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Oct 27, 2011 08:57 AM

Top Chef Just Desserts Finale

Wow, mid-morning and nothing posted at all. I thought it was a great finale, everything looked really good and I think the most deserving chef won. I think if Sally did more of the work on the show piece herself and it came out even close to as good as it was, she would have more of a chance.

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  1. I agree. I'm not sure why TC:JD isn't as popular as the original, or at least, just more popular than it is. Personally, I enjoy it just as much. I do have quite a sweet tooth though, so maybe that has something to do with it.

    Anyway! I thought this was actually one of the best episodes. Loved watching the MOFs give their advice and help in the kitchen. I was very glad Chris won, and Sally did not. I did not like her for most of the season (I thought she had a very "mean girl" vibe about her), and I would have thought it unfair since they edited it to seem as though Orlando did all the execution of her showpiece for her. (Doesn't matter to me that she designed it; lots of chefs have great ideas in their head, but the ones who can't execute on their idea don't deserve to win, IMO.)

    REALLY suprised Gail didn't know what speculos was. (And I may have spelled it wrong there.) I have no where near the food knowledge of a lot of folks both here on CH and on TC, and I know what it is, have eaten it, etc.

    4 Replies
    1. re: charmedgirl

      I'm not sure why I don't find it as enjoyable but I don't. And I love to bake and work with sweets. Maybe it's the emphasis on how the food looks, and the persnickety personalities of the chefs.

      1. re: charmedgirl

        I liked it, too. I liked seeing the desserts and the skills it takes to do all those forms of pastry. Those multi-layered entremets look hard enough to make but to get those thin even layers? I'm glad the judges pointed it out, how well the flavors work together, how hard it is to get the layers even, how Sally's top gelled layer was difficult. A lot of what pastry chefs do is beyond what most people understand (not meaning CH, but the average person who doesn't cook a lot)--even tempering chocolate is an art that people don't get.

        I loved seeing the MOFs in the kitchen, too, and thought it was fun to see the contestants laugh about seeing them do menial labor. And, they all appreciated the help and feedback--what an amazing learning experience for them. I didn't like the way Sally came off at times, but I thought she had amazing skill and it was great to see her compete strongly with the others. I did think it was telling that she, as a woman, has had to forgo relationships/family to be where she is and that the guys had families and babies. It's a tough world as a pastry chef. I would have been fine if any of the three had won (and I'll throw Orlando in that mix, so four). I think they were all highly skilled, very impressive. Oh, and Carlos, too, so any of the five.

        1. re: charmedgirl

          We finally watched this over the weekend and greatly enjoyed it. I don't want to assume too much about other people's opinions, but perhaps the reason that people don't watch/enjoy TC:JD as much is the utterly abysmal season 1 and the terrible personalities it features. They had to scrape the bottom of the barrel on that season. This season has been much better and we don't seem to have any people having complete mental breakdowns on camera or any alleged pedophiles.

          1. re: TAsunder

            I liked the season better because there was no drama--none of the cliqueyness of the past and the contestants seem to respect and like working with each other. The last season was too tense, too much drama, not enough talent. The only person I liked last season was Yigit. I liked most of the people, except Craig, and who knows why he was there, other than drama.

        2. I was really rooting for Matthew -- I honestly thought the judges would have given him more props for attempting pulled sugar rather than using chocolate in his showpiece. I can understand Sally giving Orlando the showpiece (a strategic move on her part), but I knew she was a goner with the editing. Chris's winning doesn't surprise me at all. As the most experienced cheftestant, he was a shoo-in.

          I think one of the reasons why there isn't more "talking up" of TCJD is because pastry is a very specialized area, whereas savory cooking is more accessible -- hence, TC's popularity outshine's TCJD's.

          5 Replies
          1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

            There was very little pulled sugar on Matthew's showpiece, just a few flowers at the bottom. Wait, I just looked at the video again, I think the flowers on the bottom are chocolate, not sugar, so NO pulled sugar at all. The majority of it was molded - he poured sugar into molds and stuck the pieces together. I'm sure that takes some knowledge, but not as much as pulled/blown.

            I'm also not sure about Matthew's definition of speculoos as a cookie made with roasted flour. AFAIK, there are usually some spices involved, and sometimes almonds. If he can show me a traditional recipe where the flour is roasted, spices or not, I'd be curious to see it.

