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Top Chef: Just Desserts -Season 1


anthonylee86
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I may be a lousy person but I'm competent as hell. Questioning my competency at cooking is bullshit.

Never once questioned your ability. I've read your posts here on eGullet long before this show. I've read the helpful information you share. I've seen pictures of your work. I have no doubt at all that you are a very talented pastry chef working at a level that I'd love to attain (I also accept that I got into the game very late and never will have that opportunity even if I develop the skill unless I open my own place someday).

I also don't think you're a lousy person and I realize that the show collects all of the drama moments they can while minimizing the focus on the work going on. I just think you have some learning to do in the area of dealing with other people. And that may not even be the case, I'm just basing it on what we saw on the show. Maybe outside of that arena you're a great guy who's fun to be around. I just hated to see you self-implode because I was looking forward to seeing what you were going to do as the show progressed. There's really nobody left to represent the style you do unless they're keeping it up their sleeve until later.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Ok, I'm an amateur home cook, so let me ask this... Is the typical Top Chef wacky curve ball formula simply not suited to a pastry competition?

This week it seems like we had two people eliminated in different ways for the same basic reason; "These constraints suck, and are not fun, and they're not what I want to do. I want to execute my vision."

Is the TC chaos (in which line cooks generally seem more comfortable) necessary for a pastry version of the show? Or will it kill it?

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Is the TC chaos (in which line cooks generally seem more comfortable) necessary for a pastry version of the show? Or will it kill it?

I don't think it's necessary. I think they're giving the Top Chef audience less credit than they deserve for their ability to enjoy the show for the food and the competition without all of the drama and screwy twists. The audience that needs those things to enjoy the show has Hell's Kitchen. As for the contestants, I wouldn't like working that way and I don't need to experience it to know that for sure. Pastry people usually have a certain amount of control freak as part of their makeup that is difficult to subdue. Whether or not the way the show takes a lot of that control out of the contestant's hands will kill the show remains to be seen. I'm not so sure I think the Just Desserts edition is destined for too many seasons regardless but I like seeing the spotlight on this end of the kitchen for a little while.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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It was way harder than it looks.

I know hard. I know restaurant week at Nobu for lunch *and* dinner every day for two weeks. I know opening Atria during restaurant week and including our entire menu on the deal. I've plated for Frank Bruni on a 6 top at 10pm on a Sunday. I did service for the first two weeks at Perilla using a Coleman cooler filled with ice for Paco canisters. That's right, no ice cream freezer, two full turns and every critic in the city lining up to get in.

This shit was a thousand times harder. Props to every contestant who got anything on a plate, ever. That shit I pulled off in the chocolate challenge was insane, but they showed none of the work. I did what should take 2 people 6 hours by myself in 3. I cut, torched and velvet sprayed 150 pieces of palette in 30 minutes, it was ridiculous. I completed 7 component perfectly in a kitchen I'd never worked in, using mostly shitty GE equiptment. It was probably one of the coolest dishes I've ever done but who gives a fuck.

I may be a lousy person but I'm competent as hell. Questioning my competency at cooking is bullshit.

Your skills were not showcased because you gave the show a whole lot of other footage which they found more compelling. The snorting, boasting, arm waving and snotty remarks were pulling the focus to you in all the group scenes as well. They couldn't make the show all about your triumphs and your breakdowns, as facinating as some might have found them because there were other equally deserving contestants. I hope you can get some help dealing with the anxiety and that things with your Mom improve. I have been in your shoes and gratefully, no one filmed it. Perhaps the next time you are given an amazing opportunity you have the presence of mind to feel some gratitude instead of playing the victim and also to realize it's not all about you all the time.

Edited by butterscotch (log)
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It was way harder than it looks.

I know hard. I know restaurant week at Nobu for lunch *and* dinner every day for two weeks. I know opening Atria during restaurant week and including our entire menu on the deal. I've plated for Frank Bruni on a 6 top at 10pm on a Sunday. I did service for the first two weeks at Perilla using a Coleman cooler filled with ice for Paco canisters. That's right, no ice cream freezer, two full turns and every critic in the city lining up to get in.

