'Top Chef Just Desserts' recap: Extra! Extra!
Gail Simmons, ever grateful to be out of Padma's beauteous shadow, waltzes into the kitchen on the arm of Hugh Acheson, Top Chef Masters alum, restaurant owner, and unibrow enthusiast. Hugh bids hello to his fellow chefs and then introduces the Quickfire Challenge. But extra! extra! this isn't just any old Quickfire Challenge, it is a Product Placed Quickfire Challenge where Extra Gum pays Bravo a whole bunch of money to somehow incorporate their unique dessert flavored chewing gum, which, if chewing gum memory serves me correctly, gum is meant to be given the old swish-and-spit treatment and not actually eaten. This does not stop Extra Gum from thinking this would be just the greatest bit of advertising their Willy Wonka-inspired gum needs (what with Violet Beauregard being otherwise occupied [ Note: Until next week, apparently! -- RS.]) and all Bravo has to do is figure out how to incorporate GUM into a cooking challenge for chefs. The cheftestants all stare blankly at Hugh as they make the whole IT'S GUM argument in their heads. Hugh explains that they don't actually have to make gum, but instead a flavor-packed dessert that can be transformed through Miracles and Magic and Chemicals at the Extra Gum Laboratories into chewing gum. Then Hugh tells them to suck it up because they get $25,000 (to be paid entirely in Chiclets) if they win PLUS their winning flavor combination will be immortalized in a pack of gum. The only catch is that the dessert must be tiny enough to fit on a teeny tiny plate. The chefs resume their blank stares, because WHAT? TINY DESSERTS? Who thought of this? SATAN? Well, everyone stares blankly except Carlos who has apparently been very busy getting busy because he has SIX CHILDREN and really really needs that $25,000 to pay for one of his SIX KIDS to go to college. Although realistically and accounting for inflation, by the time his kids are in college $25 K will probably only cover a single semester's books and half a meal card. Anyway, he's gonna win it! The chefs all run to the Extra Gum-strewn Top Chef kitchen and start cooking. One girl (Amanda?) tells us that she is making pina colada gum, because that is so wacky and original that undoubtedly no one has ever thought of it before. I mean, PINA COLADA who would dare? But if you're feeling really wacky, consider Craig. He is making amaretto-strawberry-mascarpone pancakes because WHO DOESN'T LIKE THAT? He asks the question rhetorically, but I answer anyway: I don't. I don't like amaretto-strawberry-mascarpone-pancake chewing gum. Someone else is making Oatmeal Raisin cookie and another is crafting dulce de leche brownies. Next to some strategically placed packs of Extra Gum, Melissa whines and everyone cringes, but it's not her fault she burnt her browned butter three times! Oh wait, yeah, it is. Anyway, time is up.
Gail and Hugh make the rounds of the GE Monogram kitchen. Before they begin to taste their desserts, they spit out their Extra Gum. Fear not, Extra Gum marketers, they don't throw it out, but rather tuck it carefully behind their ear where it will be cradled until after the dessert tasting. Rebecca pretends she has a crush on Hugh and he waggles his eyebrow at her. This pandering does not sway his judgment though and he does not especially like her dessert. She has made raspberry panna cotta, with gingerbread crust, but not enough gingerbread is coming through. Gail wishes she could taste the gingerbread and Hugh's eyebrow dips sorrowfully. Next up are Craig's pancakes which he playfully dubs "breakfast for dessert" as if that some how improves upon his IHOP inspired Extra Gum flavor. Oh ****, maybe he'll win with the double whammy of double product placement. He's a genius! In marketing, not cooking. Lemon mascarpone pancakes with amaretto macerated strawberries. These pancakes make Gail wish her Barbies were here, because they would have had so much fun being out of the Barbie Dreamhouse, driving down the open road in their Bitchin' Barbie Camaro, and being on the Top Chef set with their BFF Gail. She could have fed them tiny little bites of tiny lemon mascarpone pancakes through their tiny smiles. It's nice to know that Gail is as crazy as I think she is. It's in her eyes; so don't try to deny it. Next up is Sally and a passionfruit something or other that won't win. Passionfruit never wins. Sorry, Sally, you'll have to pay off those culinary school loans the old fashioned way: Blood and plasma sales and catering. Matthew made an oatmeal raisin cookie parfait that Hugh dismisses as "sweet." Matthew is dumbfounded by this assertion. It's a cookie! Of course it's sweet! Next is Little Miss Creativity with her pina colada mousse. Carlos made an adorable passionfruit gelee with tapioca and meringue. It's just the right size for Gail's Barbies to put two straws in and share with their bestest human friend. If only the Barbies were here! Can we send an intern to fetch them from Gail's shame closet? Melissa made a white coffee cream with passionfruit and bananas, a flavor combination that makes me think she has whatever the taste version of color blindness is called. Coffee and passionfruit? I think not. Katzie made a chocolate cream cookie with orange and cream cheesecake and candied violets. The cookie is engraved TC and is just the right size for a Barbie on a diet (and what Barbie isn't on a diet?). Hugh things there are a lot of flavors going on. Last but not least, Nelson made a black cherry dessert drink thing with rum. Today's losers? Rebecca's lacking pannacotta (that sounds like it could be a captcha), Melissa and her coffee-banana-passionfruit bowl of yuck, and Mr. Oatmeal Cookie. Winners? Craig and his pancakes, Carlos' tapioca, and Nelson's black cherry. The real winner winner? CRAIG. He's as shocked as we are. As Carlos quickly sends a message to his eldest child to consider a vocational degree, Craig crows that he's going shopping with his $25,000! I keep expecting him to bray in excitement, but he holds it together. He looks like a brayer, though.