'Top Chef Just Desserts' recap: Chocoholics Anonymous
In the Top Chef (Just Desserts) kitchen, Gail introduces the five remaining pastry cheftestants to Shinmin Li, cake decorator extraordinaire and part-time glossy hair model and most likely assassin. Girl looks like a Bond villain. Zac assures us that she breathes fire. She orders the contestants to make her an edible bouquet or she will detonate the bomb she has strapped to their family dog. Gail yells, "Go!" and dangles a bucket of cash over their heads and all the chefs hop to.
Zac is making chocolate flowers, Baked Eric is going buttercream, Danielle is stupidly opting to make flowers from fresh fruit because that plan worked so well in the edible fashion competition. Sweet little baby Jesus, Danielle, have you been huffing too many whip-its in the walk in? We JUST went over this. Make the freakin' flowers out of sugar or YOU WILL PERISH. You're representing all the XX chromosomes, lady, so THINK. Yigit is going balls to the wall because his brief visit to the bottom three was not okay and he is going to be talking to his therapist about it for years. He is not only making flowers, but he is making THE VASE out of pulled sugar. Yeah, Danielle's orange peel roses are really going to stand up next to THAT. Morgan is making a chocolate bouquet that shows some promise, but Baked Eric is making a cupcake with a lot of buttercream flowers on top, which looks kind of homely in comparison. While Eric bumbles along, Morgan takes matters into his own hands and elbows Yigit's vase out of the way shattering it. He quickly owns up to it, but the vase is in teeny tiny edible pieces and Yigit is not happy. He tries to use his back-up sugar vase, but it breaks, too. Yigit is now a very grumpy strudel puller. He settles for an actual glass vase and sends a carrier pigeon with a 911 note to his therapist. Time's up!
Shinmin Li comes in to assess judgment and punishment as necessary. Before she arrives, Yigit doles out his two cents: Danielle's dish is not Shinmin's style and she will be forced to commit seppuku while Eric's oversized cupcake is in disarray and he will be ordered to walk barefoot over the broken shards of Yigit's vase; Morgan's flowers are * shudder* brown; and Zac (yes, he even picks on Zac) is just not cutting it. Shinmin Li snaps her riding crop and the contestants snap to attention. Morgan shows off his sugar work AND his chocolate work. Danielle's marshmallow-sugar-cookie-candied-orange-peel piece is an embarrassment to womankind and she will have to pay. Yigit manages to tell the entire saga of The Vase and pat himself on the back for his fortitude and perseverance before showcasing his tropical rose bouquet. Zac proudly displays his disco flowers and Eric shows his mound o' flowers cupcake.
Then Shinmin doles out the punishment. Gail asks for her three least favorite, which out of a group of five is kind of cold. Shinmin does not approve of Zac's messy chocolate work. Eric's pile of icing is unappealing. Eric responds by calling her "rude". (Not to her face or anything and, it really sounded like the word "rude" was edited into his sentence, so he probably didn't say it all.) Shinmin also didn't like Danielle's piece at all because the back wasn't finished and she is an embarrassment to humanity. So who are her favorites? Um...who else is in the room? That's right Yigit and Morgan. Shinmin says Morgan's is by far the most professional, which kind of kills any surprise, but she then pretends that Yigit's is nice, too. Obviously Morgan and his clumsy elbows of evil win the day. Yigit is not happy. But Morgan is because he just won and got $5,000. He tries not to "Yeehaw!" but he's from Texas and can't help it.
Moving on to the Elimination Challenge. Gail explains that the client will be none other than paid sponsor Dana Cowin of Food and Wine Magazine. Someone (not Shinmin) gasps in pleasure. Gail explains that Dana has a very specific theme in mind for the party: Celebri-TEA. Is Dana a moron? It sounds like she's a moron. They will be creating a dessert based on a contemporary celebrity duo. They will each create 100 portions of tea party desserts inspired by a celebrity duo. So ...Ashton and Demi-tasse pots du crème? I HATE this challenge with a fiery passion that is eating my soul. Just sayin'. The chefs look about as thrilled as me. I mean, it's like the producers just drew random words out of a Dr. Seuss hat they stole from their freshman year boyfriend to craft this challenge: Celebrity + Couple+ Tea + Party+ Dana Cowin! Awesome. I mean if this show isn't worth YOUR efforts, producers, it's certainly not worth mine.
