TC: Just Desserts 2.07 – Death by Chocolate

I have no snappy subtitle this week because frankly the main title is perfect.

Seven chefs remain. But by the end of the episode we were down to five for next week. It was a tough competition this week featuring two things I love: doughnuts and chocolate. We also got showpieces and teamwork, which tested not only the skill of the competitors, but the patients of this reviewer.

As has become the norm, we open the show with the chefs waking up at their loft. Katzie’s whining that Sally has aligned herself with the boys “because she thinks she’s better than the girls.” I don’t think anyone would argue that Sally thinks that. And I don’t think many would argue that she is better than the other women. But that doesn’t mean the men are also better than the women, which is the message that seems to come across. Sadly, I think we lost the best women last week when Rebecca went home and Amanda before that.

Mattris are going to help each other out which both works for and against them both. Carlos stays quiet and reminds me why I love him more and more — he doesn’t engage in the shit and he does his work very well.

We go into the Top Chef kitchen with me thinking this week may be when things start to get catty.

At the kitchen Gail introduces guest judge Mark Israel, baker/owner of Doughnut Plant in NYC. Apparently he has a “signature” donut that is a tres leche donut. Mmmm. I love doughnuts.

Quickfire challenge — Create the perfect doughnut (to be served with a cup of joe.) Winner gets $10k but there will be no more immunity for Quickfires. Oh yeah, and Johnny comes in to announce that the least favorite donut maker is going home. They have two hours to cook.

I’m curious to see what kind of takes we get on the doughnut. You’ve got cake donuts, fried yeast donuts, and all kinds of cultural variations on fried dough like beignets and loukoumades.

Carlos is going with a yeast donut. We find out he grew up in a family bakery and this is a challenge he’s comfortable with. Yay. I’m almost interested in an emotional backstory about him, but we don’t really get one. That’s probably for the best, because “almost interested” isn’t the same as actually interested.

Sally’s going with donut sticks to be more dunkable in the coffee. Orlando’s using his godmother’s mother’s beignet recipe. Nice. I see dough balls coming out of the fryer. Yum. Megan’s making a caramel glaze and mentions cake donuts.

Carlos tastes his and gives an “oh that’s good.” He’s the only one we actually see tasting his final product. And I’m going to take his own reaction to his food as a good sign.

Time is up and we see that Johnny’s not just there to tell them immunity is gone, but he’ll also be judging today’s Quickfire.

So what have we got?

Katzie — Cocoa Beignet with Date Ganache. Johnny comments that it’s been served like a plated dessert and he says it’s not what he’d expect in a donut shop. (Orlando says she just doesn’t get it and needs to go home. Orlando just needs to shut up.) It looks gorgeous to me and she’s not the only one with plating, give me a break (although her coffee presentation is a little over the top). Mark likes the surprise ganache in the middle.

Carlos — Orange & Lemon Zest Bombolinis with Passion Fruit Cream. His coffee is in a regular cup. Johnny says a lot of cream, but great flavor. Mark says the donut melts in your mouth. Carlos looks happy and I’m happy for him. I’m also really wanting a taste, especially if I could get Johnny to feed them to me in bed.

Orlando — Spiced Banana Beignet. This is him taking us back to his roots in St. Croix.  Mark isn’t getting the cardamom. Orlando says there’s only 1/8 tsp but it is in there. Yeah… but he’s not getting it. Bitchy!O gets bitchy and looks annoyed as they walk away.

Megan — Cake Doughnut with Honey Cardamom Glaze.  Uh oh. The glaze has left the doughnut stuck to the plate. In fact, Johnny actually holds onto the doughnut and the plate doesn’t fall. After they pry the donuts off and try them, we find out that they taste good and Gail gets the cardamom in this one.

Chris – Citrus Churro with Raspberry Jam. This is Chris taking us to his SoCal roots which pretty much cracks me up. Mark like the softness and texture. Off to the side Bitchy!O is getting more annoyed as he watches.

Sally — She pours them coffee fresh from a French press when they get to her station. That’s a nice change on everyone else having a presumably cold cup of coffee sitting there. She’s made an Espresso Glazed Doughnut (stick) with Caramelized Cashews. Mark observes, happily, that with the shape you can actually dunk it and stir it around in the coffee. Katzie looks bummed by that. Gail says it’s a good dipping donut.

