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Top Chef: Just Desserts – Ep 7 – Death By Chocolate…and Donuts

What’s with the shows I watch this week doing random, nonsensical double eliminations? First, the Amazing Race breaks with form and eliminates a team for not finishing in last. Now, Top Chef takes out a chef near the end of the competition during a Quickfire. Not that there isn’t precedent for a Quickfire elimination, but to have to take place near the end is unfair. This is not how the show is built. Sure, it is dramatic, and unexpected, but that doesn’t make it good.

If I were Megan, I would not be too pleased that I went home on a Quickfire. These sudden challenges, with very limited time, are loads of fun and a great test for the chefs when immunity and other prizes are on the line. Not their show life. Unexpected twists are fun, and they add to the show’s difficulty and appeal, but they should not subtract from the core formula of the show. The person with the least votes should leave the tribe, or stop singing. The last team to the mat stops racing. The designer with the worst clothes stops designing. The chef, who after cooking for several hours, with the worst dish stops cooking.

That’s fair, and that’s what works. It’s just not very fair and I’m disappointed for Megan. Would I have been disappointed if it were Orlando? Well, maybe not as much, but I still think it would have been a BS twist.

Just Desserts added four chefs to the mix this season, up from the 10 last season. They did so without adding episodes, so double eliminations were needed. The first one was during the Real Housewife challenge, and the second this week. As much as I don’t really love the concept of the double elimination, I can live with it early in the season. Plus, the first one had the chefs leaving based on the longer Elimination Challenge. I say, stick with 10 chefs, add episodes, or figure out a better way of axing your chefs.

The second elimination came off of the head-to-head, three-on-three chocolate battle. Randomly, buddies Hammer and Matt got teamed with Katzie, while Mean Girl Macho and Mean Boy Orlando added Carlos. Hammer and Orlando were tasked with making the chocolate showpiece – isolated from view of the other team. Each chef had to make their own dish as well. Hammer decided to do it all himself, while Orlando wrote out his recipe for the other two to make for him. I thought Orlando was in trouble for that, but as it turned out it was his plan that was more effective.

As a result, Team Hammer wound up on the bottom. The judging twist was that old Top Chef standby- each team would cook for the judges and the opposing team. This gave chefs the option of – a) being honest, b) being respectful, or c) being super bitchy. Of course, almost all of them seemed to take choice c. Except Matt, who wanted to keep his mouth shut. Orlando was the biggest offender of choice c – to the surprise of no one.

Katzie took the brunt of the criticism from the other team, but based on the editing of previous episodes, it was hard to discern if it was legitimate critique or Katzie bashing. I hope it was the first, but I felt it was the second. Based on Judges Table, the criticism for Katzie seemed less severe than the boys, and yet she was the one who went home – seemingly for making the cake too big. I’ll miss the goofy giant – she had a great midseason run, but seemed to slow down the last couple of weeks. The youngest competitor held her own, but leaves just a few steps from the end.

And once again, Top Chef is in danger of continuing its sausage problem. Eight regular Top Chef seasons, three Masters and one previous Just Desserts has produced just one female champion. I am starting to wonder if the judges have a gender bias, or if the nature of high-class kitchens simply lends itself to male domination. I don’t want to think that the judges have this innate bias, I just think the industry in general is extra hard on women. Many people, me included, didn’t know how nutty these chefs were until these shows started to feature them. The really unexpected thing was the amount of unbridled testosterone which seems to permeate these kitchens. It has translated into the Top Chef results over time. It is up to Macho – someone I have a hard time rooting for – to join Steph as the only ones to break the glass ceiling.

Down to five chefs, there are two episodes left before the finale and the kickoff of Top Chef: Texas. I can really see any of the five winning at this point – unlike last year when Danielle and Zac just seemed outclassed by Yigit and Morgan. I am rooting for Matt – mainly because he is based in my region and I can taste his desserts if I wanted to.

Selfish, I know. But I do what I do.

Quickfire – Make the perfect doughnut to go with coffee. Donut Guru Mark Israel, from the Doughnut Plant in NYC is the guest judge with Gail. And Elvis comes out to bring the surprise elimination news to the chefs. Megan goes for a cake doughnut because yeast takes too much time. Carlos reminisces about growing up in his parents’ bake shop.

Katzie – Cocoa Beignet with Date Ganache – Elvis wonders why she served a plated dessert for a doughnut challenge. Israel liked the surprise in the middle.

Carlos – Orange and Lemon Zest Bombolinis with Passion Fruit Cream -Elvis says it has a lot of flavor, and Israel says his melted in his mouth.

Orlando – Spiced Banana Beignet – Orlando mentions that he used cardamon, and Israel complains that he cannot taste it.

Megan – Cake Doughnut with Honey Cardamon Glaze – The doughnut sticks to the plate. Really hard. Gail says that at least it has a cardamon flavor.

Hammer – Citrus Churro with Raspberry Jam – Israel likes the softness andits texture.

Macho – Espresso Glazed Doughnut with Caramelized Cashews – The pastry is elongated, in the form of sticks. Israel loves that he can stir his coffee with it.

