Contestant Seth works on his creation on Bravo's new show, Top Chef: Just Desserts.
Top Chef, which just won its first Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, isn't satisfied to rest on its laurels. We've already had Top Chef Masters (a show starring established master chefs that was pretty good as long as you didn't expect it to be anything like Top Chef), and beginning tonight after the regular show has its season finale, Bravo will debut Top Chef: Just Desserts, where pastry chefs take center stage.
There are a couple of changes in personnel — Top Chef judge Gail Simmons takes the Padma Lakshmi hosting spot, while acclaimed pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini acts as the Tom Colicchio. But overall, it's a very faithful adaptation of the format, where only the course being served has changed.
There's some sense to doing it this way, since regular Top Chef contestants are notoriously spotty with desserts, so while watching that show has given viewers some background in frying, broiling, braising and so forth, it hasn't ever cast much light on the proper preparation of ice cream.
(Speaking of ice cream, there are also all the amusingly insufferable people you would expect on any Top Chef season, including the guy who explains that his specialty is frozen desserts, and then says, "I've been referred to as the Snow Queen." He pauses. "Because my food is frozen." He pauses again. "And I'm gay.")
I also have to credit TC:JD for (inevitably) spinning the current cupcake craze in an entertaining way. Without giving much away, suffice it to say that self-styled serious pastry chefs probably feel about cupcakes the way serious musicians feel about Auto-Tune, and the show nicely captures their thinly veiled contempt for the gross populism of the humble cupcake while suggesting that in order to demonstrate contempt for something, you should first be good at it.
If you like Top Chef, you're likely to get a kick out of this iteration of it, too. Colicchio is missed, to be sure, but these people are serious about their work, and they're clearly talented, and you'll see some techniques and ideas that you don't run into very often in Top Chef Classic. It's perfectly good successor to the pretty disappointing season of plain old Top Chef that ends tonight.