her two cents in. Orlando, who hated the rice pudding idea, tells Rebecca to use steel cut oats. While delicious, I don’t know that they won’t set up by tomorrow. Also the "rice pudding" = "porridge" was very cute. Literal porridge is not as fun. Sally has to redo some stuff. People hyperventilate. Megan and Katzie didn’t get everything done because they had to help Craig.

Megan and Katzie are freaking out even after they get back home. Mainly because Craig seems rusty on things like pulling sugar and drilling things. Megan tells us that tomorrow she and Katzie are taking over showpiece duties.

In the morning, Orlando bitches about Rebecca and apparently she’s whining too much. To be fair, she's worried about his stupid oat porridge setting up, or not setting up, so while she is whining that she didn't get to do what she wanted, I think she has a legitimate issue with the stuff not turning out right. Also Orlando's superiority is getting old. Team Jack is just now getting the showpiece together, and they manage to break one of the sugar tubes. To cover they just pull some sugar into a long strand so they have something. Lina says Melissa has been nothing but negative, as Melissa tells her she's not doing something. Apparently Melissa has been going on and on about how their showpiece is going to be lame. Team Jack is reduced to damage control for their showpiece. Melissa hates her team's showpiece so much she wants to kick the table to break it. Chris has been to busy with his showpiece and hasn't tasted his team's desserts.

A lot of Ren Faire costumes and whatnot. Oh, and Gail has a red cape on. Actually she looks great. Team Goldilocks has a chocolate showpiece with flowers and a chocolate house on a hill. Then at the top is a white chocolate mask with blonde “hair”. It’s cool looking. Almond bar and fruits of the forest, with honey ice cream. They also serve “Baby Bear’s porridge”, hot Rainier cherries, basil soup, and cherry sorbet. The cherries are too hot, and the sorbet is too cold. There is also New Mexico chilies in the hot cherries. That’s not a horrible idea.

Team Jack has a beanstalk, which is actually pretty, if not imposing. Johnny complains that the showpiece has a "back" where all the mistakes are, which would be fine if it was up against a wall or something instead of in the middle of the floor. Bergamot cloud, whipped lemon ricotta, sweet pea sorbet, and spiced golden syrup. Lots of ginger. The other dish is brown butter hazelnut cake, lemongrass stalk infused cream and passion fruit. Oo, they don't like the cake either.

Team Red Riding Hood: their showpiece includes a sugar Red Riding Hood, which looks excellent. Rose scented bombolini, coconut tapioca, and red berry gelee. The strawberry consommé is in a little dropper thing, and the rose is because she was picking flowers in the woods. The second dish is supposed to represent the wolf: blackout sponge cake, cocoa nib nougatine, poached cherries, and micro basil.

Team Hansel have a showpiece with a little house and people. But the house is boring. There’s no candy or anything. Butterscotch brioche, goat cheese mousse, and smoked pineapple. Also they serve chocolate cloud, milk sherbet, and hibiscus apple seltzer. Stupid, there should be a candy gingerbread house. And I'm not sure how their dishes go with their story.

Commercial interlude: Melissa is super embarrassed by her showpiece and promises to fight.

Ah, the Stew Room. Fun stuff. Craig knows he didn't do very well today. Gail collects teams Red and Goldilocks, who are the winners. The judges loved Team Red's dessert flavors, and how their showpiece was constructed with a great sense of balance. Nelson made Team Goldilock's showpiece, and their desserts went very well with their story. The winners are Team Red. Orlando, of course, thinks he should have won and declares he's winning next time. Gail sends them to collect the losers.

Team Hansel should have covered the showpiece in candy. Lina says her opinion is that it's a witch's house, so it shouldn't look like a gingerbread house? The hell? Did you read the story. Melissa throws Lina under the bus and tells the judges she wanted a candy house, and she told Lina that many times. Lina tries to defend herself, but Melissa tells everyone that Lina wanted to do cake. Lina LIES and says she never said that. You just dug your own grave, girl. The chocolate cloud dish didn't have any crunch or texture. Lina's dish was supposed to be light and airy, but it was not. At least I think so. The sound went out. Craig jacked up his showpiece and he knows he should have admitted he had no idea what he was doing. Also Team Jack had too much ginger in their plated dessert.

Team Jack's showpiece ended up prettier. But their desserts were unbalanced, and Craig was out of his element. It seems unanimous that making a showpiece out of cake was a bad idea. Lina is back in the Stew Room saying how much work she did. Melissa's dessert wasn't that great, but they feel she at least tried to make the showpiece better. Vanarin should have tried to save his team.

Hansel and Gretel and Jack in the Beanstalk are on the bottom. In the end, Lina is sent home. She’s kind of embarrassed, and says Melissa threw her under the bus and she’s pissed. She’s dedicated and talented, and didn’t have enough time.

This season: Beastie Boys, Willy Wonka, someone is a sugar hooker, drama, of course.

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