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Top Chef: Just Desserts 2 – Ep 1 – Have Fun Storming the Castle


Well, there was about a month reprieve from Bravo’s non-stop Top Chef programming. But here we are with Season 2 of the third series of the franchise, and with Masters’ successful reboot for Season 3; Just Desserts needs to step up its game to avoid falling deeply behind its two cousins. Season 1 showed great potential as it mimicked the Top Chef format but only focused on the last course. Baking is very different than cooking meals – desserts require specific and strict adherence to recipes while a great deal of improvisation could go into cooking other dishes. Having a full Top Chef focusing on desserts is a great concept.

However, Season 1 managed to cast a bunch of chefs who were extremely unlikable. Season two has a very low bar to clear to improve upon the debut installment. And if this week is any indication, they are going to manage to fail.

I don’t know what it was, but I found myself incredibly disinterested in this episode. Perhaps it is the hurricane brewing around me as I watch (I was on vacation when the ep aired – in a location which is underwater right now, by the way), but I found the dishes pretty unappealing and the people either obnoxious or bland. I am hopeful that it was simply opening episode jitters, as indicated by Chef Chris Hammer’s shaky hands in the first Quickfire.

And, for the record – he is going to be Hammer, not Chris. And it is taking all of my will power to avoid calling him MC Hammer.

Most of the chefs really didn’t show all that much in the way of likable or interesting personalities. Unfortunately the only ones who stood out were the annoying ones. First and foremost – Craig, Orlando and Melissa. Craig is a man who possesses a voice almost as annoying as that of Gilbert Gottfried. And even better, he also possesses seemingly minimal skills as a chef. I wonder whose nephew he is to have managed to get cast on the show. He looks like Napoleon Dynamite, and probably cooks like him too. If only he could dance like him. He managed to almost single-handedly destroy his team during the Elimination challenge. And he still avoided elimination thanks to his quick-thinking teammates.

Orlando is a self-proclaimed villain this season. If there is one thing more insufferable in reality programming it is anyone who sets out to be a villain. The best villains, just as in the movies, are the ones who think they are the hero. It is a common failing among the Bravo reality shows – the contestants are often far too conscious of the cameras and are essentially being bitchy for bitchy’s sake. Think about it – how many people on Survivor ever really tried to be a villain and succeeded? I can think of two – Fairplay and Russell. All of the others just came off as annoying. The best villains were of the Hatch variety – just trying to win.

Melissa made something called a micro cake in her Quickfire, which I like to call crumbs. But later on she just started to pile on the annoying quirks – she repeats herself when she speaks like a bad Little League coach. She complained about the Quickfire because there are no soda jerks in Haiti. I hope she won’t use that excuse each week because they barely have paved roads in Haiti. During her many clashes with Lina in the Elimination, she did so much to annoy me it made me forget that she was actually right in the argument! The worst offender was when she actually mocked Lina by, of course, repeating what she said in a bitchy tone. As if she was nine and lost a playground argument. In the Extra scene, we hear her talk about her willingness to throw others under the bus. So absolutely we knew she would.

So Lina played the part of the speed bump as the bus ran her over. There is no loss here, even if she is the possessor of the best cupcakes in Austin. This is a woman whose bright idea was to rewrite the Grimm Brothers. In the Elimination Challenge, teams had to use an original Grimm fairy tale as inspiration. Lina took command of the team using Hansel and Gretel as their source material and decided to make the showpiece out of cake. Hansel and Gretel. A story based upon a giant gingerbread house covered in candy. It was friggin built in!! Rightfully, Johnny (Elvis due to his formerly pompadoured head) called foul on this, and it led to Lina’s claiming the mantle of first eliminated.

To be honest, it is hard to even give much praise to the winners of the challenge because it was just not very good. The Red Riding Hood showpiece was well done, but awfully forgettable. To me, the desserts made by the Goldilocks and the Three Bears team were the most deserving of the win. One took Baby Bear’s porridge and made it into a rice pudding dish, and the other one made a play on the too hot, too cold and just right part. Very clever. But not clever enough.

Meanwhile, when presented with a soda jerk challenge, where you needed to modernize a traditional soda jerk desert, the chefs played it safe. Elvis asked for no root beer floats, so instead they almost all made banana splits. The breakfast shake was a good idea, with a blended banana, ice cream, etc, with Cap’n Crunch. It would have been even better to me if it wasn’t for the fact that I had a Cap’n Crunch shake a few months ago in Blais’ restaurant in Atlanta. But even so, that was probably a deserving winning dish, but instead a fairly forgettable dish that involved picked cherries got the win. The two winners – Amanda and Nelson – got immunity and to choose which teams to join for the Elimination Challenge. Interestingly, both of those teams wound up on top. Was it Amanda and Nelson, or just the extra two hands? We will see soon enough.

Lastly, before the dishes and the Quickfire hits, can we say something here about the Fairy Tale costume party? Poor Elvis, Theoden (Hubert Keller – but at this point do I need to keep pointing that out?), Dannielle (Dann – too many judges with weird spellings of Danielle), and Gail were decked out like it was a bad Renaissance Faire. Or Princess Bride extras. Have fun storming the castle!!


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