            I agree (with the OP) that if Sally had done what she did plus had more involvement in actually constructing the showpiece she might have won.

            1. re: babette feasts

              At JT, I specifically recall the judges indicating they got spice from Matthew's bon-bon so it sounds like he followed some recipe. I recall seeing many of the chefs using recipe books for JD but did not notice Matthew consulting one for the finale.

              All in all, I thought this was a good finale challenge but it kind of tilted the scales towards Chris and Sally. Matthew stated he is a hotel pastry chef and never competed while Sally and Chris have past competition experience. I think that was Matthew's disadvantage. He tried new things and did his showpiece in molded sugar as a way to impress the judges with panache.

              1. re: Dee S

                Yes, Hubert did comment on the spice in the cookie, my question is whether his earlier definition to Gail of speculoos as 'just a cookie dough that you roast the flour' is accurate. Is roasting the flour traditional to speculoos?

                1. re: babette feasts

                  I don't know so I google it. Since speculoos have a Belgian origin, I felt it best to get the recipe from them. There is no mention of toasting flour but I did see several other references that refer to them as caramelized cookies (probably from brown sugar).


              2. re: babette feasts

                You're right -- it was molded sugar, not pulled. Now I remember the camera showing him pouring the sugar. Whoops! But I thought most of his showpiece was sugar...I do recall chocolate at the bottom of it, though.

            2. While I think the best chef won, I really think for the finale that Sally did the most ingenious "out of the box" entrement. She may not have spent a lot of time making the showpiece but this is not Top Chef Dessert Showpiece. It's all a matter of who made the better dessert.
              Just for thought: I think there could be a different outcome if Chris was eliminated in the previous challenge in making a creative dessert based on the "country classic" food. He picked France, and no matter what the origins...Beef Wellington is British (and embraced by British) not classic French in any way.
              As for judging her as "mean girl". I don't see it that way. I think she is just not much of a talker and it may come across as "mean". But look at the previous contestant Morgan, whom a lot of people thought as a loving father to his son..BTW, just got indicted for child pornography.

              22 Replies
              1. re: trvlcrzy

                My impression that Sally acted like a "mean girl" is based on what she did say, not what she didn't. You're certainly entitled to have a different opinion on her though!

                1. re: charmedgirl

                  I got a definite mean girl vibe from her treatment of Katzie. Also, on one of the episodes she complained about women chefs not getting support in the kitchen, yet she completely aligned herself with the men and wasn't very nice to the other women. In the end, she seemed a little nicer because the other women were gone.
                  Having said that, all opinions are obviously influenced by the editing and producers.

                  1. re: mountaincachers

                    Why are we singling out Sally for acting like a 'mean girl' towards Katzie when Katzie said just as much about Sally as Sally said about Katzie? It seemed like a two way street where they both disliked each other and sniped about each other.

                    And, let's not forget the time Katzie mocked Pichet Ong's English skills even though English is his second language. Its not like Katzie was this poor innocent victim, pure as the driven snow.

                    1. re: hobbess

                      Indeed. Even with the "editing" that such shows undergo, I wonder if, uh, "otherness" has anything to do with it...?

                        1. re: charmedgirl

                          The politically incorrect response ought to be obvious.

                          1. re: huiray

                            I'm not being snarky. I really don't get it. Do you mean that Sally's ethnicity has influenced how she was edited? Do you mean that it has influenced how she is being perceived? Or do you mean something else entirely?

                            1. re: charmedgirl

                              One tries to thread lightly here - but yes, what went through my mind was indeed the possibility of both of those suggestions you posited. I also wonder if some folks might notice Katzie's sniping less because of "affinity"/"familiarity" with who she is and where she came from, whereas Sally is, um, a little more "other". One need not even be aware of it consciously. Just speculating.

