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Top Chef Just Desserts: S1 E1

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I didn't see another thread about episode 1, although there were one or two comments in the general TCJD thread. Just throwing this open for anyone who stayed up for it and persevered through the Drama! Oh the Drama!

Thought the twist on the QF was cool -- make your signature dessert...into a cupcake. Seriously, where have these people been that they weren't more prepared to make cupcakes? They're such a trendy thing now -- my local suburban pastry/sandwich shop has a zillion cupcake varieties, including s'mores, red velvet, and cookies 'n' cream.

And a wide-open chocolate decadence challenge, with entries all over the map. I'm in for the challenges, if I can handle the divas.

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  1. I read an interview with Gail about this show and she made the destinction that attitudes were much more on display. I only saw the first 15 minutes and there were so many bleeps I thought a weather warning or Amber Alert was going to cross the screen. I'm not sure how this series will go. I'm not sure I like Johnny Iuzzini (sp?) as a host. His image doesn't match with his demeanor. Like Tom C. seems pretty stern and looks it. Johnny looks punkish like he'd talk crap, but acts too lax. Oh well it will need time. Even Top Chef had to go through Katy Joel, before they go to Padma.

    2 Replies
    1. re: burgeoningfoodie

      Johnny Iuzzini reminnds of The Fonz's long-lost love child with Joanie Cunningham.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        Hahaha! Nice. I do like him, though, and will never forget his spot on comment on TC this season when Amanda said she's not a pastry chef: "I think it's kind of a cop out though to say you're not a pastry chef. My grandma's not a pastry chef either and she can make a pie."

    2. I liked Just Desserts. I think this show has the potential to have a lot of drama surrounding the food. For example, last night the woman who was sent home, I'm sorry I don't remember her name, was told to PHTAG because the texture of her mousse wasn't right. Depending on the challenges, I think there is a lot of potential for things to not be "right", cakes/souffles not rising, textures incorrect, pudding not setting properly, etc. After all, baking is also a science and not just an art.

      I also liked the QF and EC from last night. I thought the cupcake aspect was a nice twist, and Jacques Torres as a judge is a big deal. It's only the first episode so I hope everyone involved gets more comfortable over time.

      I'm not sure I have a favorite contestant yet, but I do dislike Morgan. From the previews we saw last night, it seems like there is something "off" about him.

      6 Replies
      1. re: lizzy

        I agree you on Morgan. I feel like he has delusions of grandeur on the quality of his dessert. How could he think his dessert was better than the top 3 when he knew his flan had separated? Judging from the next episode preview. I also feel that he is being set up to be the hated villain.

        Johnny I. is stiffer than Padma. His intro on the bus felt like he was a reading from a prompter.

        1. re: septocaine_queen

          Well despite his look, maybe Johnny is a bit more of an introvert. I'm hoping we will see the current Pastry Chef at WD-50 and also Michael Laskonis.

        2. re: lizzy

          For me I think this show's cookbook, if not overly technical will do better than the regular top chef cookbook. I think the ingredients for baking are more readily accessible to the general public. And who doesn't like a dessert of some sort. I do think that they are going to have to make savory pastry dishes though at some point to test some other skills.. much like Top Chef people have to make a dessert at some point.

          1. re: burgeoningfoodie

            As one of the pastry chefs said, it's easier for a pastry chef to make cook than for a chef to make a dessert because of the precision involved. Most people, without a recipe, can pull together at least one, if not many more dishes without a recipe but how many people can pull out a baked dessert without one? If you can get out a pie crust or puff pastry, you have most of the battle, IMO, for a savory pastry dish.

            1. re: chowser

              I agree with you both. Also to paraphrase another contestant, a regular chef can taste as they go along while a pastry chef cannot taste as it's baking.

              1. re: lizzy

                yeah it's more sight and smell and sometimes feel before it goes in the oven or with dough.