This shit was a thousand times harder. Props to every contestant who got anything on a plate, ever. That shit I pulled off in the chocolate challenge was insane, but they showed none of the work. I did what should take 2 people 6 hours by myself in 3. I cut, torched and velvet sprayed 150 pieces of palette in 30 minutes, it was ridiculous. I completed 7 component perfectly in a kitchen I'd never worked in, using mostly shitty GE equiptment. It was probably one of the coolest dishes I've ever done but who gives a fuck.

I may be a lousy person but I'm competent as hell. Questioning my competency at cooking is bullshit.

Your skills were not showcased because you gave the show a whole lot of other footage which they found more compelling. The snorting, boasting, arm waving and snotty remarks were pulling the focus to you in all the group scenes as well. They couldn't make the show all about your triumphs and your breakdowns, as facinating as some might have found them because there were other equally deserving contestants. I hope you can get some help dealing with the anxiety and that things with your Mom improve. I have been in your shoes and gratefully, no one filmed it. Perhaps the next time you are given an amazing opportunity you have the presence of mind to feel some gratitude instead of playing the victim and also to realize it's not all about you all the time.

I provided lots of material, both positive and negative. So did everyone else. I can't control what they chose to focus on, and if you assume what you see on tv is a faithful abbreviation of real events as they transpired, you are way off base. The editors decide what the show is about, not me, and I think the feeling that they focussed far too much on negativity and not enough on cooking is universal. I watched an episode of Chopped the other day an realized that they focus a LOT on what cooking techniques are being used and why. Maybe that's a better show, despite being packaged horribly.

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I provided lots of material, both positive and negative. So did everyone else. I can't control what they chose to focus on, and if you assume what you see on tv is a faithful abbreviation of real events as they transpired, you are way off base. The editors decide what the show is about, not me, and I think the feeling that they focussed far too much on negativity and not enough on cooking is universal.

We cannot comment on material we weren't shown. But you aren't denying that the events they DID show, happened. And you aren't making any kind of argument that you exhibited good professional behavior. Whether you have done so in other venues, which I don't doubt, you didn't in this one.

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Maybe the ones to blame are the show's producers in this case, for selecting two "duds" who melted down in the same episode. Like I said, TC Just Desserts reminded more and more of Hell's Kitchen than Top Chef.

You may well be right about Malika: and regardless of why she left, you're completely right about the producers. It's their job to get a field of contestants who will actually compete. Their desire for drama bit them in the ass here, their casting decisions definitely strayed too far from competency as a pastry chef.

At this point, I am chalking it up to bad luck. It's clear that the producers want chefs with personality. But I cannot imagine that Seth's meltdown was something that they, in their remotest imaginations, either anticipated or wanted. Indeed, Seth said in his "exit interview" that he was prepared to continue, but the producers disqualified him. Had "drama" been the only consideration, they didn't have to kick him off the show.

Malika was not particularly "dramatic"; she just gave up, a very rare occurrence in reality TV of any kind, and a first on Top Chef. That it would occur twice in one season, and indeed twice in one episode, is such a freakish event that I am reluctant to read anything into it.

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I provided lots of material, both positive and negative. So did everyone else. I can't control what they chose to focus on, and if you assume what you see on tv is a faithful abbreviation of real events as they transpired, you are way off base. The editors decide what the show is about, not me, and I think the feeling that they focussed far too much on negativity and not enough on cooking is universal.

But you would have been smarter to assume they'd show whatever drama they had over the cooking skills every single time, that's kind of a given if you've watched the show before. Im just saying you gave more and louder drama, including in the group shots, to the extent that they's have to rename it the Seth show in order to give a balanced portrait of you and show the good. Also it seems you didn't notice or care how badly disruptuve and negative your behaviour was, and that lack of respect towards the entire group/ show itself factored in as much as your health in their decison to let you go. If you hated it ll so much and it effected you so badly, why would you want to stay anyway? It appeared (at least at some moments) you were pretty contemptuous of the whole thing. Like you were shocked their was sponsors products to deal with, I had to wonder- had you ever seen the show before?

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I provided lots of material, both positive and negative. So did everyone else. I can't control what they chose to focus on, and if you assume what you see on tv is a faithful abbreviation of real events as they transpired, you are way off base. The editors decide what the show is about, not me, and I think the feeling that they focussed far too much on negativity and not enough on cooking is universal.

But you would have been smarter to assume they'd show whatever drama they had over the cooking skills every single time, that's kind of a given if you've watched the show before. Im just saying you gave more and louder drama, including in the group shots, to the extent that they's have to rename it the Seth show in order to give a balanced portrait of you and show the good. Also it seems you didn't notice or care how badly disruptuve and negative your behaviour was, and that lack of respect towards the entire group/ show itself factored in as much as your health in their decison to let you go. If you hated it ll so much and it effected you so badly, why would you want to stay anyway? It appeared (at least at some moments) you were pretty contemptuous of the whole thing. Like you were shocked their was sponsors products to deal with, I had to wonder- had you ever seen the show before?

The thing is...we're human. Human's don't always act rationally. When shit is going on in your life it can affect everything you do regardless of whether or not you want to act professionally.

Considering that this was a culinary competition, I would've been quite miffed as well to know that I had to create a sundae with ice cream that wasn't my own. As a viewer, I would've liked to see what people would do with their own ice creams. As a company, I probably would've taken the opportunity to maybe, instead of making them use the flavors of ice cream we already had, create a new ice cream for the company that would be sold nation wide. That may have prompted more people who normally would have passed Breyers by completely (and that group includes me most of the time) to check it out. I actually have done this. Brands used on Top Chef have appeared in my kitchen just because seeing them used on the show prompted me to check it out.

While I do think that, perhaps, Seth over-reacted, none of us were there and therefore haven't seen enough to really judge him for anything. Walk a mile in his shoes and all that. It's what I was taught as a girl.

All that said, I wish all the contestants the best.

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Considering that this was a culinary competition, I would've been quite miffed as well to know that I had to create a sundae with ice cream that wasn't my own.

Sure, but on all of the various incarnations of Top Chef, which I assume Seth is at least somewhat familiar with, almost every challenge imposes a constraint that the chefs would not face in "real life". It is the whole premise of the show.

Having one or more ingredients foisted upon them, that they would not ordinarily use, is a fairly commonly occurring constraint. The week before, they not only had to decorate a wedding cake in an absurdly short time, but the raw material (the cake itself) had been pre-baked.

One could go on and on. "Cook with Ingredient X," where X is supplied by the producers, is probably the most common kind of challenge. Nobody could go on the show and be surprised by this.

In the wedding cake challenge, Seth just ignored the rules totally, and made something not even remotely resembling a wedding cake. In the sundae challenge (it's a frickin' sundae, mind you), he just completely lost it, and went off on a tangent about confiscated paper cups. What THEY had to do with it is utterly beyond me.

Every other chef, not only this season, but in every season since the show began, sucked up the challenge and tried to make something that was at least somewhat compliant with the rules. It's especially notable that these were both quickfires, meaning that one had nothing to lose by at least TRYING to do what they asked for.

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A sundae is made by the ice cream that goes into it. If the ice cream is below par, the sundae will also be. Personally, if I was going to ask top pastry chefs from around the country to make me a freaking sundae, I'd allow them to use their own ice creams and figure out another way to showcase the Breyers branding.

I really take offense to it in an unnecessary way, I suppose. But it's like giving them a prepared cake and telling them to decorate it as a challenge.

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Every contestant is operating under the same constraints.

This isn't Chopped, or MasterChef, or any of a dozen other cooking challenge shows, it's Top Chef, and ridiculous ingredients have been a show staple for years. "Make gourmet food out of truckstop vending machine goods!" is crazier than "make a sundae out of Breyer's!"

The theory is that being a great chef means you can spin gold out of any dross out there. Whether that's a good theory or not, it's the underlying story of Top Chef.

Someone else mentioned that Malika's walkout is unprecedented in Top Chef - unless it was meant differently than I read it, this isn't so. It's happened before, starting all the way back in season one.