Matthew — Ginger Beignet with Caramel & Whipped Jivara Cream. Johnny comments that the doughnut is dry and Matthew’s response is that he didn’t have time to get the cream in there. The problem with that, though, is that even with the cream the doughnut shouldn’t be dry. Chris is worried for his boy. It’s sweet. I’m worried too, but I don’t think Matthew’s the one going home despite his problem.

Mark’s Favorites — Sally (shape and connection of espresso to the glaze) and Carlos (he had the best texture of dough and the filling was “spot on”)

Winner — Carlos! Hurray! I’m so happy for him. He needed a Quickfire win. And he’s going to use the $10k prize for a car for his daughter who turns 16 this year. Aww. Carlos be crazy! Buy her a junker and take a vacation without the kids, man!

Johnny shares their least favorites — Megan (not a surprise because they couldn’t get the donut off the plate and Mark says there was too much glaze); Matthew (Johnny would have liked to see more balance to the sweetness); and Orlando (They bring up the promise of cardamom — and he defends himself by arguing with Johnny that it wasn’t a cardamom doughnut, but a spice donut. Mark agrees that the “spice” doughnut was bland. Orlando needs to shut his mouth. )

No one wants to go home over a doughnut. But someone must. Who is it? Megan. She leaves with a smile, but you can tell it’s hard for her to go. Now the only women remaining are the two who don’t like each other. I’m sure the producers will milk that for all it’s not worth.

Elimination Challenge — CHOCOLATE

They’ll be in 2 teams of three to make a chocolate showpiece. They each must also create their own chocolate dessert. Orlando is not pleased with the team aspect but happy to be able to show off his chocolate skills. They draw cookies to get teams and the results are:

Red team — Katzie and Mattris

Blue team — Bitchy!O, Snooty!Sal, and Carlos

Chris is a little nervous that Katzie will be a weak link. Get over it, bitch boy.

They’ll be serving their desserts the next night to each other. Katzie worries about being judged by Orlando. Get over it.

They have 15 minutes to plan as a team.

Carlos is going with chocolate, peanut butter, and banana. Sally comments that her strength is flavor, Carlos’s is flavor as well, and Orlando is Mr. Chocolate. She expects him to take the lead on the showpiece. She even offers to be involved in the production of his dessert so he can focus on the showpiece. I’m impressed she can see that someone other than her has a strength. Of course, it’s because she’s determined that they aren’t going home.

The other team is discussing showpiece ideas. Chris is planning with Matt and shooting down Katzie’s ideas. Chris has a good point that too many hands in building the showpiece can be a problem, but they should be open to her ideas at least. I feel like this is the “let’s send Katzie home” challenge for chefs on both teams. And that’s pretty shitty for her.

Planning time is up. Now we cook. They’ve got five hours.

The dining area has been divided in two areas by partitions so that the teams can’t see what each is doing in the presentation area.

Through the wall, Orlando asks Chris what he’s creating and he says a “sugar showpiece just like you.” Lips are sealed on this one.  Chris says Orlando’s skills are closest to his, but he’s going to have be amazing to win over Chris. Neither of these gentlemen lack self confidence, that’s for sure.

Chris’s showpiece is all about shape and texture but with no story. Orlando, on the other hand, intends to tell a story about the life of chocolate. I think. He kind of goes straight from the cocoa bean to all the shapes you can make with it. Forget about the process of getting there. But maybe that’s just the editing. We’ll see when it’s done.

Then Orlando tells the audience, “I like my showpieces like I like my men. Tall.” So he’s a size queen! Fabulous. And he’s got a tape measure in hand. Thankfully he’s only measuring height from the tabletop and not his dick. (I’m sure he already knows that measurement to the millimeter though.)

In the kitchen the other chefs are working on their individual desserts. Chris is working with chocolate and cherry. He likes simple and believes that chocolate at most needs one other flavor.

There’s some fun teasing in the back between Chris and Carlos. Carlos throughout jokes about his Mexican heritage and soon makes a crack about the Mexican vanilla beans having been picked by his brothers and sisters. I love his attitude in the kitchen — he’s relaxed and having fun but still getting it done. He can be focused without being an asshole. It’s refreshing.

Chris asks Matthew if he can tell what’s going on on the other side. And he seems surprised and disappointed in Orlando when they figure out that the blue team is making O’s dessert for him. Chris is doing his own dessert, as they’re supposed to. How else can you control your product?

My prediction — We will hear nothing about Orlando getting help unless his team is in the bottom. Then he will blame Sally and Carlos for not helping him enough with the showpiece and causing him to struggle with his dessert.