After what I can only imagine are several hours wherein the producers are trying to explain the (not) AWESOMENESS of this challenge to the contestants, the chefs arrive at the old Albertson's. Danielle explains that she is using celebrity duo Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter and is thinking red because Conan's hair is red and what the f*** else are you supposed to do with this stupid ass challenge? Zac, surprisingly, is a fan of musical theater and has opted to make tea party desserts inspired by Julie "Sound of Music" Andrews and her husband Blake Edwards of the Pink Panther movies fame. Morgan, having no clue about modern celebrity, has chosen Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush as his celebrity duo (thanks to a magazine he saw at the newsstand). For some reason their on-again off-again romance has conjured up images of a sacher torte and the raspberry/apricot debate that lies between its chocolate-y layers. What the f***? Yigit, meanwhile, has chosen Guy Ritchie and Madonna because he likes increasingly decrepit pop stars and fake British accents. He wants to showcase the conflict in their relationship by different flavors in the dessert. This is the worst challenge EVER. Baked Eric at least manages to choose a couple that is nominally together and chocolate relevant: Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham. He is making Oprah in a brownie with chocolate ganache and raspberry and please for the love of god let there be graham crackers involved. It would be the only sane moment in a wackadoodle challenge.
Back at Top Chef (Just Desserts) kitchen, things get even wackier: THERE IS NO CHOCOLATE, PEOPLE. NO CHOCOLATE! The chefs are FREAKING OUT. Judge Johnny and his hair come in to explain why they are making this challenge so incredibly stupid. His answer explains nothing: NO CHOCOLATE, DEAL WITH IT. Okay, he adds something about it being the end of the competition and they need to know who can make it as a pastry chef without chocolate. As if! I mean, the entire point of dessert is to PUT CHOCOLATE IN MY MOUTH. Whatever. Everyone panics. Except Zac who after his frightful showing of ugly chocolate disco flowers during the quickfire challenge and the resulting punishment at the hand (and stiletto boot of Shinmin, villain) opted to never ever look at chocolate again. So he's good. Everyone else? Pure 100% unadulterated Ecuadorian PANIC. Baked Eric is trying to figure out how to represent Oprah and Stedman without chocolate. He opts for shortbread. Morganza delves deep into Kardashian to realize that Reggie Bush plays for the New Orleans Saints and can have white associated with him. Danielle is sitting pretty with her strawberry jalapeno Conan O'Brien inspired dessert. Yigit is struggling and knows that he needs to step it up, but the day is over and they have to leave the kitchen.
The next day, the chefs head to the venue and start preparing for service. Eric confesses that he hates his dessert and hopes that he can make it. Danielle is pressed for time despite not falling into the chocolate trap. Out in the dining room, Dana Cowin arrives as do the rest of the judges. Eric is in pure panic mode, which is not his usual zen-monk-doobie-smoking attitude. He's not happy. But he's up. He heads to the floor to meet the panel of judges: Johnny Iuzzine, Dana Cowin, Daily Candy Dannielle (I think they changed her title to "lifestyle critic" to make her sound vaguely relevant to the show. Didn't work.), Shinmin Lee, and, of course, Gail. Man, they get rid of all the ladies in the kitchen and suddenly have a surplus at judges' table. Estrogen in the house!
Eric presents his Stedman (rosemary shortbread with apricot compote) and his Oprah (pecan shortbread with caramel). The assessment? Too large, too messy, too boring, but delicious. Zac is next. Gail seems so desperate for a gay best friend that every time she gets in Zac's orbit she gets all wide-eyed and looks ready to z-snap and call things sassy. Anyway, Zac's Julie Andrews is a Cap'n Von Trapp Crunch with a Spoonful of Sugar on Top paired with a Pink Panther pavlova. They can be eaten separately or together in perfect harmony. Obviously everyone loves it. Danielle hits a hiccup in the kitchen and doesn't get all her plates made. She presents her strawberry jalapeno Conan O'Brien with an oatmeal bar with orange blossom water sidekick for Andy Richter. In case you were interested, the spicy flavors cleared Gail's sinuses. Other than that, people weren't sure how they felt about her flavors.
