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Archive for September, 2010

School was in session tonight on Top Chef: Just desserts both literally and figuratively as one of the contestants really showed their class in baking skills.  Tonight the chefs had to make a wedding cake and put on a real live bake sale.  The guest judge was Sylvia Weinstock, undisputed queen of the glamour wedding cake.

Sylvia Weinstock on Top Chef: Just Desserts

During the wedding cake quickfire Heather H. displayed a bitchy side we had not seen up until now.  She made some disparaging remarks about Eric and Danielle’s cakes – she thought Eric’s was messy and didn’t like Danielle’s because it was green – not sure why you can’t have a green wedding cake but in Heather’s world it’s a big no-no (what would the Green girl do at her wedding?) Heather saved the toughest words for Erika’s cake  - basically saying it looked too domestic and  unsophisticated, which seemed silly since it looked fine to me.

Of course justice is swift on reality shows and Erika’s cake won.  In being in the bottom three Malika (crying) was reminded by Sylvia Weinstock that “it’s not death only cake.” She obviously hasn’t seen the movie Kings of Pastry. (more…)

Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant interview: Zac Young

Posted by Niko on September 27th, 2010

Zac Young - don't let the bow tie fool you, Zac's got skills

Throughout most of episode 1 of Top Chef: Just Desserts it was difficult to know what to make of contestant Zac Young.  He clearly had one of the strongest and funniest personalities of the new show but what about that giant bow tie and all those zippy one liners- he seemed to be having far too much fun to be a legit pastry chef, let alone a threat to win.  Then he made the top 3 for his Vanilla Bean Cupcake.

Another episode and 10 quotable quotes later, Zac has shown that he has skills in the kitchen (Ho Ho’s w/ Red Hot cream/ Hot Tamale and licorice sauce anyone?) and is also a fan favorite, (see the results of the live in-show poll).

This past Friday (after episode 2 aired) DessertBuzz caught up with telegenic pastry chef to what kind of filling he’s made of.

DessertBuzz: So Last night I had some of the desserts at Flex Mussels [where Zac is executive pastry chef] – the Lemon Meringue Pie in a Glass and four of your signature donuts. – salted caramel, pbj, fluffernutter and chocolate.

Zac Young: That’s sneaky!

DB: How did the lemon meringue dessert come about?

ZY: When I was young,  one memory from Cape Elizabeth, ME was of all the seaside fish shacks.  They always had pies out on the ledges cooling.   The light seafood meals really lent themselves to pies for dessert.   So I wanted to make a lemon meringue pie but since I can’t do anything “by the book” I decided to make it without a crust and in a glass.   I also hate making pie crusts – and tarts!  At Bouchon, I was making crusts for 14 hours a day – so I really developed an aversion to tarts with shells.   Instead, the graham cracker crumble takes the place of the crust.

Zac Young with one of his desserts

DB: Which of your signature dishes at Flex Mussels do New Yorkers seem to respond to? (more…)

Guest Judge for episode two Elizabeth Falkner

Some immediate observations from episode two:

1) Trying to prepare a plated dessert in the same kitchen as the Tasmanian Devil would be difficult.

2) Elizabeth Falkner has the patience of a saint and just might have the nicest disposition of anyone that has ever been on Top Chef.

3) There seems to be alot of crying for a show about pastries.

Zac Young - not dancing yet

Anywho- the guest judge this week is pastry chef Elizabeth Faulkner from Orson in San Francisco, CA (and formerly of Citizen Cake which is closed but the website says is reopening soon).  We also meet Hubert Keller for the first time and Danielle Kyrillos had the night off.

In the opening minutes we learn that Seth’s mom has some type of serious medical condition and he is very worried about her and has dedicated his appearance on the show to her.  [warning episode 2 spoilers coming up after the jump]

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Top Chef: Just Desserts head judge: Johnny Iuzzini

Posted by Niko on September 21st, 2010

Top chef: Just desserts judge

Quick, how many famous US born pastry chefs can you name (and The Cake Boss doesn’t count)?  If you could come up with more than three names give yourself a gold Twinkie.  Sadly, there are only a few with true name brand recognition and Johnny Iuzzini is one of them.  Iuzzini has directed and worked in some the best pastry kitchens in New York including: Daniel (4 stars from the New York Times), Payard Bistro, Cafe Boulud and finally Jean Georges (3 Michelin stars).  He is also a colorful character.

Johnny Iuzzini new Top Chef: Just desserts head honcho eating Michelle's Gluten-free trio

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Top Chef: Just Desserts Extended judges table video

Posted by Niko on September 19th, 2010

Check out this extended judges table video from episode 1 of Top Chef: Just desserts with Jacques Torres as the guest judge.

Go here for an interview with contestant Eric Wolitzky from New York’s Baked bakery.

Go here for the DessertBuzz Top Chef: Just Desserts preview page.