Matt – Ginger Beignet with Caramel and Whipped Jivara Cream – Matt runs out of time and can’t fill his doughnut. He has to plate the filling on the side. The result is a very dry doughnut.

Top Two – Macho and Carlos. Her creativity and glaze were stellar. His texture was the best and the filling was not overpowering. Carlos gets the win and the 10 grand prize. He is quite pleased.

Bottom Three – Matt, Megan and Orlando. Megan is there because of her percentage of glaze to pastry. Matt because of the side cream. Orlando gets into a debate about whether or not cardamon should be a basis of his critique. Elvis shoots back that regardless, he made a bland spiced doughnut.

I was hoping for a booting of Orlando, but I was certain that when Elvis couldn’t remove his donut from the plate that Megan – the last remaining cute girl (sorry Katzie and Macho – just my tastes here) – was doomed. I must say though, I just noticed on her way out of the kitchen that Megan is 31 years old. Wow. She looks 21. That will be a quality which will serve her quite well upon reaching 41 and 51 and beyond.

Elimination Challenge – The Chocolate Showdown. Carlos immediately claims peanut butter and banana. Of course, because he always does. Katzie keeps suggesting ideas – a chocolate bookcase, chocolate balls, etc. – and Hammer keeps shooting her down.

Team Hammer – Hammer made a tall showpiece with lots of curved appendages, and some pretty gorgeous white chocolate flowers. It is very dark chocolate and showed immense skill.

Hammer – Chocolate Brioche with Chocolate Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream – Carlos thinks it was undercooked, and Orlando also piles on.

Matt – Chocolate Tart with Chiberst and Caramel Compressed Cherries and Chocolate Sorbet – Orlando thought there was too much caramel. Carlos loved the sorbet, and Macho felt it was too thick.

Katzie – Boca Negra with Mousse, Jasmine and Passion Fruit Curd and Whippted Cream Glace – Macho though the portion size was too large, and Carlos didn’t find it velvety enough. Orlando unleashed a dissertation on why it sucked. Seriously, it is just too long to repeat, although very comically edited on the show. It was also a microcosm of Orlando’s assholery and really not worthy of reinforcing.

Team Orlando – They had a theme to the showcase – showing how chocolate evolves. At the base, is a cocoa bean, and as it rises it takes forms such as as a candy bar. Eventually it turns into fancy branches as we see how chocolate can be used to shape trees and flowers. Orlando’s flowers are red, compared to Hammer’s white flowers. The better to pull you in, according to Elvis.

Orlando – Puff Pastry, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Mango Coulis and Roasted Cocoa Nib Sorbet – Hammer finds it too rich, and Katzie gives it some critique, although paling in comparison to the reaming she got from him. I won’t mention Matt’s comments because he was admittedly taking it easy on the othe team – thus forgetting that it was actually a competition and their comments could influence the outcome of the challenge.

Macho – Manjari Caramel Mousse, Spiced Caramel Cream with Passion Fruit Gelee Katzie found it too rich, and Hammer is unheard from.

Carlos – Caramelized Cremeux, Milk Chocolate Mousse, Peanut Butter Mousse, and Caramelized Banana Hammer found it to be sweet, and Katzie really liked it and would come back for more.

Based solely on the team feedback, it was obvious Team Orlando was going to win. And it was hard to envision any way that Katzie was not going to take the hit for it. She did, and after the best looking women went out earlier in the hour, the next best goes after her. Sorry, Macho, I have a thing for tall women. Plus, you like Marcel, that works against you.

The judges didn’t really make it clear though – with Hammer and Matt seemingly getting the worst notes. Hammer for the really unusual texture and rather strange dish. Dann even said it just wasn’t very delicious. Matt for being too simple and too sweet. Dann was surprised he tasted it and thought it was the right amount of sugar. Katzie really only got it for the size of her dish and presentation. Elvis even said she had a goog idea, just didn’t execute it well.Yet it was enough to send her home.

Quickfire Hits

  • Gail’s voiceover on the previouslies gets worse and worse each week. There was an insane amount of rap and Beastie Boy puns this week. Makes me think she oughtta check her head. Sorry, it’s spreading.
  • The preview from last week showed Matt calling someone an a-hole. Of course, it had nothing to do with the plot, just a goofy moment after Carlos shushed him.
  • Funny moment – Carlos looking for some cocoa beans, and Macho giving him a bunch of Mexican beans, “Ahh, the ones that got picked by my brothers and sisters.” HA! Somewhere there are nutty Minutemen on the Mexican border, and some Republican Members of Congress, looking up all of Carlos’ relatives.
  • I like Katzie’s dish concept too – the Boca Negra, meaning it makes your mouth black from chocolate.
  • Orlando likes his showpieces tall…like his men. Reminds me of a girl who takes her coffee black…
  • I must say, maybe it was the elimination of the best looking chefs, but Dann sure looked pretty hot at the judging. Good for Dann!
  • Bottom line for the Katzie elimination – I think this was a nitpick elimination. They all seemed to be good overall, but her small problems were just enough for the judges.
  • Extra – Nothing exciting, just Team Hammer hearing feedback from Team Orlando.

Next week – Chocolate pigs. Will Elvis get punched in the face? Matt gets hit on.

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