TC: Just Desserts 2.08 — Step Right Up

aka The Greatest Freak Show on Earth

This week I decided to get drunk rather than watch the episode after it aired. So you’re getting a rushed recap. I hope it measures up. I don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh against previous weeks though. We’re down to five chefs. Two I love, two I run hot and cold on, and one I wish would just shut up and go home. I’ll let you guess who is who.

First thing we open with emotional backstory. Shoot me now, I think. But no… it’s actually tugging at my heartstrings. Who knew?

Chris’s daughter has a congenital heart defect and needs surgery. The cost estimate is $48,982. He could definitely use the prize money for something serious. Since he’s in my hot/cold category, I won’t dis him too much this week. Maybe.

Gail is waiting for them in the kitchen with the brilliant and amazing François Payard, owner of Payard Patisserie & Bistro in Las Vegas. Even I recognize this guy and I’m not real up on the faces of famous chefs. I’ll be honest, I like to eat — desserts especially — but I don’t really care who makes my food if it tastes good. Come out to Colorado and I’ll introduce you to Phil. He makes the best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had in 36 years of pancake eating. If you actually saw Phil, you’d probably run the other way. I’m just saying… Faces aren’t important, it’s what’s on the plate that matters.

Quickfire Challenge — They’re keeping it easy this challenge (which you know means there’s a catch). Bake your very best pie. Yeah, easy. Carlos thinks so, anyway. (Honestly though, a perfect crust in a time crunch could be a challenge in and of itself. I think pie can be incredibly difficult to do really well. Pie is easy. Good pie is hard.) Oh yeah, I was right about there being a catch — They have to make their pies with one hand tied behind their back. It’s kind of an homage to Rebecca (although I’m sure it was planned before she broke her arm.) The winner gets $5k, but if you missed last week there’s no longer immunity for the Quickfire winner.

They have 1 1/2 hours.

Sally quickly learns how difficult it is to work with fruit with only one hand as she attempts to cut a plum in half. Carlos gets creative though and uses his belly as he zests a lemon. Matthew holds a jar in place between his feet while he uses his one hand to open it. Orlando goes for mixed berry when he realizes he can’t peel apples one handed.

Chris gets Matthews assistance to fill a pastry bag. This is the first real collaboration and I’m glad to see it happening Then Orlando and Chris help Carlos use liquid nitrogen (as Carlos goes for the record of most uses in one season).

Uh oh! Matthew used his second hand briefly before he caught himself. He’s hoping no one noticed. We shall see.

It’s judging time!

Orlando — Raspberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, & Strawberry Pie. It’s got a lovely toasted meringue on top. American-style crust. François says the dough is well cooked.


Sally — Red Plum & Strawberry Double Crusted Pie with White Chocolate Chantilly. No comments or obvious reactions.




Chris  — Banana Cream Pie with Banana Caramel — François says it’s not too sweet, and he likes that. Chris talks to his oven mitt-covered hand like a puppet: “Good job.”



Carlos — Raspberry Lemon Meringue Pie — Gail comments amusedly that he used liquid nitrogen. Sally and Orlando crack up about it on the side. The pie looks gorgeous. François says “very nice” and “well cooked” — which would not have happened without the nitrogen, so good call, Carlos baby! I’m rooting for you.

Matthew — Gail calls him on touching one of his pie dishes with his other hand. He explains what happens, but he’s still being disqualified and he’s pretty upset. Oh sweetie. Chris will hold and comfort you later. Matthew’s pie is lovely but they don’t even taste it or tell us what exactly it is.

François’s least favorites:
Sally — too tart, crust was too think, and he doesn’t appreciate a pie that needs something added at the last minute (her ice cream chantilly)
Chris — François loves banana cream pie, but this one was disappointing. Too much cream and missing the banana flavor.

François’s favorites:
Orlando — very homey and he liked the combo of berries; well executed
Carlos — beautiful piping on top and he liked the flavor combination.

For the winner, François chose the pie with the most technique — Carlos! Hurray! If you haven’t figured it out, I’m rooting for Carlos. (And Matthew.) Screw the rest.

What will this week’s Elimination Challenge be? They’re going to a carnival where they’ll be serving all the delicious delights. Their host will be Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine. Matthew finds that to be a little intimidating, as he has served her before.

They’re to turn classical carnival treats into upscale, classy desserts. Playful meets beautiful and elegant, according to François.

For the first time, we get to see them shop for stuff. They’ve got $400 to spend in a kitchen/chef supply store for their display tables.

Sally’s planning for a “corn” theme. Matthew settles on some pigs. Everyone is coming in under budget except Orlando who comes in at $430 and has to put stuff back.

They have three hours to cook. Chris is taking all the PacoJet containers to make two ice creams (one as a backup). Matthew thinks he’s a douche (something we absolutely agree on!); Sally’s pissed but moves on.