                                1. re: huiray

                                  I liked Sally and would have been happy if she had won. She showed professionalism and great technique. She had a camaraderie with her fellow chefs but at the same time came off a little cold in her expressions. I wonder if that could have made it seem like Katzie, being so young and open, was more warm and enthusiastic when she wasn't sniping. Sally, even when she was joking and being herself, never seemed to relax and have fun. I don't think it's a bad thing, especially on the types of competitions she does where precision is key. Maybe this is a little like comparing a finely tuned robot to a frisky puppy dog--where you are on Myer Briggs might be telling on how you see them both.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I can speak only for myself, but my opinion that "Sally" came off with a mean girl vibe is not based solely, or even primarily, on her statements about Katzie. That seems to be the assumption of other commentators here, but for me, it is not the case. For what it's worth, I didn't particularly like Katzie either. My opinion on Sally was based on watching all her interactions and interview segments through the entire season. No one thing in particular made me feel that way, it was a slow build. (And I have neither the time, energy, nor inclination to go back now and create a catalogue of all the things that made feel this way, just in case anyone was about to ask, ha ha!!)

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      Perhaps so regarding the Myers-Briggs scenario, at least in part.

                                      Still, *speaking in a general sense*, hasn't it always been the case that *one* reason why East Asians/Orientals were regarded with suspicion by Occidentals early on was that they couldn't be readily "read" (they were "inscrutable", didn't show expressiveness; weren't demonstrative in their faces and body language; didn't show emotions freely like other Occidental folks; you couldn't tell what they were thinking; etc) and traces of that may still linger. Perhaps many 3rd and 4th generation ABCs &etc now act and emote just like Caucasian USAmericans... Sally (2nd generation, I think, IIRC?) seems to emote just fine to me.

                                      1. re: huiray

                                        Born in The Philippines (Southeast Asia, not East Asia) and raised in Southern California, Sally is a first generation Filipino American. She represented herself, her family and us FilAms beyond well.

                                        1. re: Kris P Pata

                                          My friends and I have had discussions on what "first generation" or "second" is. Is first generation the generation to immigrate here, or the first generation born here. I'd always assumed it was the former but my friends convinced me (as did google) that it was open to interpretation. Regardless, I completely agree with you. I was impressed with Sally from the beginning. Well, except when she let Craig derail her in the beginning. I'm so glad she wasn't sent packing because of him. I have the feeling she has a huge career ahead of her.

                                        2. re: huiray

                                          I saw it more as an age thing. Katzie was young and immature; Sally is a seasoned pro.

                      1. re: trvlcrzy

                        I thought the Beef Wellington thing was put to rest already. Do you not beliece Hubert Keller? Just a tiny bit of research indicates 'filet de bœuf en croûte' predates Beef Wellington. You can devate whether it is 'classic' or not, but it is French.

                        I don't think Morgan Wilson will be returning for 'Top Chef: Just Desserts All-Stars" Season 8.

                        1. re: John E.

                          Though he probably should have called it "filet de boeuf en croute," rather than Beef Wellington, which sounds decidedly British. That said, I think the bigger problem, which I'm surprised didn't get more criticism, was the premade puff pastry. Then again, purchased puff pastry is much better than the Orlando's use of the Nilla Wafer which I keep perseverating about.

                        2. re: trvlcrzy

                          I don't remember judges ever eliminating someone for not following a challenge, if the food was good. That's one of my criticisms of the judging for TC. People who follow the rules, that are tough, are eliminated. That said, Hubert Keller said it's french and that's good enough for me. We can continually discuss the origins of any food--if someone has Italian and makes pasta, does that count? Beef Wellington has an english name; origins are debated. But, I'll still go with Keller's view of boeuf en croute.

                          1. re: trvlcrzy

                            It may not have been Top Chef Dessert Showpiece, however making a showpiece was a requirement of the challenge. Sally did not make a showpiece.

                            1. re: trvlcrzy

                              Sadly, this is, in part, Top Chef Just Desserts Showpiece, since showpieces have been an integral part of both seasons, even though they're bizarre non-edible historical vestiges from the days of Escoffier and Careme. OK, yes, they could be theoretically eaten, but they're not.

                              In the end, Sally lost because Chris beat her in bon bon and plated dessert (JI mentioned that Chris' dessert was the only one that all the judges at in its entirety) and did his own showpiece, even if one brioche fell off (and, in my view, that was really a "forest for the trees" criticism, given how awesome the piece was in its enitrety). I'm not sure he was trounced in the entremet (perhaps edged by Sally), and Sally won the bread. So, I think he clearly won from what I saw and the comments presented (again, all we have to go by). I had thoguht Matthew was a good third for the finale, but he seemed not to "bring it", really.