Go here for a closer look at Judge Danielle Kyrillos.

Another preview from Fork in the Road is here.

Official Bravo Bios for the judges:

Johnny Iuzzuni – Executive Pastry Chef Jean Georges

Hubert Keller – Owner/Chef Fleur De Lys

Gail Simmons – Food and Wine Magazine

Dannielle Kyrillos – Daily Candy

Here’s a link to all 12 contestants of Top Chef: Just Desserts

Top Chef: Just Desserts Interviews – Eric Wolitzky

Posted by Niko on September 16th, 2010

Eric Wolitzky from Red Hook's Baked

After watching episode one of Top Chef: Just Desserts and seeing the “scenes from next week” it looked like there might be a few loose cannons on the cast to provide plenty of drama over the coming weeks.  That didn’t seem to be the case with the seemingly level headed contestant Eric Wolitzky.

DessertBuzz caught up with Wolitzky who is currently a pastry chef at Baked in Red Hook Brooklyn in New York City.  Eric is originally from Rochester New York and received his culinary training at the French Culinary Institute.  Go here to read his official bio on the Bravo site.

DessertBuzz: This city can be a pretty tough critic when it comes to judging food do you think it helps to have a thick skin in your line of business?

Eric Wolitzky: You have to be careful.  I mean I have to stay true to myself.  I definitely make sure I don’t read everything that’s written about me.

DB: Which of your signature dishes do New Yorkers seem to respond to?

EW: Whoopie pies. We started making them 2 years ago in flavors like banana, peanut butter and pistachio and they really fly off the shelves. We just make really simple stuff, really well, with the best ingredients.

DB: A well known pastry chef once told me that bakers and Pastry chefs are two completely different animals. You seem to seem to be more of a baker do you think this will help you in the Top Chef: Just Desserts competition?

EW: I work with a lot of speed and precision and there’s a often a lot of pressure. I don’t have to worry as much about presentation and with baking there isn’t as much focus on all the components, for example, I don’t do a lot of sauces, as Pastry chefs do. Most bakers have their own individual style and my focus is always on flavor – how can I make what I am baking taste the best?

The Baked whoopie pie

BD: What are some of your favorite Desserts in New York City?

EW: Usually if I can get a chance to go out, I like to do “breakfast-like” desserts. Maybe a breakfast item from Financier or I’ll try to find a perfect scone or puff pastry – I like the simple desserts but really nicely made and still simple.

DB: Did you see the DessertBuzz New York scone round up?

EW: Yes, I saw that I have to get to some of those.

DB: If you had to eat one chocolate chip cookie besides Baked or Royale where would it be from?

EW: Recently, a friend’s mother gave me a chocolate chip cookie that I didn’t eat right away.   I thought, god I just want a Levain cookie instead of this one!  It was very thin with a well done crust [the exact opposite of a Levain cookie - Ed]. But then I defrosted it and ate it and I have to say it was the best chocolate chip cookie I have had in a long time- just a pure home made cookie.

DB: Are there any past Top Chef contestants that you think you can relate to?

EW: You know my experience is so different – I really looked at past seasons of Top chef from afar and thought – would I be able to do some of those challenges?

DB: A lot of people think being a pastry chef is very glamorous. Is it?

EW: Oh my god no! I work in the middle of nowhere (Red Hook Brooklyn) I get up at 5:30 and take the subway and we work really hard – there aren’t many breaks either.

DB: Do you ever get a chance to experiment in an empty kitchen and just play around to create a new item?

EW: We are always trying to think up new stuff. There might be a dessert that a magazine asked for or something we have always wanted to try. It’s really one of my favorite things to do. Every season at Baked we offer new stuff.  [warning partial episode 1 spoiler on next page]

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Top Chef: Just Desserts episode 1 recap

Posted by Niko on September 15th, 2010

Mr. chocolate Jacques Torres - guest judge for episode #1

Tonight was the first episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts and it’s late so I’ll just post some initial observations.  Episode one featured exploding desserts, lots of crying and offered a glimpse as to which chefs will be at each other’s throats by episode #2.  IN short, a great start to the series .

Episode #1 revealed a number of interesting personalities, such as Zac Young from New York who, in addition to wearing a bow-tie, had many great one-liners “I am sure if you took a bite out of him he would ooze chocolate” (referring to guest judge Jacques Torres.”  And Morgan Wilson, who before the season is over, will probably throw another chef through a plate glass window. Then there was head judge Johnny Iuzzini, who seemed to be taking this gig seriously and did not pull any punches in his feedback to the chefs.

The most provocative item of the show was the  ”coming attractions” for the rest of the series.  It was filled with short clips of the cast members making all kinds of threats and taunts to each other.  It really made me curious to see future episodes regardless of the cool desserts and guest judges.

[warning episode #1 spoilers ahead] (more…)