On “Top Chef Just Desserts”: Welcome to the wild world of sugar where fondant reigns supreme, the caramel is always smooth, the chocolate is even-tempered and nobody calls anyone a marshmallow and survives.”Top Chef” is testing our sugar tolerance and raising our blood sugar one competition at a time.
The contestants? A veritable Whitman’s Sampler of arrogance, charm, and quirkiness. The host? Gail Simmons ascends from wingman to hostess with the mostest Hostess cupcakes. The judges? Johnny Iuzzini, Elvis impersonator by day self-professed pastry rebel (*gag *) at night. Joining him at judges’ table is Dannielle Kyrillos who once started a business with “candy” in the title, thus qualifing her to judge people who make candy. Rounding out the Panel of Judgment is Hubert Keller known as much for his impenetrable French accent as his failed attempts to take the crown of Top Chef Master. Where he has failed he will make sure all others fail, too. Except for one who will rise like meringue to take the crown of Top Chef, but just in the dessert category and we all know pastry doesn’t count anyway.
Let’s meet the contenders vying for the crown: Seth Caro was the original pastry chef at the original Top Chef’s original restaurant. He thinks this means something, but really he’s just the legacy student they HAD to let into school. Joining him is Tania Peterson who is a Jewish atheist artist who will kick your ass with her rebellious frosting or something. Scary! Erika is concerned about her hair, but not her pastry skills and Heather giggles while talking about how intimidating she is, which is just more confusing then intimidating, unless confusion intimidates you.
A double decker bus pulls up at the airport and the producers force the pastry chefs to ride on the top and look like yokels and risk sun exposure and mussed up hair dos. Chef Zac Young is extremely gay and promises to cut you with his flavor, which is an odd thing to say. Like he’s a pacifist pretending to be tough. This is similar to how my Quaker grandma used to make my brother pretend his gun shot out Band Aids. It’s well intentioned but also stupid. Tim Nugent (not ever likely to be confused with Ted Nugent) is also gay and prefers to be called the Snow Queen because he makes ice cream and has a Narnia fixation. Then we get a flood of people they don’t bother introducing until we get to the Texan dad with a love for rock climbing and his girlfriend. Also, pastry.
The bus has parked, but they don’t let any of the chefs off and instead leave them baking in the sun until they are the perfect brown of toasted coconut. That’s when Gail Simmons gets on board. It was her stop, apparently. Accompanying Gail’s initial appearance on camera, we also get the first round of Moral Support and Positive Affirmation for Gail. One of the contestants claims to have a schoolboy crush on her and finds it hard to even look at her because she is so beautiful. This is baloney. But it must be done because after years of sitting next to Padma Freaking Lakshmi, Gail has a wee bit of an inferiority complex. And who can blame her? There is no girl on earth save for another supermodel who wouldn’t have a complex. So Gail needs a little encouragement, some pats on the head, and pinches on the ass. Just gentle ones, though, nothing that would bruise.
Standing next to Gail is Johnny Iuzzini, pastry’s resident bad boy and the Head Judge for this competition. We have no idea how someone qualifies as Pastry’s Bad Boy, but based on Johnny’s appearance we can only assume it has something to do with copious amounts of hair gel and chaining your wallet to your trousers in case one of them tries to make a break for it. Apparently Johnny has a James Beard Award and isn’t afraid to flaunt it. He is also the pastry chef at Jean Georges in NYC, which means something. No one comments on his hair.
Before the contestants can even wipe off the bus grime (or even coat themselves in Purell) Gail is announcing the first Quickfire competition. It’s pretty standard first round stuff: Make a signature dessert. As the contestants run around the grocery store we meet another competitor, Yigit Pura, who was the executive chef under Daniel Boulud, which in my understanding of the chef solar system (Daniel Bouloud > Jean-Georges Vong.) puts him pretty much on par with Johnny Iuzzini, but we’re probably missing something. If he just had more hair gel or a wallet chain he could be judging this competition himself. Time to hit the Macy’s accessories wall, little dude! He is proud to be OCD because it is the number one job requirement for a good pastry chef. But don’t tell Eric Wolitzky that. He’s a baker (and Baked in Brooklyn) with a laissez-faire attitude towards measuring butter and is anti-foofiness. He just gives you a whoopie pie and tells you to shut up and like it.
Then we get a sad story of contestant Malika who is going through a divorce and wants to show her three boys that she is perfectly capable of succeeding in life without their good-for-nothing father …
Johnny and Gail hit the sugar trail that is the quickfire tasting line …
Photo credit: Bravo