TC: Just Desserts 210 — Finale

Jacques Torres, Stephane Treand, Sebastien Canonne, Johnny, and Gail.

For the previously segment this week we get clips from throughout the season, leading up to tonight’s FINALE! And what better way to start the finale than Chris “sparring” with Matthew (clad only in plaid boxers) first thing in the morning? It’s everything I’ve been waiting for. How about you? (I wanted to open with a photo of this, but don’t have a download yet. Le sigh.)

Chris calls his wife to check on their baby girl who is growing up so quickly while he’s gone. Then Sally says that unlike Chris and Matthew, she doesn’t have babies, she just has her career. Is that supposed to make us feel for her? Whatever. Off to the kitchen.

Final elimination challenge. Johnny is there with Gail. And OMG, he’s looking great in casual wear.

The challenge? “Prove that you are the complete pastry chef.” They must make a display table that includes: a showpiece, an entremet cake, a bread element, bonbons, and “one more very special thing.”

Johnny says they “cook to bring people joy.” (Johnny, please come to Colorado, and bring me some joy.) He speaks of making his mother’s last birthday cake before she died and gets choked up. Oh, sweetie. Their special item is the perfect dessert for someone special in their lives.

Then they bring in three of the top pastry chefs in the world: Jacques Torres (aka Mr. Chocolate — I would pee my pants to learn from him, just saying); Sébastien Canonne, co-founder of the French Pastry School; and Stephane Treand, owner of The Art of Pastry and a master of sugar work. They are all MOFs (Meilleur Ouvrier de France) — a French designation for masters of their trade (Best Craftsman of France). These guys are the real deal. (They should do a TC:JD with pros like these guys as the cheftestants. That would be insane. But who would they get as judges? Seriously. They’d have to hire me and that might be a conflict of interest for me writing these recaps. )

Our chefs get to use these guys as advisors and mentors. Wow. There’s no choosing one for each, but rather they each get to consult with any/all of them. The three masters will also be joining in the tasting.

Sally consults Sébastien first because showpieces are her weakness. She knows what Chris is capable of and she wisely seeks some advice. Good for her (not that I want her to win, but…). She sees that she needs to show techniques that she already knows. That sounds like a solid plan to me.

Matthew (who I am totally rooting for) is talking to Jacques. His wife and daughter are his influence for his special dessert. The whole thing is actually related to them, to give the display cohesiveness. Jacques’s first concern is about sweetness and having balance. Some of Matthew’s plans are things he hasn’t done before and Jacques asks if he’s nervous. Matthew is, but isn’t. He knows he can’t win if he doesn’t push himself. That’s my boy! I hope it works out for him.

Chris is chatting up Stephane who likes his initial plan. Chris is thinking of an “industrial” theme down to the last detail of how to shake… I mean plate his bonbon. Stephane’s approval is just what Chris was looking for.

They’ve got 5 hours to cook. It’s kind of weird to see them starting to cook with the MOFs just standing to the side watching them. Matthew finds it a little intimidating. Chris is above it though, because he’s competed with Jacques as a lead judge walking through his kitchen before.

For Chris, today is all about his prep. He wants to get his entire entremet done today. For those not paying attention before. An entremet is a cake of about 2 inches tall with 6 or so layers to it.

Matthew’s getting some help planning a showpiece. While Chris and Sally have done competition work before, Matthew is a regular restaurant pastry chef. This is not his area of expertise.

The MOFs are helping! Sebastian does some lime zesting and later washes dishes (which surprises everyone, not just me). Chris and Sally are both kind of freaked out (but not complaining). Jacques helps Matthew with a little mixing too. And then he counts down the last few seconds of the day for them.

They’re heading home with time to think (and stress) about their timeline for the next day and how they’ll get their showpieces done. Sally seems a little nervous about that.

It’s morning and they’re back in the kitchen. And now another surprise — all the eliminated chefs are waiting with Gail. They’re there to help. Each chef gets two assistants. Each of the eliminated chefs has a cookie with a number on the back — one through eleven. The cheftestants have to pick a number and take whomever they get. OMG, if I were up there I might just say “no thanks.” But the chefs this season were mostly awesome, so the odds are good that at least one of the two will be useful.

