Welcome back to Top Chef: Just Desserts, where I can’t help wondering, is this the longest cooking competition in history? I mean, I’m sure there were some culinary fisticuffs at Versailles over vol-au-vent or perfume fondue or something, but did those competitions FEEL as long as this one? There’s no way, because I am certain that Louis XIV would have beheaded the lot of them and replaced them with a puppet show of Kirsten Dunst dancing to Siouxsie and the Banshees if it had been even half as long as this show. I think I’ve grown six inches and aged twenty years while these pastry cheftestants have thrown cereal on top of chocolate mousse and called it art. But as we are being frequently reminded, this is the last show before the finale. So I’m pretty sure this episode will feel like it lasts the half-life of iridium, which I understand is a very long time.
After a few heartwarming scenes of the cheftestants being whimsical and familial and friendly with each other, the chefs are herded into the kitchen and forced to fight each other in a Battle Royale (with fondant!) In the GE Monogram kitchen suite, the chefs come face to face with James Beard award winner and owner of Lucques (and a bunch of other brand-building-yet-ultimately-not-as-good restaurants), Suzanne Goin. Suzanne stands next to Gail who is smiling like she ate a glac� canary as she tells the four remaining chefs that they are going “straight to the finals,” which we all know is a complete fabrication, but for some reason the contestants all believe. Gail tells them that they are “going international,” which Orlando thinks mean grab your passport, but actually sounds like an awkward euphemism my grandma (well not my grandma, but someone’s grandma) would use for interracial dating. Old people, man. Then a cart is wheeled out filled with a veritable Model United Nation of flags and Orlando sadly puts his passport back in his pocket. Gail tells Chris to pick a country. He picks France (snooze), Orlando picks Spain, Matt Italy and Sally opts for Cuba because she spent a summer working the It’s a Small World ride at the Magic Kingdom which is in Florida and thus qualifies her to make an arroz con frijoles
Instead, the chefs must create a “dessert in disguise.” Basically they must make a dessert that looks like a different (better) food. Specifically an iconic savory dish of the country they chose. You know those giant hamburger and French fry cakes some wise acre always brings to an office function and/or church potluck and/or other bleak scenario? It’s like that. The chefs all groan because instead of making a mille-feuilles en chocolat, they have to make a canard � l’orange out of white cake and fondant. Or, if you’re Sally, you must make arroz con frijoles out of jujubes and magic. To illustrate their point, we are shown a series of pictures of Buffalo wings and pork chops that are not actually chicken or pork but rather Tootsie Rolls, spun sugar and cake. Can you imagine being drunk and biting into a big old plate of wings and realizing it’s a cupcake in Buffalo wing form? That would be traumatizing. The chefs all look like they want to die as Gail adds that they have a whole panel of chefs waiting to judge their dessert on increasingly bizarre unattainable and constantly shifting standards. Orlando is in an extra tizzy because his culinary icon Iron Chef Cat Cora is on the panel! He is obviously totally reading that off a teleprompter because NO ONE has Iron Chef Cat Cora as a culinary icon. Chris is stumped. Sally is stumped. Matthew is making manicotti. Orlando is concocting paella.
Judge Johnny comes in for a very preliminary sniff n’ sneer. Chris tells him that he’s making a beef Wellington, which Johnny points out may actually be a British dish, not French. Chris ignores this, because OMG FOUR-ALARM PANIC. Johnny just sort of shrugs and moves on because the crazy eye on Chris is a little frightening. Matthew is making a manicotti out of mousse and cake and a strawberry tomato basil sauce, which Johnny appreciates, because ooh tomato! Orlando is crafting a dessert paella, which sounds like rice pudding, but Johnny doesn’t want to talk about paella, he wants to talk about Orlando’s feelings of insecurity. Who does Orlando consider threatening? Orlando is worried about Chris because of the Crazy Eyes and also the cooking skills. Johnny nods, but then points out that beef Wellington isn’t French. I can’t be the only person who hears the words “beef Wellington” and immediately flashes to Gordon Ramsay throwing it at a hapless chef’s head.