Katzie is making a dessert that turns your mouth black. Attractive! She observes that Mattris are in their own world and while she trusts Chris’s skills with the showpiece, she doesn’t get what he’s trying to do. I don’t blame her for being concerned. But I don’t think her understanding would improve the piece in anyway — it’s just not her area of expertise.

Carlos is working on Orlando’s sorbet, but the first batch is gummy. Uh oh. Orlando’s worried they’ll screw up his dish. Well, Bitchy!O, maybe if you made it yourself, you’d feel better about it. With 15 minutes to go they still have to assemble the showpiece and hope it’s secure enough to not fall apart overnight.

Day 2 arrives and they have a final 3 hours to cook and complete their work. The showpieces are still standing. Chris and Orlando are both nervous about not being able to see what the other has done. Orlando still has no time to go into the kitchen and work on his own dessert.

Sally is helping Orlando finish the showpiece and she’s confident they will win.

Chris is expecting fancy desserts from Carlos and Sally. He’s going with simple himself, but says he’s not worried. Carlos and Sally, of course, are still trying to finish Orlando’s dessert while handling their own too and Carlos is not willing to sacrifice his own dessert for Orlando’s.

Service time!

Wylie Dufresne is here as a judge along with Johnny, Gail, and Dannielle. Wylie is chef/owner of wd~50 and he’s pretty relaxed about it all.

The partitions are pulled back to reveal both showpieces and everyone is smiling and wide-eyed. Gail comments that both are very beautiful. And very tall.

Sally comments that the Red teams is “total Chris” and has more movement than their piece. But she likes the story her team’s piece tells.

Orlando speaks to how their piece shows the history of chocolate and the evolution of how you can mold it. I get it better now, but still not perfectly.

Chris comments that he went with technique on working with chocolate. Basically neither of these guys can let the other have the last word. Good grief. They’re like 5 year olds. (Not that this is anything new and unexpected.)

The blue team sits at the table with the judges and begins to review the red team. Sally is surprisingly positive about the showpiece. Orlando says his initial reaction is that there’s a lot of movement and flow, but there’s also a lot of darkness. Johhny likes that they showed depth without using color (the Blue team piece is only brown and white chocolate). Orlando smiles. Chris and Orlando have competed against each other before. This time around Orlando thinks his piece is better and he’ll be very pleased to beat Chris today.

Red team is finishing plating in the back. Aesthetics don’t seem to be pleasing Chris or Katzie — they both wanted to be neater than how they accomplished their plates. But it’s a little late now to do anything about it. The desserts are served:

Chris — Chocolate Brioche with Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream

  • Carlos thinks it’s a little undercooked and is lacking variety of flavors and textures.
  • Sally doesn’t say anything (that makes the edit).
  • Orlando was expecting it to be more tender. (I’m not sure if he thinks it’s a piece of meat or gets that it’s brioche. To be honest, it’s hard to tell by looking at it.)

Matthew — Chocolate Tart with Chiboust & Caramel, Compressed Cherries, & Chocolate Sorbet

  • Orlando finds the tart overpowering on sweetness and says there’s too much caramel.
  • Carlos loved the sorbet and thought Matthews dish the best of the three.
  • Sally doesn’t say anything on this one either.

Katzie — Boca Negra with Mousse, Jasmine & Passion Fruit Curd, and Whipped Cream Glacé
No one finds it difficult to speak about the problems with Katzie’s dessert. They don’t actually say anything nice about it at all.

  • Sally speaks! She thinks it’s too large for the plate. What she means though is it should have been a smaller portion, not a bigger plate.
  • Carlo wishes it were cleaner, which is the nicest thing said here.
  • Orlando can’t say enough, but not in a good way. It was not visually appealing to him on the plate; it imploded as he cut in; it reminds him of “eating baby food.” Gail looks to Wylie on this and then back with a big smile. You can tell she’s reading this as more than constructive critique. He’s an asshole. He’s so ridiculously critical that even Sally wants him to shut up. Yet he keeps going and going and going. Finally, Johnny kind of calls him on it.

It’s interesting that we don’t hear from the judges at this point. Only from the chefs. The judges are quietly taking it all in.

The blue team goes back to the kitchen and red team asks what they thought. They tell Katzie that her dessert was too big, but nothing else. She looks really frustrated and I can’t blame her. Katzie knows that anything they’re admitting to them now, they definitely said to the judges. Sally, on the other hand, isn’t at all worried about her own dessert being judged because “opinions are like assholes.” We all know how that one goes. (One might say opinions are like contestants on this show…)

Time for the blue team to present.