                              1. re: cabking

                                Does anyone know if the showpieces are ever actually eaten? Or thrown out? What happends after the show? I always wondered that...

                                1. re: AmblerGirl

                                  I don't know, but it is absolutely sickening to watch hundreds and hundreds of dollars of Valhrona chocolate being poured into those molds. Kinda like cooking with Opus One.

                            2. Great season! It's too bad that probably so many people that turned into season 1 got turned off by it and didn't watch season 2.

                              1. I also have a problem with this emphasis on show pieces. If that's going to be the case, then why bother with the rest of the show? Give me Katzie's creativity and inexperience over someone who can make a beautiful showpiece and ignore many of the challenges (Orlando) and day of the week. The show piece stuff is a relic. It's like regular Top Chef including an hibachi cooking routine in the finals. "I'm sorry you weren't able to make a sweet onion volcano. Please pack your knives and go."

                                Since when was speculoos (or as he called it speck-you-lose) such an unknown food stuff. I'm by no means a food expert but, man, have they never seen the Waffles and Dinges truck in New York?

                                I like the show well enough, but the showpiece stuff has too limited a focus to be applied to this show.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: ladybugthepug

                                  The focus on showpieces doesn't bother me; I find it kind of interesting. I do think that I would not find it nearly as interesting though, if I hadn't seen the move Kings of Pastry. Before seeing that, I had no idea what a showpiece was. From that movie, I perceive that being able to do a showpiece is an essential part of being a professional, "classically" trained pastry chef; sort of like being a chef and knowing all the mother sauces. I think that going into TC:JD with that perspective has affected my reaction. That's just my perception though; no idea what the reality of the situation is.

                                  I know there are CH pastry chefs who watch the show and comment: can any of you weigh in on the relevance, if any, showpieces have to being a pastry chef? Is it a snooty, niche thing, a relic of a bygone era, or actually an important part of professional training?

                                  And ladybugthepug, your post made me laugh! Wafles and Dinges was my first introduction! Slathered on a hot waffle with a scoop of ice cream on top.... DEE-licious. I was hooked!

                                  1. re: charmedgirl

                                    Here's a question--who has seen a showpiece in real life? I've seen ice sculptures, gravity defying cakes, entremets, but don't remember ever seeing a showpiece, even at restaurant functions or grand openings/premiers. I do think they're beautiful but either I've missed them (in which case, why bother) or they're very uncommon.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      They're probably not very common because of the waste of ingredients. At the end of the day, ice sculpture is just water, so it doesn't matter much. But as ladybug said, imagine all that chocolate down the drain (if they do throw it out).

                                      There is a chocolate shop in my county that does a huge business at Easter with their homemade chocolate bunnies and such. Every year at Easter time they have a massive chocolate show piece on display. Underneath it is a note saying when Easter is over the show piece will be melted and used for confections.

                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                        It's an incredible waste. I can't imagine the cost of it, especially since it looked like they were using Valrhona chocolate (and why bother if no one is going to eat it?). I'm glad the place near you reused it.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          Viewers such as Chowhounds here see expensive ingredients ostensibly wasted and it bugs us. I don't believe all that chocolate went to waste. I know there were enough producers, assistant producers, floor managers, lighting techs, gophers, key grips, etc. that took that chocolate home.

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            That's interesting. Do you know for a fact they took it home, or are you assuming?

                                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                              Of course I don't know for a fact, but I do have experience with television and video production. Re-read my second sentence.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                O.K. so you are assuming. Just wanted to understand you clearer. Thanks,

                                                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                  Assuming with experience. Did you NOT understand my second sentence?. Why is it so important to you?

                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    My sister worked as a producer on TC - the (the crew) were explicitly directed not to eat the contestants food.. not sure why, think it may have had to do with preventing biases or socializing between cast and crew and the like. That's not to say they don't get the occasional sneaky bite. .

                                                    That being said, more food is wasted in a dinner service in a Manhattan evening than will every be wasted by TC - those nice perfectly cut fish filets, perfectly brunoised carrots, etc mean a LOT of stuff is chopped off and thrown away during prep. That culture just gets carried forward by the contestants.

                                                    1. re: grant.cook

                                                      John E., sorry didn't respond sooner... major power outage here. As you can see grant.cook has a different take on the food/crew on Top Chef.

                                                      And yes, I did understand your sentence. Thanks for asking.