Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Top Chef: Just Desserts 8/31/11--"Sweet Symphony" summary

Previously on “Top Chef: Just Desserts”: We met 14 pastry chefs who seem to be more sane than last year’s batch of pastry chefs, but with the same proportion of cocky loudmouths as always. The Quickfire involved working in pairs to make a soda fountain-inspired dessert. No drama! I know! The winners got to pick what team they were on for the Elimination challenge, which involved fairy tales and showpieces. The showpieces were OK, mostly, but the team that had “Hansel and Gretel” just made a chocolate house. You have the easiest showpiece! Gingerbread house covered in candy! Anyway, this failure of logic causes Lina to go home first. The “Red Riding Hood” team had the best showpiece and plated desserts so they won. (click for more)  

Nelson appears to be staring at the toaster oven. I think it’s Nelson. Rebecca has broken her wrist, but she just put a brace on and wants to keep on competing. Well…it’s not like breaking an ankle and insisting on walking. If it’s braced properly, she can probably use her hand or fingers. We’ll see. 

Gail has brought Margaret Braun, who is a cake artist. Also a table full of lemons. Today’s Quickfire is 45 minutes to make a lemon dessert. Yum! This is tricky, we are told, because lemons are tart and the rind can be bitter if you screw up zesting it. Matthew (seriously, he is cute even with the eyebrows) is going to try lemons and hazelnut. Nelson is making pavlova. Orlando discusses not stopping because of allergies. My cable is still stupid so I’m just going to assume he’s allergic to lemons. Megan wants to keep winning. Poor Rebecca is having a hard time juicing lemons. I don’t think she can grip with the broken wrist. Katzie’s making crepes. Carlos breaks out the liquid nitrogen. Nelson’s stuff isn’t done and he’s run out of time. 

Nelson: lemon pavlova with mango coulis. He wanted it to be more, and makes the mistake of telling them so. Orlando: coconut lemon cream cake, lemon curd, lemon fritters, and chocolate. Katzie: lemon crepe ribbons with egg yolk and butter emulsion and candied fennel seeds. It looks like fettuccine. Actually that sounds really good. Matthew: lemon vanilla crème with mint puree and hazelnut sable. Carlos: citrus soup with reverse sphered yogurt, olive oil powder, honey, and thyme. Why do you need to do all those things? Olive oil powder does not sound appetizing. Amanda: caramel cremeux (mousse), with café dulce confit lemon segments. Melissa: lemon beignet with Thai basil sugar. Interesting. Craig: lemon sour cream pound cake with French meringue and coconut cream. Vanarin: lemon curd semifreddo with coconut brown butter streusel and blackberry compote. Rebecca: lemon meringue pie with blueberries in ginger and lemon syrup. 

Now I want dessert again. Margaret says the bottom two were Nelson, because lemon and mango aren’t really a good pair, plus he admitted he ran out of time. Also Orlando. She says maybe it’s just personal, but lemon and chocolate don’t’ go together. Orlando bitches that she should be judging on a professional level, “so leave your personal shit at the door”. Dude, there is “cocky” and there is “asshat” and you are toeing the line. A PERSON eats your dessert, so their PERSONAL tastes are important. You don’t see people on regular Top Chef complaining that Tony Bourdain likes stoner food. They just make stoner food. Amanda also is in the bottom, because caramel and lemon did not work. Matthew’s cake was wonderful, Katzie’s dessert was fun, and Carlos had a nice balance. The winner is Matthew. Yay! He has immunity. 

For the Elimination challenge, they will be on teams again. Orlando, Carlos, and Amanda were “randomly” chosen to “be responsible for picking the teams”. Notice she did not say “team leaders”. Matthew gets to pick the fourth team. The teams shake out this way: Matthew, Chris, Megan (Red Team); Orlando, Nelson, Craig (Black Team); Carlos, Sally, Rebecca (Green Team); Amanda, Katzie, Van (Blue Team). Orlando specifically says he’s staying away from Melissa because she threw Lina under the bus, even though Lina totally deserved it. Melissa ends up last, so is put on Matthew’s team. The challenge today is about the Walt Disney Concert Hall, where the Los Angeles Philharmonic plays. They will need to make a cake for 150, for the opening night party. Each person on the team must be responsible for one tier. So…I guess you get judged on how well your cake turns out? Will they care how the layers go together? Matthew says in the real world this would take 3 days. 