The red team is seated and they turn to the showpiece. Katzie likes the roots going up. Matthew is politely quiet. And Chris shows us his inner Orlando. He doesn’t find the architecture interesting enough to pull him in. Blah blah blah. Johnny counters that while Chris’s showpiece pulled him in, when he got closer he thought Orlando’s piece had more life to it. There you go. Shut up, Chris.

Individual desserts:

Carlos — Caramelized Crémeux, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Peanut Butter Mousse, and Caramelized Banana

  • Chris finds the dessert to be too sweet and says he couldn’t eat the whole cylinder on it’s own
  • Matthew, though, liked the cylinder. Off scene he tells the camera that he’s not sugar coating or telling it like it is, he’s just keeping his mouth shut, something his wife told him to do when he came here. Smart wife.
  • Katzie says she “would come back for this.” That is the best compliment anyone pays on any of the desserts tonight and I’m glad it went to Carlos.

Orlando — He has the nerve to say “what I did for you” when he presents. Umm… you didn’t do jack. He’s serving Puff Pastry, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Mango Coulis, & Roasted Cocoa Nib Sorbet.

  • Chris says there’s too much chocolate and it’s bitter.
  • Katzie likes her puff pastry to be nuttier.
  • Matthew comments on the good techniques (which frustrates me because nobody is acknowledging that Carlos and Sally did the actual work here).

Sally — Manjari Caramel Mousse, Spiced Caramel Cream with Passion Fruit Gelée

  • Chris found it visually interesting but wishes it were softer on the palette and little colder.
  • Katzie thought the manjari was really rich.
  • Wylie asks which dish was the most balanced. Matthew speaks! And he chooses Sally’s.

Chris is confident they’re team is going to win. I’m confident someone is going home and fear it won’t be anyone I’m ready to see leave.

Back in the kitchen Orlando is pleased with the work Carlos and Sally did on his dessert. We’ll see if that holds at judges’ table.

Now for the real judging.

Gail is impressed with both showpieces. Dannielle feels that while the contestants had a lot to say about each other, they didn’t give them everything. But Gail points out that Orlando and Chris were talkers and deconstructed everything.

In the stew room the chefs discuss how weird it was to not hear anything from the judges while at the table.

At the judges’ table both teams are brought in. Both showpieces are compelling and Wylie “salutes” both teams. The more cohesive experience, however, came from … Carlos/Sally/Orlando. They’re the winners. Orlando’s only a little bit smug as they go back to the stew room.

Gail asks Chris if his dessert suffered because of his work on the showpiece. He says no, it’s exactly what he envisioned. [I would have taken the out here, but he’s either stupid or proud or actually thinks it was perfect (aka stupid)]. Wylie asked if he actually ate any of it and said that he found the texture unusual. Dannielle said it was simple but not satisfying and Johnny found it strange. Could Chris be going home? Could Mattriss be separated? Dun dun DUNNNNNNNN.

Gail asks Katzie about the size and shape of her dessert. Johnny didn’t taste the jasmine, but he liked the flavor of the glacé. The issue here was proportion.

Matthew is asked what’s so special about his dessert because he described it as “basic.” Gail didn’t get the nuance, only got sweet. Wylie also found it to be too sweet. Poor Matthew, he’s really frustrated because that’s not his “style.” I want to cuddle him. You can bring your sugar to my house, Matt.

I don’t want to see Matthew or Katzie go home. The judges talk about everyone. They’re not real impressed with Chris. Too sweet, weird texture, too homey. In the stew room Chris asks the others if the texture was off, but we don’t get to hear an answer.

On Katzie there was too much richness, but Johnny liked the concept.

Nothing negative about Matthew’s components. The problem was the total balance. They question his comment that he’d eaten the entire tart and didn’t find it too sweet. In the stew room Matthew’s still thrown because he’s never had a “too sweet” comment about his desserts before.

The red team is brought back out and Johnny speaks:

Chris — dessert not at the level they expect in this competition
Katzie — he enjoyed the flavors but it lacked finesse
Matthew — technically sound, but not remarkable; way too sweet

Who’s going home? Katzie. Based on dessert alone this should have been Chris. But I imagine his work on the showpiece saved him. I’m really irritated because I feel like there should be some punishment for Orlando serving something he didn’t really make.

In the stew room, Katzie says her good-byes and Orlando doesn’t even look at her or say anything. He just sits there drinking wine. Bitch.

Next week we’re down to five and if there’s justice in the world someone mean will go home.