Sally goes first and ends up with Vanarin (second to be eliminated). Matthew gets Megan. And Chris lucks into Rebecca (still one-armed). Oh, lucky them. They get to pick their second choice. Sally snatches up Orlando for his showpiece skills — good call. Matthew would have taken bitchy!O if he could, for the exact same reason. Instead, Matthew selects Carlos — Yay! My banana man is back! And finally, Chris chooses Amanda (as I thought he might given his options). I’m psyched to see that except for Vanarin (no offense to him or his fans, but he definitely had some issues) we really do have some of the best back in the kitchen.

Gail wishes them luck and she and the losers depart. The chefs break off with their assistants and get them going. Chris is clearly hesitant about giving work to Rebecca because her pastry skills are different than his.

Sally’s going to use Orlando’s showpiece skills. Vanarin, on the other hand, is going to do some of the crap work. He’ll be her sous chef.

Matthew’s plan is to have Megan work on his entremet and Carlos to work on the bonbons while he starts working on his showpiece.

Orlando is working with ridiculous amounts of chocolate. It’s gorgeous to see it flowing out of the bowl. Yum. For Sally’s special dessert she’s thinking of her mom and she’s going to incorporate cashews because that reminds her of home. I like that sort of simple focus. For her showpiece, she wants curves and such that suggest “femininity.” I feel a little bad for Orlando. And then we hear him say off screen that “personally” he didn’t want to work with any of them, which I totally get. He’s heartbroken to have been cut last week. But then he says “professionally” he has to man up and I respect that. And he’s doing a good job — he’s not half-assing it at all. In fact he’s done so much that I’m wondering what Sally’s doing.

Chris is making two different flavors for his bonbons — coffee and caramel — to see which he likes better. He tells us the key to a good bonbon is a very thin shell and a soft center. Sounds good to me. But I’ll pass on the coffee, thanks. Matthew’s doing key lime ganache with speculoos inside for his bonbons. He had me at key lime, but he may have lost me at the speculoos, which tastes similar to peanut butter. The combination, though, is supposed to end up tasting like key lime pie. Hmmm. Chris thinks it sounds like a good idea.

Sally’s entremet is fucked up. She used the wrong insert for her mouse layer. She’s got to redo some of this. Down to two hours and they’re all cranking away. Chris’s showpiece is insane. “So is Orlando’s, I mean Sally’s,” says Matthew. My concern is growing that Orlando is doing all the work. Looks like Sally’s starting to worry about that too, but she’s not taking over for him. She believes it’s still her ideas. Well, we shall see.

As they carry the showpiece out to the floor, Sally comments that to have a piece she just worked 13 hours on fall would suck. I’m kind of speechless on that one. Thirteen hours of work? I must have missed her spending her time that way. That must have been when I hit pause to go check on the meatloaf in the oven.

Matthew made his own showpiece and it has some lovely sugar work. Carlos and Megan comment on being proud of him for doing his own showpiece unlike some others. Chris did his own piece, of course. And it is insane. But he worked so much on it that I’m left wondering about his desserts and bread.

It’s tasting time. In addition to Johnny, Gail, Daniella, and Hubert, they’ve got a slew of guests for the finale. Jordan Kahn, owner of Red Medicine (and a quickfire judge earlier this season); Hasty Torres, owner of Madame Chocolat; Valerie Gordon, chef/owner of Valerie Confections; Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of the French Pastry School and from the film <I>Kings of Pastry</I> (I need to see this!!); Ludo Lefebvre, owner of Ludobites; and our MOFs from day one of the challenge.

They all walk around and look at the buffets. Chris has actually used his showpiece to display some of his other items — notably the bread.



We start with Matthew. His showpiece has a lot of sugarwork, which he hasn’t really done before. And he’s got chocolate work in flowers at the base. It’s clear in his presentation that he tried to do new things and to challenge himself. His presentation and focus is his love for his family.


Entremet — Hazelnut dacquois, passion fruit gelée, milk jam, and whipped jivara. It’s lovely and looks super yummy. The layers look nice. Gail says it’s complex but seems to like it.

Bread — Focaccia with olive oil, fresh thyme, and maldon salt. It looks nice and airy, but still dense if that makes sense. Danielle finds it to be a nice family-style bread; she loves the crunch of salt on top.

Bonbon — Jivara key lime ganache & speculoos. It’s gorgeous. The surface is shiny and smooth. (Good job, Carlos!) Speculoos is a new word for Gail. She seems giddy as she eats it. Yay!




The centerpiece is inspired by the colors from the entremet (notably mango and chocolate). Johnny likes the integration of color through everything on the table. He then asks how much help she had from her sous chefs with her showpiece and she admits, “A lot, Orlando basically made it for me,” but he did so using her design. I’m glad she admitted that, because I was going to reach through the screen and choke her if she took too much credit.