They have 8 ½ hours to cook. Chris wants something mostly traditional, with maybe “crooked” layers. You know, where you build a round cake, and then put slanted pieces on the sides so it looks wobbly. Katzie is making the bottom tier of her team’s cake, so she knows it has to be more architectural. She spouts some line about how pastry is a marriage of science and art, which I think you can say about any kind of cooking. Van loves to make cakes and be creative. Musical instruments everywhere! Orlando shockingly says cakes are a specialty of his, while Nelson is architectural, and Craig is…something. I don’t understand what he says, and it‘s not because the signal went out. But I’m pretty sure he thinks Craig is a nitwit. Carlos is leading his team, because he has a vision. But this team is having communication issues because Carlos has a weird vocabulary, so they’re not sure what he’s talking about exactly. Sally and Rebecca are smiling and nodding. 

Van is making instruments out of modeling chocolate, which he’s never done before. He talks about his parents coming from Cambodia. Melissa is making cardamom sponge cake. Chris worries about spice in cake, forgetting that spice cake is delicious. Nelson is building towers. He was in architecture school, and then dropped out his senior year to be a pastry chef. 

Johnny shows up to quiz everyone. Both Sally and Rebecca are making chocolate devil’s food layers. But Sally is using buttermilk and oil, and Rebecca is using milk and oil, so it’s totally different! Johnny doesn’t buy it either. They need to make a cohesive cake. Van has one instrument drying, and it’s small. They need bigger. The Red Team tells Johnny they have a bold design, but he says it’s ordinary. Chris promises they’re going to put a bunch of stuff on there later. Craig says something about “pow pow flavor”. I’m not sure either. 

Amanda says she likes their flavors, but she’s worried about their decorations. Nelson’s cake is heavier than he thought, so he needs new dowels. Cake moving. Time is up. 

In the morning, Craig and Sally joke around. He says if he gets kicked off, she’d better cry, or he’ll kick her until she cries. Hee. He tells us he was the fat kid who got picked on, plus he was flamboyant. He hopes those people are watching him do well now. 

One hour to cook and pack for departure. Carlos kind of freaks out and starts ordering people around. Nelson cuts up his cake to put new columns in it. Craig is painting his cake layer, with a brush that is too small, according to Orlando. People pack and consider what to decorate now and how to make sure nothing breaks on the way. Katzie’s cake is heavy, and soaked in hazelnut syrup so it’s heavier than it would normally be. 

At the venue, they have 90 minutes to finish set up. And we discover they’re outside. Oo. That’s a dirty trick. Everyone starts moving umbrellas for shade. One of Katzie’s panels cracks, and Van is having a hard time sticking all the decorations on. Also there is glitter everywhere. Carlos is airbrushing, but the color doesn’t come out right. Too late, though, Carlos already sprayed the cake with your weird bronzy-pink color. Nelson interviews that two teams were doing the same things, and two were doing random things, so someone is wrong. Orlando breaks something. Things are also falling off the Blue Team’s cake. Is…is that a glue gun? Please tell me someone didn’t just stick chocolate on a cake with a hot glue gun. 

People arrive for the party in fancy clothes, to eat cake and be on TV. The chefs describe their cakes to everyone. Margaret is back to judge, with Hubert and Johnny and Gail. Red Team up first. A four tiered cake with slightly crooked layers, in a light gray. Lots of small sheet music sheets for decoration and some flowers. On top is a stylized sax. Johnny can’t resist pointing out flaws in the fondant. Matthew: lemon pound cake, almond daquoise, creme fraiche mousse, strawberry jam. Megan: yellow butter cake with honey caramel cream, preserves, mocha praline feuillitine (little crunchy things, I think). Chris: chocolate and hazelnut sponge cake with praline jam, and vanilla cremeux. Melissa: cardamom sponge cake with ginger cream and strawberry jam. Yum. Everyone seems to get praise for their flavors. 