We get to hear Sally talk about the difficulties of being a woman in the pastry chef industry. You tell it girl! I’m impressed that she actually relays the info in a way that doesn’t annoy me, but is informative about the actual challenges women face in the industry. I have to say when it comes to being a woman in a male-dominated field, she’s very good at holding her own without being bitchy. (That’s Orlando’s job, after all.)

Matthew’s working on some pie dough. Orlando talks about his childhood carnival experiences and his mom letting them have caramel apples.

Carlos regularly takes his kids to carnivals. He’s making his dessert to resemble “tortas” — a Mexican hamburger thing he loves as a carnival savory. He’s making macaroons to be the “buns.” This could be awesome. I hope it actually is awesome.

Johnny’s here! Chef coat, rolled up sleeves, edge of a tattoo showing. God he’s yummy. I’ve missed him being in the kitchen. It’s good to have him back.  Now if only he’d come visit my kitchen. I’ll make you carrot cake like no other fan girl ever has, Johnny!

He starts with Chris who’s doing his funnel cake ice cream. Johnny asks if it will be recognizable. And how will this be elevated? Johnny hopes he gets the flavor or it’s not going to work.

Orlando’s doing a take on a candy apple. He describes it and includes chocolate mousse which Johnny doesn’t think has anything to do with a candy apple. Johnny points out that the dessert doesn’t resemble a candy apple in appearance either, only in flavor. But Orlando’s going to trust himself on this.

Carlos is making desserts that look like fries, a slider, and a soda. Johnny reminds him that François will be hypercritical of the macaroons (his specialty) — this could make or break him. It’s a risk, but if it can be done, Carlos is the man to do it.

Sally’s popping popcorn. They’re down to 35 minutes. Carlos is second guessing himself. They’re all running around frantically. I’m nervous for all of them, but mostly for Carlos.

After time is called, Sally realizes she left her corn pudding in the blast freezer. It’s going to break. And she can’t take it out since time has been called. Oops.

In the loft Carlos, Matthew, and Orlando are sitting around the dining table drinking what appears to be Jack and Coke (labels are obscured) and playing “never have I ever.” Carlos starts with “Never have I ever had a threesome” and all three of them drink. I don’t even need to try to be funny this week, they’re doing it for me because Carlos then says, “Never have I ever had a threesome I regret.” Matthew cracks up, I crack up, Carlos and Orlando drink.

Orlando – Never have I been handcuffed to a bedpost, hands and feet. (only he drinks)
Matthew – Never have I ever ran over my neighbors cat. (Matthew!!) Carlos drinks and Matthew cracks up laughing.
Carlos – Never have I ever not wanted to punch Johnny in the face. Orlando double drinks, Matthew drinks after making sure he understood the statement.

The boys are drunk and go running into Sally’s room. Carlos predicts the drunks will be at the bottom the next day. I think he’s right about Orlando.

It’s morning and they have 2 hours to cook. Orlando says he’s okay, he only had half a bottle of vodka which is not that much, and I’d have to agree with him. I think I’m going to go make myself a drink right now….

I’m back with a conservative measure of Bushmills in hand. On my TV screen the paused image is of Chris tasting his ice cream. It’s … not his best look. He’d look far better naked with Matthew.

Sally’s corn pudding is frozen solid. She’s attempting to defrost and then plans to re-puree and hopefully salvage it. Carlos’s macaroons are terrible. He’s going to replace with sesame angel food cakes, which bake very quickly. I’m crossing my fingers and toes for him. (What? I’ve got long toes. They’re sexy, I swear.)

Matthew misses his wife and daughter. We see a photo of them. And it’s sweet (although not as sweet as the opening images of Chris holding his tiny baby girl). I adore how much he and Chris and Carlos miss their families and love their children. And I have to wonder if a baby would make Orlando a little less bitchy.

Time is up. Everything is packaged for transport. They get to the LA Rivercenter and Gardens and have 1 hour to set-up. Chris is closest to the entry. He’s making funnel cake and drawing their attention immediately.

Carlos’s food looks totally like a burger. Matthew’s raffling off the pigs on his display. One person leaves not just her name for the raffle, but her phone number as well. Cheeky! I would have left my number too.

It’s time for the judges. Gail arrives at Sally’s station with Dana Cowin and Hubert Keller.  She’s got a take on caramel corn/Cracker Jack: White Corn Brown Butter Cake with Corn Pudding & Peanut Ice Cream. The plating is really nice. The cake portion size is delicate but more than one bite. Gail comments that there’s not a lot of sugar in the corn pudding and Sally says was the intention and she used palm sugar.  Dana is taking tiny nibbles of everything and has a weird look on her face. Not good.

