It’s been nine long months since Season 1 of Top Chef Just Desserts ended, and fans of the often intense show have been counting down the days until Season 2 starts up. Sure, there was the documentary Kings of Pastry to serve up the dessert-drama fix in the meantime, but the wait is over for more Top Chef sugar-induced squabbles: Season 2 of Just Desserts, hosted by Gail Simmons, premieres tonight at 10 pm Eastern on Bravo.
Food Republic contributing editor Dannielle Kyrillos is a judge on Top Chef Just Desserts, so we got the jump on what to expect when the butter starts churning tonight. She gives her take on the season’s competition and why pastry chefs are even more insanely dramatic than their “savory chef” counterparts.
What’s your role on Top Chef Just Desserts?
My role in the show is not as a serious chef, but rather as a style editor and an educated diner. So it’s my job to be the voice of the everyday person. When judging, I think: If I ordered that on the menu and paid money for it, did it meet my expectations? I also look to see if it something that is on-trend in terms of what I see as an editor in New York.
What trends did you see come up during this season?
In terms of trends in desserts on the show — comforting desserts. Desserts are the original comfort food. We have so many happy memories associated with desserts because it’s usually a special occasion when something like a cake is served. I think channeling that sort of childhood nostalgia is always popular with dessert makers. The chefs in this season went above and beyond. They used liquid nitrogen and other kinds of things that you wouldn’t believe. They had to make desserts that were so visually stunning you almost wanted to cry.
In general, how are pastry chefs different from other chefs?
The work of a pastry chef is an art and a science. You can’t fix a mistake halfway through. Pastry chefs really can do things that no savory chef could. It requires an intensity and a focus that makes for a really special breed. They are generally in a corner of the kitchen that they haven’t mapped out themselves, and at the whim of the head chef. It’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve really looked for pastry chefs’ names on the menu as well as the savory chef’s name. There’s always that sort of chip on their shoulder, like they deserve more attention than they get, and I think that leaves them to be a little quirkier in terms of their personalities. A big theme of our show is to give pastry chefs the credit they deserve.
Did this season’s competitors play nice?
We definitely learned last year that pastry chefs are crazy. The sugar courses through their veins in a way that mere mortals cannot begin to understand. I think they’re a little saner this time. It starts off really friendly: A lot of them this time know each other already. But once the sugar gets things rolling it gets wild.
What is the level of competition like this season?
What surprised me this time was there were a lot of dark horses. People who you thought didn’t have much confidence in the beginning or might be in over their head really surprised us. So this time it’s anyone’s game from the start.
What about drama?
There is more food-based drama, whereas in the last season we had a lot of character drama. Again, there’s always going to be a little bit of personal drama where pastry chefs are involved because it’s a real high stakes game, but I think the focus is even more clearly on the food this season. I think the challenges are bigger and they’re even more visually exciting.
What are some of this season’s elimination challenge highlights?
Well just in the first episode, in the elimination challenge the chefs are divided into teams and it’s a fairy tale theme. Part of the challenge is for each team to create a fairy tale-inspired showpiece and what they did right out of the gate was just mind-boggling.
On another episode our guest judge was Adam Horowitz, otherwise known as Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys. The challenge pretty much developed around him being there. It was totally insane in the best possible way. Just to have him on set and watch how the chefs responded to this wacky Beastie Boys challenge was so much fun. It’s going to make a great episode. I definitely saw some of the most unexpected and off kilter use of ingredients I’ve ever seen in the history of dessert in that challenge.
Any crumbling towers of dessert?
Oh yeah, there are some Top Chef “just disasters” for sure.