        3. Hard to tell so soon if I'm going to like this one or not. I'm kind of sick of cake shows, so hope they're very imaginative and keep that to a minimum. Too early to get a real feel for any of the contestants except the really awful ones, and even then I can't remember which is which. Heather, the winner, is a friend of a friend of a friend (seriously) so glad for that.

          But I do recall that this early in the season of TC that just concluded I thought it was going to be a good season, and of course it stunk on ice.

          I like Gail a lot, but not that creepy, thinks-he's-cool head judge dude. Yech. And bring on Hubert Keller! I was thrilled just to see him in the intro!

          1. I didn't enjoy the show last night - I got bored with it really fast. I'm going to try to catch it on a rerun though, to see if it was just me - I can't sit still and watch TV for a long time, and I'd already sat thru the 'top chef' finale.

            3 Replies
            1. re: jeanmarieok

              Liked it better when I saw it on Sunday. They are kind of ugly to each other, aren't they? Not as professional as the regular Top Chefs are for the first few episodes? The gloves are off already.

              1. re: jeanmarieok

                I think the problem is that we are trying to compare this to Top Chef and just like the focus of the show.. (desserts vs. what we would think of as sides or mains). You can't compare the personalities... I mean you can but you'd only be angering yourself. Within the show is another story... But taking people who like to improvise and people who are methodical to a fault and trying to compare them is just causing frustration.

                1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                  i haven't watched the episode, and at the risk of arbitrarily throwing around generalizations-- pastry chefs tend to be "independent" which can sometimes translate to "territorial" "diva-esque". . . less complimentary descriptives. they don't always play well with others, because they don't have to-- it's not part of their job, which is in most cases very competitive but solitary in nature. by contrast, chefs have to work with others to some degree, so collaboration, good natured give-and-take, and cooperation is part of the cooking culture. it's really come thru a few times when someone's been screwed because of something beyond their control (refrigeration fail, etc), and her/his competitors have pitched in to help them cook and plate. random thought, but i a pastry chef convention/competition immediately translates in my mind: "catfight" whereas a cooking competition would be more of a contest of food rather than personality. hopefully this is not delete-worthy-- fwiw i know some pastry chefs who are quite nice and sweet-- as long as you don't compliment another person's cakes in front of them, anyway ;-P

            2. I thought it was good. I'm impressed that they're going to do it all without recipes. You can't wing a lot of these desserts w/out precision. Change what you were going to make, midstream, to make a cupcake? What if they didn't have the right ingredients because they weren't planning a cake? I guess that's what the pantry is for?

              7 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                What if they didn't have the right ingredients because they weren't planning a cake? I guess that's what the pantry is for?
                ________________________________

                I guess that's why what's his name made an ice cream shaped cupcake (or semifreddo shaped cupcake)

                1. re: chowser

                  Totally concur on the recipe aspect of this show; for the regular Top Chef, you can make-up stuff on the fly and a variance here or there isn't going to make or break a dish. With desserts, that is a totally different animal since those recipes is far more scientifically-driven. The fact that these guys had to cram those recipes (and chemical formulas!) in their head for the duration of the show is going to be impressive to watch.

                  I also like the "Queen" factor! Nothing like the drama of a flaming queen!
                  :-)

                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    A pastry chef, or baker, should know how to make some basic things without a recipe. A basic white cake can be made by a trained professional without either committing too much detail to rote memory, or by following a recipe. Same could be said for other things, like basic cookie batter, pie crust, sponge cake, custard, meringue, etc.

                    But I agree, it is much more difficult to "experiment" and cook on the fly when making sweet or dessert type dishes than with savory ones. Because with the former, you cannot taste as you work through each step.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I agree that they *are* going to know the basic things, but in a show of this magnitude, they are going to need to know more than basic things; the measurements for flan, creme caramel, creme brulee, and zabaglione (for example) are all very similar with just slight changes. And those slight changes is what could make or break a contestant (as was seen in whats-her-name's mousse that was grainy).

                      With savory, those are easier things to fix just before service (you can strain a grainy sauce, for example), but you can't fix a genoise that was short one egg when they are 20 minutes away from service and it is down to garnish and plating.