Johnny and François Payard arrive at Carlos’s station. Carlos says he took Johnny’s advice and that the macaroons looked and tasted like “shit” this morning so he changed them out. Johnny nods and laughs, but I sense that he’s freaking out that Carlos just said “shit” in front of François. I’m freaking out about it. He’s made Sesame Angel Food Cake “Burger,” Churro “Fries,” and Strawberry-Lemon Soda. It’s pretty cute and I’m definitely intrigued. François says, “All around, it’s very playful.” They thank him and move along. Carlos is a little concerned that his dessert is so different.

Gail’s at Chris’s table — Funnel Cake Ice Cream, Sablé Breton, Strawberries, Funnel Cake, & Minto Foam. That’s right. Not mint foam, but minto foam. Dana asks about all the “verbs” in one dish, frying and freezing and all the assembly. Chris gets argumentative about the time people have to wait for the funnel cake and all the technique.

Matthew — François and Johnny approach and he says he went with something he loves at carnivals — fried apple pies. He’s stuck to carnival, but the plating brings it up a bit. Fried Caramel Apple Pie, Apple Carpaccio, & Vanilla Ice Cream. Johnny likes the use of the fresh apple to keep the acidity. Johnny enters Matthew’s raffle for the pigs. A few people in the crowd comments on finally getting the caramel they were hoping for.

Orlando — Gail, Dana, and Hubert. Orlando’s dessert looks like a fancy plated dessert. There’s no whimsy, there’s no carnival. He’s made Chocolate Apple Entremet with Apple Sorbet. It’s lovely. And it just feels like he forgot what the challenge was. Dana asks what the carnival food referenced was supposed to be and he says “candied apples.” With the idea of candied, the judges wanted more texture; they wanted crackle. As always, though, Orlando’s ready to defend himself.

Matthew raffles off his pigs and the guests laugh and seem to be having fun. The other chefs seem annoyed. I think it was great. When he draws the final name, Chris runs over pretending to be the winner.

Service over, they clean up and we see everyone seems a little uncertain. Back in the stew room, they all look exhausted and tense. It’s weird to see only five, instead of fourteen in the room.

Gail comes in and asks for Matthew and Sally and it’s hard to judge what it means this time. At the table, Gail says these two are their favorites! I’m so happy for Matthew. But this makes me nervous for Carlos.

Matthew — François loved the empanada and the carpaccio. Hubert says it was balanced and clean and the ice cream was fabulous.
Sally — Johnny liked the way corn was featured in multiple ways. François liked the balance.

François gives the win to Matthew! Hurray!

They are sent back to the stew room. Everyone applauds Matthew and then the other guys head out. Matthew says he’s two steps closer to getting that house for his family. Aww.

The losers…

Orlando — Gail asks what flavors he was trying to evoke. Gail says the apples got lost in the chocolate. Johnny asks what was in the thought process of using chocolate. He says he likes to use chocolate. François was disappointed in the layers of the entremet. It could have been better.

Carlos — Johnny asks what went wrong. He says the macaroons and he wasn’t comfortable serving them. The angel food, however, didn’t work right. And the churros were cold and not crispy enough for all the guests. Gail liked the playful idea and the carnival connection, but the angel food stuck to her fingers.

Chris — Isn’t sure why he’s here. Of course not, he thinks all his ideas are brilliant. But Johnny explains that the guests didn’t like the agar jelly. Hubert thought he was ambitious but with everything going on he missed the refinement.

Note: Dana Cowin is not at the table. I’m not really sure why she isn’t there, but it’s just Gail, Johnny, Hubert, and François.

The judges debate and none of them understand why Orlando even used chocolate at all. And again they slam the layers of his entremet. They think Carlos was the most creative, but he had a problem with each element. Chris’s funnel cake ice cream lacked flavor. François said there were too many flavors in it. They slam his strawberries too, deciding that raw, macerated berries with a mint syrup would have been so much better and Johnny says he’ll make that for Gail. My heart swoons a little at that. They are so adorable in their interactions.

In the stew room, the chefs have created their own Super Chef team. They will open a shop together and save the world with pastry. The Fantastic Five. Chris will have showpieces everywhere in the shop. Carlos will be NitroMan, Chris is PacoBoy, Orlando is ChocolateMan, Matthew is the Master Foamer (after the gravy foam). Then Matthew says Sally would a team of one, “I’m not working with anybody! I work alone!” which cracks everyone up.

During commercials I see that Bravo has created a new word. Chef’testant The apostrophe is theirs, and aside from my general issues with word creation, I don’t understand the need for an apostrophe. I’m having a real problem here, but I’m going to step away.

It’s decision time! The remaining contestants are actually all fond of each other at this point and that’s kind of nice. The losers head out to the table for the decision.

Who’s going home? Carlos. That leaves me only with Matthew to root for. I’m sitting on my couch pouting and I admit to getting a little teary over him leaving. I was counting on him being the one who could actually get Johnny in the banana game.

Just four chefs next week. Who will make the finale? Tune in to BravoTV and watch, or just come here next Thursday to find out.

Rate the plate this week and check out Carlos’s exit interview.