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Top Chef: Just Desserts – Series Premiere – Death By Chocolate


Hey – When did Top Chef become the reality show version of “Law & Order?” The third entry in the Top Chef franchise – that’s right, it has now officially become a franchise – kicked off on Wednesday night. I apologize for the lateness of the article – but Bravo decided to start this series on the same night as the Top Chef finale and the Survivor premiere. I took my notes after midnight and more than half of them are simply useless.

In all seriousness (as if I could manage that), this show was something my wife and I thought was a great idea while watching one of the many times on Top Chef that a cheftestant went down to defeat because they were unable to make a dessert. The most interesting aspect of this desserts-only version of Top Chef is how very different cooking sweet and savory truly are, and it will be interesting to see how the show deals with it. My wife – who is an outstanding cook – says she is not as strong of a baker (I don’t agree, but still, work with me here), because while cooking savory she is able to improvise. When you make desserts, you have to precisely follow the procedure or the results could be disastrous. Similar to space travel, cloning or travelling through time.

On a personal level – I just started understanding terms and ingredients on Top Chef, and now I get a whole new bunch to deal with. Not happy about that. I wonder if the show will require the pastry chefs to cook savory and flip the script from the original Top Chef. Those chefs were always pissed when a cake sent them home, what happens to the pastry chefs when asked to make a pot roast.

The 12 contestants are:
1 – Zac Young – 27 – From Maine, now in NYC. He is the Executive Pastry Chef for Flex Mussels. He used to work in the wig department of the Radio City Rockettes. And if that tidbit doesn’t outline his gay cred – you just need to hear him speak for about 30 seconds.
2 – Yigit Pura – 29 – from Turkey, now in San Francisco. He’s the Executive Pastry Chef for Taste Catering and Event Planning. He’s been working in kitchens since he was 20, and worked in both Le Cirque and The Four Seasons Hotel before becoming pastry sous chef for Daniel Boulud.
3 – Tim Nugent (if only it was Ted Nugent) 41 – from Vermont, now in Oakland, CA. He’s the Executive Pastry Chef at San Fran’s Sir Francis Drake Hotel. He’s been both a sweet and savory chef – which is interesting to me. He’s a local cooking celebrity in San Francisco.
4 – Tania Peterson – 39 – from Cambridge. MA and now is in Boston. She’s the Executive Pastry Chef of Max Ultimate Food. Her bio is quite short on the Bravo website (foreshadowing, much?). She used to be a food photographer before a move in her early 30s into making the food rather than taking its picture.
5 – Seth Caro – 34 – From Chappaqua (home of the Clintons!) and has now moved a bit south to NYC. He is only listed as a “pastry chef” so he is either unemployed or self-employed. He’s cooked many places – makes you wonder if he’s hard to manage.
6 – Morgan Wilson – 37 – From Sonora, CA, now lives in Dallas. He’s the Executive Pastry Chef at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas. He’s been cooking around the world – California, Texas, Paris, Brazil.
7 – Malika Ameen – 35 – From Chicago, potentially still there (site doesn’t say). She’s a pastry chef/consultant for ByM Desserts. She’s a single mom, and believes in the power of food to bring people together.
8 – Heather Hurlbert – 40 – From South Korea, now lives in Atlanta. She’s the Executive Pastry Chef for the Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta. She was adopted at age 8, and eventually graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.
9 – Heather Chittum – 37 – From Brooklyn, now is here in Our Nation’s Capital. She is the Pastry Chef for Hook/Tackle Box (which I will now have to go to). She is a former Hill staffer (Holla!!) who worked for the late NYS Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (a seat later claimed by Hillary Clinton, and now Kirsten Gillibrand). She left to work for Share our Strength, an organization designed to end childhood hunger.
10 – Erika Davis – 40 – From Tamms, IL, now lives in Jacksonville. She’s the Executive Pastry Chef for Ponte Vedra Inn and Club. She was named one of the top African-American chefs by “Black Enterprise” and was honored by “The Detroit News” for her cooking too. Her favorite quote is “a day is never good without chocolate.” My mom would have loved that. An aside, when I was 13, my mom – who had serious trouble with chocolate – asked me to hide a Cadbury bar that she did not want to eat. At 3 am, she shook me awake demanding to know where it was. That was the last time I have ever hidden chocolate for anyone other than for my son on Easter morning.
11 – Eric Wolitzky – 38 – From Rochester, NY, now lives in Manhattan. He is the Pastry Chef for Baked. He’s part of a family of bakers, and works in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He’s been featured in several magazines, and was nominated for pastry awards by Pastryscoop.com. He works in a bakery and claims to not make “foofy” desserts.
12 – Danielle Keene – 29 – From LA, now lives in South Pasadena. She is the Pastry Chef and Owner of Bittersweet, an online company. She hopes to done day open a retro soda fountain with ice cream and baked goods.


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