And in the end, Hammer chose well. Amanda was a perfect choice – regardless of skills (and she has them) – she is rigidly organized. She and Rebecca worked well with him and enabled him to have his hand in everything, but with ample time to accomplish all he worked on. Matt needed some editing from Carlos and Megan, but perhaps no matter what they said wouldn’t have mattered. Matt wanted to stretch himself in the Finale, and for right or wrong he did. Mostly wrong. He was correct in saying that he needed to wow them, but he didn’t need to wow them with so many huge stretches.
The showpiece was not his strong point, so he needed to do what he was comfortable with and get by there, while blowing away the other parts to make up for it. It’s like fantasy baseball – if you have no closers, don’t just add bad ones who will hurt you elsewhere, just load up on pitchers who can get strikeouts. Beat them elsewhere. Matt also went too big on his plated dish and the whole thing got lost. I felt badly for him because I’d rather see someone fail from trying rather than going too safe. Plus, as the only one who was not fully-trained in some of the competition aspects of pastry chefdom, Matt was an underdog.
But Hammer earned the win, and to me, was a lot more likable than Yigit was in S1. I am happy for Hammer, who can now pay for his child’s life-saving surgery. I hope we see him again in future shows.
Just Desserts took a few steps forward this year, but they need to figure out a way to break out from being Top Chef Junior Varsity. To be honest, I don’t have any answers for them. Their best bet is to do bang up casting and present some innovative challenges. I fear that second part will run into issues over time due to the limited amount of cooking they can do. Elvis and Gail have grown into their roles this year, especially Elvis who is looser and much more fun to watch. Théoden does not appear comfortable, and is underused anyway. Dann is ok, but her role is a part-time one anyway.
I hope Season 3 takes leaps forward the way that Masters did, but I guess only time will tell. Until then, we get Top Chef: Texas next week as Top Chef turns the page after their first All-Stars and will embark on its second act. I’ll be there for the kick off.
Elimination Challenge -
The chef’s inspiration for the plated dish:
Macho made hers for her mom and sister – using their favorite ingredients (coffee and Cashews). Matt made his look like a playground for his kids. Hammer made a dish that he made when he was newly-dating his now wife when she realized how much the kitchen meant to him.
Macho wanted femininity in her showpiece, so she had a man make it, of course. Matt used something called “speculoos” in his bon bon, which is like a peanut butter. Macho mismeasured her entremet and had to re-do it. That loss of time helped contribute to her reliance on Orlando, and her later failure to complete her plated dish properly.
Other tasters – Jordan Kahn of Red Medicine, Hasty Torres or Madame Chocolat, Valerie Gordon of the conveniently named Valerie Confections, Jacquy Pfeiffer of Kings of Pastry, Ludo Lefebvre of Ludobites, the three MOFs, Dann, Théoden, Gail, Elvis, the 2009 World Champion Yankees, the cast of Glee, 14 random contest winners, my fourth grade teacher (Mrs. Kudler!), and all the children of the world joining hands and sing in the spirit of peace and harmony.
Matt – His showpiece is part chocolate/part sugar, and is not as tall as the other two. It has a curved top in sugar, and is very colorful, but it looks weak. His dishes:
Entremet – Hazelnut Dacquois, Passion Fruit Gelee, Milk Jam and Whipped Jivara – Gail liked the interesting texture.
Bread – Focaccia with Olive Oil, Fresh Thyme and Malden Salt – Dann liked the family-style of it. She called it simple and rustic, and especially liked the crunch of the salt and pepper.
Bon Bon – Key Lime Ganache and Speculoos – Gail is happy to learn a new word, and she and Dann love the flavors.
Plated – Dark Chocolate Cake, Raspberry Mousse, Peach Streusel and Milk Ice Cream The plate looks deconstructed, and Matt describes it like a cookie, even if it doesn’t look or taste like it.