                      1. re: CarrieWas218

                        Well, that's what's going to separate the Top Chef ... from everyone else.

                        1. re: CarrieWas218

                          Exactly--I'm sure the woman who was sent home for making grainy mousse could have done it w/ a recipe and probably has made it a million times but, on the fly, different amount, no recipe, I can easily see how she could have messed up--and being the first episode, she hasn't learned to fix it on the fly.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          I was thinking if you know the basic recipes and understand food science, you can fool around with them. But there are quite a few "basic" recipes to memorize and exact proportions for something things are so important. And, then there are proportion differences. If I were making one vs a mass amount of a recipe I know, I'd have to write it down and work out the math and it didn't seem like anyone did it. Overall, I'm impressed with what I saw.

                    2. I had a dream about chocolate last night after watching the show!
                      A few personalities are a bit strong, but it is interesting and I'm happy it's on to fill the void between TC and TCM! ( and always like to see Gail!)

                      1. Wow, and I thought that Kevin's yelling in the stew room of TC was dramatic. I feel like I'm watching Cupcake Wars crossed with Big Brother. I love the concept, just hope I can make it through the drama.

                        1. I can definitely see this program having more drama - I've already spotted the queens, the quiet potential pyschos and the possible subtle saboteurs. Maybe this show will make up for the lack of drama on TC season 7.

                          1. They should call it Top Chef: Just Gay

                            What's with all the overdramatic flamers?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: duckdown

                              I'm glad you said it and not me.

                              Seems like a get together of LGBT community.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                That's the first thing I noticed. I think the drama is entertaining certainly but being gay myself, I find them to be totally embarassing to me because it's just fuel for people watching at home who already don't like gays. If you want equality, acting like an immature drama queen on national television isn't going to help the cause.

                                And I take NO offense at all to the above comments, I'm glad someone said it too. We need more open dialogue about this stuff instead of simply forcing everyone to tolerate every bad behavior demonstrated by someone just because they're gay and we have to be PC.

                                1. re: ribeye621

                                  But the guy (Seth?) who cause the greatest drama prided on calling himself straight. He was crying and carrying on.

                                  1. re: septocaine_queen

                                    Look for Seth to have more emotional breakdowns. These Top Chef competitions are mentally taxing and this guy is mentally fragile. He entered the competition because his mother is ill and deeply in debt. He wants to win the money to pay his mother's bills. He's too desparate for the money to be up to the challenges ahead.

                                    There seems to be a lot more sniping at one another on this show than even TC2 where Marcell caused all those problems.

                            2. Just caught the rerun of this last night. It has way too much drama for my liking (so far). I like my Top Chef franchises to stick to the food as the star of the show with a small side of reality show dramatics. The proportions were WAY off on the first episode. I like Gail as host but who on earth is that Daily Candy/Danielle woman? She seemed to be way out of her element at judge's table. She is the polar opposite of having Hubert Keller as a judge.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: mels

                                I agree she seems severely underqualified. Also, "It's like there's a party in my mouth" is among the more tired clich├ęs, IMO.

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  My mom had a friend who was once trumpeting the deliciousness of a dish. She said:

                                  "Your mouth will throw a party for your tongue!"

                                2. re: mels

                                  She is just that .. she is "The Daily Candy"... for the show watchers male audience. Just kidding.

                                3. It looks like Gail called in favors, and put together a super strong cast for the first season.

                                  They seem to have cast some real strong chefs, including a top award winner, meaning a ton of experience at the height of the profession. Everyone on TCJD is so "old" ... compared even to Top Chef, which has been getting an ever older cast every season.

                                  Even the first lady eliminated, is pretty strong for a first episode elimination. Her dessert looked good, finished, seemed to taste OK, despite technically incorrect texture. The other bottom 2 seemed to end there for what would be nitpick aesthetic reasons that I would not have expected to land them in a bottom group until 4 episodes in.

                                  One thing about TCJD ... having a family with some weight issues, I can't help but think diabetic shock! >_<