Blue team: their cake is a standard round tiered cake. The bottom layer is gray, middle is white with chocolate music notes, and the top has silver and gold vertical stripes with holes? Or something? And chocolate instruments. They’re kind of ragged. And there is glitter everywhere. And big silver wings, to represent the building…it’s a bit of a mess. Katzie: buttermilk cake with black currant jam and pistachio buttercream. Top layer is spongy, says Johnny. Amanda: devil’s food cake with raspberry gelee, chocolate buttercream and praline feuillitine. Margaret wants to eat around the fruit. Van: smoked salted caramel cake with pistachio buttercream. It is dry. 

Black team: triangular base, then a cube with columns of cake so you can look right through it, and then a round top with some red accents which is supposed to be a drum. On the very top is a piece of sheet music and a guitar. Orlando admits something fell off the top, because the judges notice right away. Orlando: vanilla sponge soaked in Chambord, blackberry and port buttercream. Too much fondant. Nelson: vanilla and lemon zest cake with pistachio buttercream and white chocolate pearls. Johnny can taste the texture but can’t see it. Craig: Grandma’s chocolate cake with caramel and marshmallow buttercream. Margaret asks him if it’s really his grandma’s cake, and he says no for some reason. They think it’s a bit too sweet. Orlando hopes they aren’t on the bottom, but if they are, he will not hesitate to throw Craig under the bus. 

Green team: white round tiers that are slanted on top. There are a bunch of rose colored squares, that seem to be put on crooked. Hubert thinks it looks like they all worked together. But the color is weird. Sally promises if they lose, it’s Carlos’s fault. Carlos: vanilla sponge cake, lemon cream, and strawberries. It has good flavor but is dense for being the top layer. Sally: devil’s food cake with chocolate buttercream, salted caramel, and raspberries. Rebecca: ??? Sorry guys, I watched two different viewings and both times it got cut. But it doesn’t matter anyway (spoiler!). 

Commercial interlude: Craig and Sally flirt. Possibly. Or he is annoying and she knows how to shut him down. 

Gail collects the Green and Red teams first. These are the winners. Rebecca is getting emotional, and she admits her wrist really affected her during the Quickfire, so she was pretty worried it would keep her from continuing. The Green team had a cohesive cake, even though it was a weird color and the top of it doesn’t seem to be musical. The fresh fruit was great. The Red team did a great decorating job, and they loved Melissa’s spice cake. Margaret tells Matthew he is the king of lemon desserts. The Red team wins! Melissa is relieved she has proven herself. 

Craig thinks they thought too far outside the box, and then nothing came together. Nelson admits that they each did something different to identify themselves and their layer. Craig’s layer was messy. Orlando blames his dense sponge on the fact that he had the bottom layer and had to support the rest of the cake. Johnny responds that they had dowels so that is crap. Hubert says Nelson’s cake was much more professional, so it made the other tiers look bad in comparison. Hubert tries to get him to throw Craig under the bus but he won’t. Katzie thinks they were cohesive, but there were too many details and it didn’t turn out well. Van takes responsibility for the instruments, and he says one of them should have stepped up and edited the design. He tells them he was too focused on his piece. Katzie’s cake had a weird texture. Amanda’s cake ended up being Hubert’s favorite, but Van’s flavors should have been bolder. 

Blue team’s cake was a wreck, but Black team’s cake was not cohesive. Orlando had the only breakage of the day. Margaret asks if Johnny would prefer a broken cake, or an ugly cake. Oo. Katzie’s mushy cake is singled out on the Blue team, and Craig’s layer is singled out also. Van promised smoked salt which Johnny says he could not find. 

Johnny reminds everyone they failed, and then Gail tells Van he is eliminated. Well then. I mean, Gail says his dessert didn’t measure up, and then Johnny rubs it in by telling him he says he’s a flavor guy but his flavors weren’t there and also his design was lame. He couldn’t show his full potential, and wishes he could have stayed longer. He feels inspired, and he hasn’t felt like that for a long time. 

Next time: $25,000, Melissa freaks out, stupid Real Housewives flirting with Johnny, stupid Hugh Acheson, why is he here? Better him than housewives, I guess.

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