Just three chefs remained heading into the Top Chef: Just Desserts finale (airing on Bravo, channel 60 in Scottsdale): Chris Hanmer, Matthew Petersen and Sally Camacho. Which one would take the big win at the end of Wednesday night’s finale? The trio is told that their final challenge involves “making a dessert for that special person in your life.” Three renowned dessert chefs are brought out, and they will be acting as advisors and mentors for the three finalists. They will also be joining the judges for the final tasting. Matthew, Chris and Sally are intimidated, but anxious to get started. Who would be the Top Chef: Just Desserts winner?
Each of the finalists meets with one of the mentors, and devise a plan. Once they have their ideas, they are given five hours to cook while the mentors watch and interact along the way. They have a lot of work to do, as they need to present an entremet, a bonbon, a bread, a showpiece, and a plated dessert. Chris feels confident because he has competed in showpiece competitions before, but Matthew and Sally seem to be a bit more flustered. All three dig into their strategies, with Sally focusing on flavors that she loves. Matthew worries that he is the underdog, not having competed in showpiece competitions before whereas Sally and Chris have not only competed, they have won those types of competitions previously.
Chris, Matthew and Sally have 10 hours the next day to complete their tasting dishes and create their showpiece. The next morning the eliminated chefs are back, and each finalist gets to add two sous chefs to help them. Sally gets Van and Orlando, Matthew gets Megan and Carlos, while Chris gets Rebecca and Amanda. The teams dig in with their projects, with each finalist chef delegating to their teams. Sally feels confident, and Matthew is pushing himself outside his comfort zone by working with sugar rather than chocolate.
Sally runs into trouble with a sizing issue on entremet, so she is set back as she needs to redo some components. Orlando is focused on Sally’s showpiece, while Chris is maintaining control over his. The vibe in the kitchen as time runs out is intense, as there are multiple components to have ready all at the same time. They carefully move the fragile showpieces to the presentation table, and rush to finish their other courses.
Matthew Petersen notes for the judges that everything he did was something new to him. His entremet has hazelnut, passion fruit and milk jam, and Gail notes that it is very complex. His bread is a focaccia with olive oil and thyme, and it is said to be simple and rustic. His bonbon is key lime ganache and speculous, which is a new term to Gail.
Sally Camacho is next, and the judges like how she wove a consistent color palate throughout all of her pieces. She acknowledges that Orlando essentially handled the entire showpiece for her, though it was her design. Her entremet features chocolate mousse, mango vanilla cream, caramel, lime and almond, and it gets excellent feedback. Her bread is a parker house roll with bacon, onion and gruyere. The judges seem to love it, and then try her salted caramel milk chocolate bonbon. This also gets excellent feedback from the judges.
Chris Hanmer presents his vision, but he runs into trouble as some components are not holding together as he planned. His entremet features chocolate mousse, raspberry jam and vanilla cremeux. The judges have very positive feedback on it, and they move onto his bread. He did a basic brioche with bacon maple butter, where he feels that the condiment was just as important as the bread. His bonbon is a coffee infused ganache and caramel, and all of his components seem to hit the mark.
Next the chefs have to present plated desserts, and Sally is struggling to finish in the short amount of time allotted. She presents a white chocolate espresso mousse, chocolate cremeux, cashew nougatine and ice cream inspired by her mom and sister. It is noted as technically amazing work, but gets mixed reviews overall. Matthew has a complicated plan, and he worries that if one piece is missed it will all fall apart. He presents dark chocolate flourless cake, raspberry mousse, pecan streusel and milk ice cream, inspired by his wife and daughter. The presentation is perceived as smart and clever, though it doesn’t necessarily hit the mark with everybody.
Chris presents an almond cake with banana caramel in the center, accompanied by banana ice cream and mango sauce. He shares that this is a variation of a dessert he did in a competition when he was first dating his wife, so it served as his inspiration. The desserts were received well, but some didn’t feel a strong enough connection with the story of its inspiration. All three finalists are lauded by the judges, and now they wait for Judge’s Table.
Chris Hamner, Matthew Petersen and Sally Camacho face the judges, and defend their dishes. Matthew defends doing sugar instead of chocolate, and he says that he wanted to do something different. His plated dessert was confusing to the judges, however. Sally’s showpiece is commended, but the judges note that Orlando did a great deal of the work. Sally defends it by saying it was all her design. When Gail brings up her plated dessert, Sally sighs and knows that it was her weak spot. Chris was lauded for the complexity of his showpiece, but he had to defend the fact a few pieces fell off. His plated dessert was commended as being the only one that all of the judges finished in its entirety, but was it enough to get him the win?
The judges are amazed by the quality of the desserts they got in this finale. They feel that Sally won the bread course, while Chris seemed to win the bonbon round. The entremet course seemed a close call between Chris and Sally, while the showpiece round was a bit of a battle. They seemed to agree Sally’s was great, but faulted her for relying on Orlando. Chris had a great piece, but had issues. For the plated dessert, Chris had the most delicious, but Sally had a complex piece with a great story. In the end, the judges seemed quite torn between Sally and Chris.
This season the winner of Top Chef: Just Desserts is Chris Hanmer. He wins a $100,000 prize along with a spread in Food & Wine. Do you think the judges made the right call? Who were you rooting for this season? Just Desserts may be done for another season, but a new season of the traditional Top Chef format premieres next week. Tune in Wednesday night to Bravo, channel 60 on Cox in Scottsdale, to see Top Chef Texas get started.