Morgan is next. He has an almond sponge with apricot coulis and citrus buttercream for Reggie Bush and it is paired with a citrus macaroon to represent Kim Kardashian. As for the evaluation, Dana Cowin's macaroon was not tea-party sized and everyone can taste Kim Kardashian's bitterness. Yigit also runs out of time in the kitchen, doesn't get all his desserts plated, and looks flustered when he gets to the judges. Madonna is a citrus scented yogurt cake (as if she eats refined sugar. Or carbs. Or yogurt) and Guy Ritchie is represented by a brown butter sable with a dulce de leche something or other. Sadly, Madonna's cake is bland, but Shinmin is quick to point out that Guy Ritchie's dessert wouldn't stand up to the rigors of a tea party. Yigit looks like an injured racehorse when he returns to the kitchen. Oh come on Yigit, you may have to suffer the indignities of justifying your existence in the Bottom Three, but you won't be whisked away. (See what I did there?) Morgan takes a moment to gloat about the fall of Yigit.
After a blessedly abbreviated discussion of Danielle's showering and bathroom habits, we return to the contestants stewing in the stew room and (of course) a lingering shot of a box of Godiva chocolates because they are contractually obligated to. Gail comes in and beckons Morgan, Zac, and Danielle. They are the tops! Danielle has no idea how she got here. Shinmin tells Morgan that she was prepared to debase herself to lick his almond sponge cake off the plate. Morgan looks pleased, but he looks more pleased when Johnny congratulates him on his nuts. Er...roasted nuts. Gail gets to talk to her BFF Zac about his Julie Andrews-inspired dessert. Daily Candy Dannielle thought his desserts were like the people at a tea that everyone wants to sit near ...and then eat the entire plate surreptitiously and then ralph in the bathroom and cry. Shinmin thought they were the quintessential tea party desserts. Danielle explains her joy at being noticed by the judges and the luck that there were five competitors and she didn't suck as badly as Baked Eric or Yigit. Shinmin gets to announce the winner who is, of course, Zac. He thanks Julie Andrews in his acceptance speech. He has to send Yigit and Baked Eric to their doom.
The men trudge into the chamber of judgment and stand in front of the firing line and accept their criticisms. Gail begins the proceedings by pointing out that their attitudes needed some adjustment because this was the Best Challenge EVER and they both seemed like little sugar spun Eeyore's with cotton candy clouds of sadness hanging over their heads. Can't they cheer up at the awesomeness of this celebri-TEA party challenge? Eric glumly shakes his head no. He just couldn't push through the hurdle of trying to represent Oprah without any chocolate. He just couldn't do it. Dannielle gives him a stern talking to about failed creativity and Shinmin couldn't stomach the shortbreads of different consistencies. Then Gail and Johnny start harping on him and poor Baked Eric is almost in tears over Oprah and tea parties and shortbread and it is SO STUPID because what the f*** do Oprah and Stedman (STEDMAN?!? WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT STEDMAN?!) have to do with pastry skills? NOTHING.
Gail asks Yigit to explain what the hell happened. Yigit woefully explains that he really needed chocolate and couldn't work through the Dramatic Twist. Dannielle helpfully supplies the factoid that Madonna works out three hours a day and his dessert was jiggly, thus: FAIL. You must FAITHFULLY represent the celebrity in your dessert or you will be eliminated. Look at the winners of the challenge. Andy Richter is an oatmeal bar. CLEARLY. Kim Kardashian is OBVIOUSLY a citrus macaroon. Jesus, Yigit it's like you're not even trying. Shinmin offers relevant advice about the cake being too moist to support the custard and then Johnny veers the critique back to crazycakes with severe anger over the fact that the desserts went out at all. They angrily send the two downtrodden and bloodied contestants back to the stew room. The judges are impressed with how Yigit embraced his challenge and really thought about the relationship between Guy Ritchie and Madonna except for, you know, THE FACT THAT IT'S BEEN OVER FOR FIVE YEARS. Eric failed to realize that it is physically impossible for BOTH Oprah and Stedman to be shortbread. I mean, this isn't GERMANY, people, we have rules which clearly state that two shortbreads cannot marry. It's weird how the fact that neither Yigit nor Danielle were able to get their desserts on the plate. Oh well! The judges have their opinion. It's Eric's time to go. He admits that he cracked under pressure and had to go home. F***in' shortbread man. Legalize it!
Photo credit: Bravo