Is anyone else watching Top Chef: Just Desserts on Bravo?
I didn’t have high hopes for this latest culinary reality show since I’m not a big fan of elaborate pastry creations (I’m the one who just wants a slice of chocolate layer cake), and the last season of Top Chef, as I blogged earlier, was just plain boring.
But Just Desserts has caught my interest. There are a number of appealing contestants. I’m routing for Eric Wolitzky, the head baker at Baked in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (That's him in the orange T-shirt, seated above in the center.)
All the other contestants work, or have worked, as pastry chefs in restaurants. Which means that they focus on plated desserts, individual servings designed to look impressive as well as taste great. As a baker, Eric spends his days making cakes and pies and cookies, and how they get served is of little interest to him. At Baked, they will serve you a big slab of his Sweet & Salty cake (dark chocolate cake infused with a salty caramel, caramel-chocolate ganache and topped with fleur de sel) and to me it looks pretty perfect on a plain white plate.
But what makes Just Desserts such a hoot is that the contestants are all such crybabies. Every week, at least half the cast tears up either because they are disappointed in what they created, or because they are so happy that they won, or because they miss their kids, or because their mother is sick.
It occurs to me that the usual cooks on Top Chef, “culinary” as opposed to “pastry,” are used to the brutal atmosphere of most restaurant kitchens. They are used to being yelled at by their chef and treated poorly by their fellow line cooks. Pastry chefs inhabit a kinder, gentler world. They often come in earlier in the day and are finished their work before dinner service starts. More than one pastry chef has told me that they chose pastry expressly because it meant they didn’t have to work the line during service.
If you dig the prima donnas and head cases on Project Runway, give Top Chef: Just Desserts a try.
Top Chef: Just Desserts airs on Bravo (Cablevision channel 44) on Wednesday at 10 p.m.
For the record, Baked in Red Hook is worth a visit: 359 Van Brunt St., Brooklyn, 718-222-0345. Should you find yourself in Charleston, South Carolina, there’s one there too at 160 East Bay St., Charleston, 843-577-2180.