Entremet — Chocolate mousse, mango vanilla cream, caramel crémeux, lime, and almond sponge. It’s lovely. Johnny says the layers look good and Gail likes the textures.


Bread — Parker House roll with bacon, onions, and gruyère. Nom nom nom. I want one of those to go with my dinner right now. Wow. I need to make these. Danielle says the bread has all the things she likes.



Bonbon — Oooh, shiny and beautiful. Salted caramel and milk chocolate. I love, love, love salted caramel. Love. Seriously. Hubert likes the shell and Johnny says the caramel is just right with the melt in the mouth. (You can come melt in my mouth, Johnny. Umm… moving on.)




“I wanted to make something very industrial, that looks manufactured.” That’s his opening description of his showpiece. He definitely achieved his goal. He made related elements to hold his pieces. Sadly, Johnny comments that it’s falling apart — some of his brioche has fallen off the structure. He points out that he made the entire thing by himself with no assistance. I’m not sure Johnny’s as impressed by that as Chris would like him to be. Well… at least the actual structure isn’t falling apart. Right?

Entremet — He’s got a salty sugar dough on the bottom. Layers are chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, vanilla crémeux, and raspberry jam. It’s very precise but the flavors to me seem a little too predictable. Raspberry jam is feels so ordinary to me. But Hubert and Johnny like it. And everyone likes the jam layer because it’s “saucy and loose” just like Gail and Danielle (per Gail, that’s not me being smart).

Bread — Classic brioche with bacon maple butter on top. Mmmm. Johnny feels he was more creative with his condiment than with his bread.




Bonbon — Two layers. The bottom is coffee infused ganache, top layer is caramel. The finish is gorgeous. There’s some gold speckling in the chocolate. The shine is perfect and the mold used gives a nice shape. He’s got this little chocolate truss to serve it on as part of his connection to the showpiece. (I think it looks cool, but at the same time it’s a little bit of overkill for a bonbon.)



Now it’s time for plated desserts. The chefs head back to the kitchen to do the plating. Sally is up first and she’s struggling and has to edit her plan to get things plated on time. Her spheres aren’t going to be glazed which means you can see the crease between the two halves.

She comes out to present. Her dessert is inspired by her mom (cashews) and sister (who loves coffee). White chocolate espresso mousse, chocolate crémeux, cashew nougatine, and a white coffee ice cream. There’s comments on the meticulousness of the dessert, the amount of content in the sphere. Some chefs, however, note she should have finished the surface of the sphere and that the insides could have been more well defined. Interesting mix there.


Matthew is plating. He’s got an intricate design for his presentation. While they wait, the judges talk about his use of color in his showpiece and how he did when he doesn’t have that experience. I’m so proud of him!

His dessert — This is for his wife and his daughter. His wife loves chocolate chip cookies and his daughter inspired the plating, which he wanted to resemble a playground. It’s a very eclectic looking dessert. Dark chocolate cake, raspberry mousse, pecan streusel, and milk ice cream.

All the flavors of a chocolate chip cookie on the plate. The plate is about life and family. Good feedback, but then one judge says all the talk about chocolate chip cookies made her really want a cookie. Sorry ma’am. No luck tonight.


Chris is running around seeking scissors. As he plates, the judges talk about how they liked his bonbon flavors and packaging. And out comes his dessert. He jumps right into what it is, no introduction. Butter almond cake, banana caramel, banana ice cream, and mango sauce.

Here we go… it’s a variation of a dessert he previously made for a competition when he and his wife had just started dating. It was then that she saw how important his job is to his life and now they are married and have a beautiful baby girl. Aww.

Reaction? Jacques likes it but misses the connection to the story. The flavors work and everyone thinks it’s a great dessert.


Now the judges will convene to make a decision. Back in the kitchen the chefs all hug each other. I’m hoping for Matthew but I just don’t know. I have no guess because they all did a really great job.

At panel, Gail reminds them there can be only one.

Matthew — they address the speculoos and key lime bonbon. Danielle liked the speculoos, which was new to her. On the showpiece Johnny asks why he worked in sugar when he doesn’t have as much experience with that. Danielle, however, said it reminded her of a “love letter to [his] wife” and then she said she’s a cheesy romantic. She had a huge smile on her face too. It’s cute. Gail then turned to the plated dessert inspired by his wife — there wasn’t enough focus or direction on how to eat it with it all spread out so they all experienced it differently.

Sally — Johnny goes straight to her use of color throughout to tie it all together. He appreciated the beauty of it. Then he asks why Orlando did so much of the work on the showpiece and she said because that’s his strengths and that’s how she wanted to use her sous chefs. She said the design was hers and the techniques were all ones she’s done before and is comfortable with. They turn to her entremet and Hubert said at first he thought it was fake — in a good way. That the edges were so beautiful and perfect it didn’t seem like it was the real dessert, but when you sliced inside there was more perfection. Finally, they bring up her plated dessert and before anything is said she lets out a big sigh. Gail asks why and Sally says it was a downfall for her because she ran out of time to finish it the way she wanted. Danielle kindly says her sister and mom would have loved it, and that the emotion came through.

Chris — They bring up that some of his showpiece fell apart. He thinks it shouldn’t take away from the strength of it. They talk about his plated dessert first and how he didn’t just go with another chocolate dessert. It was the only dessert that Johnny ate in its entirety (and that everyone at his table actually ate everything on the plate). And that’s it. They don’t talk to him about anything else that he made or that they didn’t feel the story connection or that his bonbon was awesome. Nothing.

They send them to the stew room. Okay then. I’m stuck here wondering if they spent so little time on Chris because they’ve already made him the winner or totally ruled him out. I just don’t know.

In the stew room they’re all drained and none of them seem to look like they think they’ve won.

The judges start by who won the bread course. They decide Sally, hands down.

Bonbons — Matthew’s was unique. Danielle liked Chris. Gail liked Sally. So a mix.

Entremet — Chris’s was so simple, but Sally was creative and hers was beautiful (especially the glaze). They’re both close on flavor. No mention of Matthew.

Showpieces — Matthew tried really hard, but it didn’t compare to the other two. Sally’s was gorgeous (and Gail thought the best), but not a measure of her ability. Danielle thinks she had smart strategy. Danielle felt Chris’s piece really spoke to her. Johnny says what’s worse, “Having a bit of your showpiece fall apart, or having someone else do it for you?”

In the stew room, Sally says again that Orlando did help her and Matthew says if she hadn’t picked him, he would have. Chris just kind of shakes his head and raises his eyebrows. You can tell he’ll be pissed if he doesn’t win and that it will be the showpiece issue that makes him most angry.

On to the plated desserts. Hubert liked Sally’s story, but liked that Chris’s dessert was more rustic. Johnny thought Chris’s was the most delicious, but not the most interesting. Danielle liked the precision of Sally’s, but the flavor Chris’s. Again they say nothing about Matthew.

Gail says they’ve just decided and I’m not an idiot. I can tell as they go to commercial that the winner is not going to be Matthew. Given that, I want it to be Chris simply because of the showpiece issue. I’m with Johnny (and Chris) on being bothered by how much work Orlando did for Sally, even though I think they’re fairly matched on desserts and she totally owned the bread category. And I agree with Danielle that using Orlando as she did, was smart strategy.

View extended judging here.

When we return from commercials, will they go with my choice? During the commercial break they always have these text your vote bits. For “Who do you think should win Top Chef Just Desserts?” the results are: Matthew, 43%; Chris 29%, and Sally 28%. I’m not the only Matthew girl out here!

But it doesn’t matter what we think, only who the judges choose. When the chefs come back out for a decision, the eliminated chefs are all to the side in nice clothes. Chris notices Amanda’s arm tattoo for the first time ever. Guess he wasn’t hanging out in the ladies’ bedrooms like the camera crew, huh?

Gail says they should all be proud because they all exceeded their expectations. Johnny has kind words for all of them and it’s so sweet. So who is the winner?

Chris! Matthew and Sally give him hugs. He’s overwhelmed. He gets sprayed with some bubbly then everyone gathers around for a toast. “You’re my boy forever,” Matthew says during a hug. And they both comment on how they’ve built a great friendship for life. Oh Mattris, I will miss you.

Johnny, Gail, Chris, Danielle, Hubert

 In the closing, Chris comments about how he owes so much to his wife, that he wouldn’t be the chef he is without her support and he can’t wait to hold his baby again. I like that he ended on that note and that he considers them to be so important. It’s really nice.

Watch Chris celebrate and see his post-win reaction.

Matthew and Sally get exit interviews too.

Thanks for joining me everyone! Happy desserting.