Cafe Society

Top Chef Just Desserts, round six: All in black and white

This week's Quickfire challenge was to make desserts using savory ingredients and -- the really hard part -- only one pot. "I'm used to having all these fancy little tools," mourned Zac, while Morgan, unable to use an ice-cream maker, tackled liquid nitrogen, which he'd never worked with before.

I know the lines we draw between sweet and savory are arbitrary: Traditionalists regularly use lard in pie crust, and the English make delicious steamed puddings with suet; we put carrots in cake and sweet potatoes in pies; mince pies used to contain real mincemeat, and some still do; sugar gets sprinkled on meat dishes in Morocco. We're increasingly aware of the way a little salt heightens the pleasures of chocolate and caramel; I've tasted bleu cheese ice cream; and bacon crops up in all kind of desserts these days.

But I still have qualms. Yigit's dessert with foie gras and bacon? I'll take the judges' word that it was delicious.

The winner was Zac, who was offered either $1,000 or immunity -- and who bargained his way up to $5,000. No one's ever had the stones to bargain on Top Chef before.

Heather found herself in the bottom three with Danielle and Eric. You can see this super-competent chef's confidence draining away week by week, and she seems -- irrationally -- to be fixing a lot of the blame on Morgan. Later in the show, when she couldn't find a tray of rice crispy treats, it was clear where her suspicions lay. For his part, Morgan is starting to loathe Heather, Yigit and Zac, who have dubbed themselves Team Diva and are having far too much fun playing together in the house.

The Elimination Challenge: to create black-and-white desserts for 200 people at a party celebrating the 128-year history of the Los Angeles Times -- though I'm not sure why anyone in the mainstream print media is celebrating these days.

The shopping took place at Albertson's rather than Whole Foods. Why? Don't desserts require the highest-quality ingredients, too? Once again, Zac lamented: "They don't make black disco dust." But he was soon deep-frying crispy little whoopie pies, happy as a clam. Or merry as a grig, as Noel Coward used to say. They can't ever eliminate Zac from this show. Half of the joy of watching would exit with him.

Zac didn't win this one, but he was in the top four with Morgan, Yigit and baker Eric -- who produced a dessert that was not only delicious but elegantly plated and received lots of praise for how far he'd come. The winner: Yigit.

The three women were in the bottom. Danielle is clearly living on borrowed time, but it was Erika who got sent home because, the judges said, her ice cream tasted like soap. Perhaps some of the Dawn Hand Renewal that had been so relentlessly promoted throughout got into it.

I'd tell you more about the actual desserts, but the elements and ingredients flew by so fast, and each little plate seemed to contain so many of them, I couldn't keep track -- much less begin to figure out how anything tasted. And the <em>Top Chef website hasn't been keeping up with the recipes. Perhaps they've given up, too.

It's not as if you could -- or would -- really make one of these elaborate concoctions for a dinner party, but you could replicate parts of them, gain fresh ideas, or learn a bit more about how top chefs actually conceptualize dessert. If only they'd give you more information.

Read Juliet Wittman's last Just Desserts piece here.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman