Maybe it’s because we’re so worn down by this season of Top Chef — which blessedly will be put out of its misery tomorrow night — but its spin-off, Top Chef: Just Desserts, actually looks like it might potentially, hopefully, possibly be pretty good. Maybe even good, period.
Having watched an advance screener of the show, which premieres tomorrow night, we’ve had time to consider why this might be, and we’ve come up with the following explanations:
1. Gail Simmons is a way better hostess than Padma Lakshmi. Watching Top Chef, we’d suspected as much. Despite the best efforts of Padma’s cleavage to convince us otherwise, not only did Gail have way more natural charisma and presence than Padma, she also didn’t seem to be trying too hard. Or obviously reciting cue cards. On Just Desserts, she’s relaxed and natural, and, unlike Padma, she appears to actually want to be there.
2. The gays. Yes, saying that all male pastry chefs are homosexuals is both a stereotype and patently untrue. But the Just Desserts pilot gives us no less than three proudly out male contestants (and from the looks of it, at least another who isn’t exactly in). San Francisco’s Tim Nugent announces that he’s known as “the snow queen, because my food is frozen and I’m gay.” He then declares a “battle of the queens” between himself and Yigit Pura, a fellow San Franciscan. Meanwhile, Zac Young, the pastry chef at Flex Mussels, sprinkles disco dust on his creations and generally sets (figurative) fire to everything in his path. All of which makes for a much more engaging spectacle than that of a bunch of psuedo-macho savory chefs trying to out-grouch each other.
3. One sulky, possibly violent heterosexual. That would be Morgan Wilson, Texan, single dad, and rock climber. When told that the judges have an issue with one of his desserts, he responds, “Whatever,” and curls his lip. Highlights from future episodes show him actually threatening his fellow contestants, which makes us hope against hope that we’ll get to see Gail put him in a headlock. 4. One raging egomaniac who also resembles a cable-TV serial killer. Seth Caro used to work for Harold Dieterle at Perilla and tells us that he’s constantly mistaken for both Marky Mark and Michael C. Hall, the star of Dexter. He is also, if preview clips are any indication, a total prick, given to making pronouncements like “I’m going to win and you can all suck it” and “I’m not here for fun, I’m here to save my life.” Early in the pilot, he admits to a “schoolboy’s crush” on Gail, but it’s just a front: Obviously, he reserves his real adoration for himself.
5. Johnny Iuzzini’s hair. Johnny Iuzzini is the follicular yin to Tom Colicchio’s yang. Dude’s got an actual pompadour, one that matches his key chain and wardrobe, which may have been stolen from the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy tour bus. The hair may actually get its own wardrobe and possibly have an agent; if nothing else, it is a triumph of structural engineering, as awe-inspiring to behold as any wedding cake.
6. “You can almost taste the resentment in her cookie.” This is an actual line from an upcoming episode. It is also the primary reason we are willing to sacrifice every Wednesday night in the foreseeable future to watch this show.
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This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 14, 2010