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The thing is...we're human. Human's don't always act rationally. When shit is going on in your life it can affect everything you do regardless of whether or not you want to act professionally.

Bravo. I think what we have been shown is that Seth had a lot of stress coming into the competition. If you've always acted appropriately to every stressful situation in your life, please feel free to throw the first stone. I know I can't.

Considering that this was a culinary competition, I would've been quite miffed as well to know that I had to create a sundae with ice cream that wasn't my own.

But I can't agree with this. This was a quickfire. The sort of challenge that has previously been about convenience store food - or even vending machine food. Contestants, please do bitch about it (and I will along with you). But address the challenge. The show is not called Top Ice Cream. Your challenge is to take an ice cream and make it as good as it can be. I don't have a problem with that.

While I do think that, perhaps, Seth over-reacted, none of us were there and therefore haven't seen enough to really judge him for anything. Walk a mile in his shoes and all that. It's what I was taught as a girl.

All that said, I wish all the contestants the best.

And I'm back to agreeing with you. In fact I made an earlier post that perhaps presaged this, but I hope that the remaining chefs at some point will be challenged to cook for a Seth's Mom benefit. Seth will have known whether or not this happened, and if he does, I hope he won't respond due to the confidentiality thing. But I think it would be (/have been) a classy move for Bravo.

Edited by IndyRob (log)
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The thing is...we're human. Human's don't always act rationally. When shit is going on in your life it can affect everything you do regardless of whether or not you want to act professionally.

Bravo. I think what we have been shown is that Seth had a lot of stress coming into the competition. If you've always acted appropriately to every stressful situation in your life, please feel free to throw the first stone. I know I can't.

Considering that this was a culinary competition, I would've been quite miffed as well to know that I had to create a sundae with ice cream that wasn't my own.

But I can't agree with this. This was a quickfire. The sort of challenge that has previously been about convenience store food - or even vending machine food. Contestants, please do bitch about it (and I will along with you). But address the challenge. The show is not called Top Ice Cream. Your challenge is to take an ice cream and make it as good as it can be. I don't have a problem with that.

While I do think that, perhaps, Seth over-reacted, none of us were there and therefore haven't seen enough to really judge him for anything. Walk a mile in his shoes and all that. It's what I was taught as a girl.

All that said, I wish all the contestants the best.

And I'm back to agreeing with you. In fact I made an earlier post that perhaps presaged this, but I hope that the remaining chefs at some point will be challenged to cook for a Seth's Mom benefit. Seth will have known whether or not this happened, and if he does, I hope he won't respond due to the confidentiality thing. But I think it would be (/have been) a classy move for Bravo.

LMAO they are definitely NOT going to surprise you with anything classy!

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Malika was not particularly "dramatic"; she just gave up, a very rare occurrence in reality TV of any kind, and a first on Top Chef. That it would occur twice in one season, and indeed twice in one episode, is such a freakish event that I am reluctant to read anything into it.

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You produce a reality tv show, you get to set the rules. Until then, be glad it was Bryer's and not some supermarket brand. Sometimes the craft is doing one's best with what is at hand. Most professional kitchens, given the choice, would prefer a chef who puts forth his best effort under stress to one who freaks out and disrupts the entire operation. Drama plays best in the theater.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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You produce a reality tv show, you get to set the rules. Until then, be glad it was Bryer's and not some supermarket brand. Sometimes the craft is doing one's best with what is at hand. Most professional kitchens, given the choice, would prefer a chef who puts forth his best effort under stress to one who freaks out and disrupts the entire operation. Drama plays best in the theater.

We had 30 minutes to cook and it takes me 15 to make perfectly frozen ice cream, start to finish. I pulled Rocky Road, and wanted to use a pear sorbet as another component to the sundae, but we could ONLY use Breyers.

Also, for the record, Breyers is technically terrible ice cream, unless you prefer 100% overrun, chalkiness and giant ice crystals.

If you give a fart about cooking, its frustrating working with zero produce, puree, juice, or herbs for challenge after challenge and then being forced additionally to use really crappy pre-made products (breyers ice cream, fluid-flex cakes, off-brand chocolate, etc).

I watched every show of every season of Top Chef, but somehow it never occurred to me that it could be such a sad souless environment. I understand how making a dish out of vending machine junk is fun and cray, but whats fun about making toppings for a shitty ice cream sundae, or icing a shitty box-cake?

The best work I did on the show is worse than the worst thing I've ever served to a customer, and that was very upsetting considering it was my first major exposure. Every restaurant I've opened (five of them) except for Perilla went out of business before NYT review, so I've pretty much been operating in a media blackout for my whole career. I couldn't handle the disapointment of cooking shitty food on national tv, and I felt like the producers wouldn't know an opera cake from their elbow, and weren't bothered to care about the quality of food or cooking at all.

Whether or not I acted like a fool and caused a lot of tension, this show was destined to suck from conception.

Edited by Sethro (log)
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I'd say I was more against lowering myself to the challenge, if you really want to know what was going through my head.

This is not a biconditional. I'm stubborn, AND the challenge was lame.

EDIT: Probably a mistake to continue posting. I have been on Eg for 6 years or so and have enjoyed the pastry forum in particular, but I suppose nothing good can come of this now. I'm not able to explain myself to anybody's satisfaction.

Edited by Sethro (log)
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I've been reading your posts with great interest, Seth. For example, I had no idea that you had no access to a basic full larder of items for the challenges. Can you say more about what you did and did not have on hand?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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A great chef can make something wonderful from fantastic ingredients.

A truly gifted chef can make something wonderful from mediocre ingredients.

A failure won't even try when confronted with challenges.

The above pretty much applies to any profession, or any situation in life, not just cooking. I would bet the most successful people in life will do their best regardless of what they are given. They don't let hubris get in their way.

I wonder if any of professional chefs involved with judging would actually hire any of the participants on this show, and which they wouldn't (and the reasons why).

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Right now I'm not cooking anywhere. I'm only interested in cooking my way, and I'd rather make sacrifices than compromises where that's concerned. When I can't find a place to cook, I do other things for money. Its a personal choice.

In other words, Sethro can't find a job because nobody will hire him after his public mental breakdown on the show. Years after The Restaurant, Anthony Bourdain still makes Rocco Dispirto a punch line for cheap laughs. Rocco came off as vain and out of touch, but Sethro truly came off as mentally disturbed. This is going to haunt Sethro for the rest of his career, and its kind of sad to see that he destroyed his entire career in just a matter of days. People are going to think that if he couldn't handle the stress of a reality TV show, how is he going to handle the stress of a working kitchen?

I have to admit, Sethro's breakdown suckered me into continuing to watch an otherwise dull show. I couldn't stop watching it; it was like a gruesome and disturbing car accident. As much as reality TV pushes the envelope, this was the final step where we got to see somebody suffer a mental breakdown. I won't be surprised if some producer watches this, and thinks he should build a reailty TV series around that next.

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I think Seth has explained his point of view pretty well. His reactions seemed over the top to us but we're also seeing it as the producers choose to present it and the reasons he's given us for being unhappy are every bit as valid as Malika's in my opinion. People seem to be willing to say that Malika didn't know entirely what she was getting into until she was there but some seem to be unable to give that same benefit of the doubt to Seth. I'm inclined to chalk it up as a bad experience for a fellow eGullet member who has never given any reason here to think he is anything but a professional and a good person.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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actually pastry chefs do a whole lot more than just bake bread and cakes and for you to make a comment like that demeans my whole profession as a cook and makes me think of how little you appreciate the food you eat specifically the dessert course. or perhaps you eat at the type of resturants that show absolutely no flair with their desserts such as boston pizza or other chain resturants like it.

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actually pastry chefs do a whole lot more than just bake bread and cakes and for you to make a comment like that demeans my whole profession as a cook and makes me think of how little you appreciate the food you eat specifically the dessert course. or perhaps you eat at the type of resturants that show absolutely no flair with their desserts such as boston pizza or other chain resturants like it.

To which comment are you addressing your reply? I don't recall anyone saying anything that demeans pastry chefs here. I, for one, recognize the hard work and creativity that goes into the profession (and I did even before watching Kings of Pastry last night).

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