No fairy tale ending for Lina
Welcome to Hollywood, Top Chefs. What's your dream? Everybody here got a dream ... of dessert domination.
The first episode of this season's Top Chefs: Just Desserts started out fast, furious and over the top in true Hollywood style. Before everyone could even get their introductory video in, they were paired into teams of two and creating modern takes on soda shops desserts for the quickfire challenge.
But even if Bravo is too busy for bios, we aren't — at least not for the trio of competitors with Houston ties.
Houston's highest profile pastry chef (both on and off the show) is Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar, and whose bubbly, sarcastic personality was all over the premiere episode. Masson makes for some great television, whether she's adding a dramatic "duh-duh-DUNH" to describe the surprise quickfire, musing about the dessert possibilities of children being baked alive or just running her mouth.
Then there's Vanerin Kuch, pastry chef at Tiny Boxwood's and one of two 2011 StarChefs.com Rising Stars in pastry from Houston. Kuch doesn't have much screen time yet, except from the standard fawning over how beautiful host and judge Gail Simmons is — I wonder if that's in her contract.
One Houstonian that not everyone might be familiar with is Amanda Rockman, who works at Chicago's The Bristol but hails from Katy originally. Amanda From Katy (as I'll call her) looks all sweetness and innocence, but after I saw her sleeve tattoo and the way she bossed around the boys, I'm happy to claim her as a Texas girl.
Back to the quickfire: It's about "taking the soda fountain treat to the next level." Lots of people grab bananas, but Rebecca and partner Carlos rank in head judge Johnny Iuzzini's top two teams with a cute milkshake of white chocolate chip ice cream, bananas, malted milk and Captain Crunch cereal.
Vanerin skates under the radar with a micro cake of malt with shattered banana carpaccio with "runt sauce." However Amanda From Katy and her partner Nelson win immunity with a chocolate sponge cake and AFK's signature pickled cherries plus whipped cream and pistachios.
For the elimination challenge, competitors are split into four teams which each made two desserts and a showpiece based around fairy tales. Rebecca ends up on Team Goldilocks and the Three Bears with Nelson, Sally and Orlando, who seems poised to take on the villain role and quickly exchanges words with Rebecca over whether their "porridge" dessert should be made with rice pudding or steel cut oats. Rebecca's porridge-inspired dessert has a cherry sorbet (too cold) chile rainier cherries (too hot) and a oat-based porridge that's just right. It's served with bear food, a soft almond sponge cake bar with roasted almonds, fruits of the forest and honey ice cream.
Amanda From Katy chooses to work with Carlos, Chris and Matthew on Team Little Red Riding Hood, where everyone seems competent, together and ready to go. Snooze. They make a rose-scented bomboloni with coconut tapioca and red berry gelée, as well as a blackout sponge cake cocoa nougatine cherries and micro basil.
Vanerin gets stuck on Team Hansel and Gretel with stubborn, unrefined Lina (who hails from Fort Worth and is executive pastry chef for Stephan Pyles) and bitchy, unhelpful Melissa. Between the cake showpiece and the clashing egos, the only thing that could save them was walking disaster Craig on Team Jack and the Beanstalk, who I'm pretty sure I could take at a baking contest.
The guests arrive, and though Orlando describes it as like being in a fairy tale, it looks more like being at your weird cousin's wedding or a formal Renaissance Festival. At judges' table, Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks teams are predictably on top, but for the second time in the episode Rebecca and her team take second place to Amanda From Katy's team.
The judges hate the ugly non-gingerbread-house from Team Hansel and Gretel, and they don't care much more for Vanerin's non-foresty butterscotch brioche with smoked pineapple.
While Team Jack and the Beanstock get knocked for a sloppy showpiece and unbalanced flavors in the desserts, Craig's teammates manage to pick up after his total incompetence, and in the end it is Lina who is sent packing after Melissa throws her under the bus, runs over her, and then backs up to make sure she is dead.
Do you think Craig should have been the first to go, or are you just glad that Lina isn't on television representing Texas anymore? What do you think of Amanda From Katy? And are Rebecca Masson's confessionals just great or the greatest confessionals ever?