Top Chef Just Desserts Exit Interview: The Finale
There we have it folks. Top Chef Just Desserts has ended its first season and oh what drama. Not only did we see some amazing pastries that made us want to lick our television screens but we witnessed a roller coaster of emotion, petty fighting, and at times damn-right nastiness. Let’s take one last chance to hear what the chef’testants have to say. That’s right, we not only chatted with the very first TCJD winner, but the two runner ups as well.
And the winner is…
ES: Yigit, congratulations! How were the last few days in the loft dealing with being in the final?
YP: Especially in the last few days, I think my cold was probably an end result of the previous week. It was emotionally tough. Once I realized we were going to be doing the finals then and there I kind of felt this jolt of refreshing energy come over me. As you can see, Morgan didn’t help that matter. I just wanted to cook the food I love to cook. Being a good pastry chef is like being any good professional, you check all your troubles at the door.
Where did the inspiration come from for the date-themed desserts?
YP: It came naturally to me to be honest. I kind of thought of this when Sherry and I were working together. She was really inspirational to me; she helped me get though this emotionally. The whole date concept came about as I felt the last five weeks the judges and I have been courting one another. We had some disputes and we had some great times together. I wanted to take them on this date. On the first date you go for a stroll in the park and maybe have a little kiss then get very passionate and you go into the bedroom. Dessert, I feel, people correlate directly with romance and sex per se.
Morgan, you were consistently in the top throughout the competition, do you think it was the concept or the execution that lost it for you?
MW: I’d say execution, one dish in particular — the souffle. I think given the circumstances I did it to the best I could have. If I was going to change one thing it would be to not say no to Heather to redo them after sugaring the molds.
How was it working with your celebrity sous chef?
Danielle: It was so great to work with Elizabeth Faulkner. In regular Top Chef they have a couple of months in between the last challenge and the finale, but here we were doing it the next day. It made me more nervous, thinking about going into the next day with a celebrity chef as my sous. She was so great.
MW: Watching last night’s show, I didn’t get the impression that we were struggling. A case of editing.
ES: Yigit, you weren’t necessarily the victim of Morgan’s taunts, but we’ve seen your It Gets Better video. How did you feel about his treatment toward Zac?
YP: I was standing next to Zac so if you are making a homophobic remark toward him it might as well be made toward me or anyone else. It’s offensive. When you have to belittle a gay man by calling him a little girl or a little fairy, you’re not only insulting gay men but also insulting women. It’s offensive on so many levels. It’s just so sad that people have to think in these terms and the fact that [a person is] flamboyant has nothing to do with their personality or the person they are and it certainly has nothing to do with their talents as a pastry chef. It’s pretty awful.
Morgan and I had several chats about it and he claimed that he wasn’t homophobic and that he was just irritated. They feel that they’re not being offensive and that they’re not being homophobic, that they’re just expressing their frustration. But it’s not a lighthearted matter.
If you’re a grown man and set in your ways, and you make these kinds of remarks, especially on television, where some youth is going to see it, they are much more impressionable…It’s not a joking matter. I think it’s pretty awful.
What does it feel like to be a gay icon?
YP: I think it’s quite lovely. When I came back from this competition when I was talking to friends I realized that it was going to be incredible for my career and this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I knew these things were going to happen.
I’ve been a very active gay man. I used to do work with HRC and worked on the No on Proposition 8 campaign. I feel like I can have a small voice and a much louder picture. I’ve been contacted by HRC to do some work with them in the future. I want to use my voice for more than myself because what I’ve also learned is that this show not only reaches the gay and metro-sexual people but the very conservative crowd. I think moving forward if I can change the concept and mentality of five people and those people change five people I think that’s how change happens.
Morgan, over the course of the competition you have said many derogatory things to your fellow contestants, what do you want to say about that?
MW: I’m neither homophobic nor sexist. I realize I’ve been asked this question at times, and I realize that there has been some television drama in that general direction. To not get along with Zac has absolutely nothing to do with his love for same-sex relationships, it has to do with Zac being Zac. Other than saying no, that’s not really me.
How was it walking into the kitchen and seeing all of the previous contestants and knowing you’d be working with one?
MW: I think I was more concerned with who I didn’t want to work with than who I did want to work with. It’s funny to look back on the show and to have participated in it and then to watch it. Heather and I had very few face-to-face issues, most of them were very passive-aggressive on her part in a private room where she chose to bash me and say horrible things about me. I was quite pleased to get Heather as she’s a very talented pastry chef. When I look back at it now I realize the disaster I was going into blindly.
Danielle, what does it mean for you to be the final woman standing?
DK: It was great. Every time you passed the last elimination challenge it was a huge victory. I kept trying to get past the halfway point. Being the last girl and being in the finale, everything went so fast. It was like oh my god, I can’t believe I’m here. It was a great feeling.
You seemed to improve drastically over the last few episodes—why do you think it took so long to get there?
DK: I feel like I always stay true to what I do. It would have made no sense for me to go on the show and do things I don’t do. That’s not what I do and that’s not even why I was chosen to be on the show. I like what I’m doing. I didn’t know what to change for the judges to like it more (for the Conan dessert I knew what to change). A lot of times they’d be like “This isn’t strong enough.” I was like, “Oh my god these people need, like, flavors to slap them across the face.”
What have you been doing since TC? What’s next for you?
YP: Since I’ve been back I’ve been trying to catch up on my life. I hope to launch my own business in the next year or two. I have a very clear vision in mind and I feel like America is going to see a lot more of Yigit Pura in the years to come.
DK: Life has been good. It was weird, as life felt like it was on hold. Definitely business has gotten better since the show aired and I met great people. I’m just taking the time to see what’s going on with my business.
MW: I’ve been working, it’s been very busy at the hotel. Working, working, working.
With Thanksgiving coming up, what desserts would you usually make?
YP: Obviously a holiday I was not raised with. I usually go to my best friends house. Last year I made this beautiful roasted kabocha squash tart — it’s kind of like a take on a pumpkin pie, an Asian squash that has more of a cinnamon and nutmeg flavor.
DK: I like ice cream [laughs]. The funny thing is growing up my mom never made pie. I get why people like it but I don’t like crust. A sundae bar is what I usually do for my family.
MW: I’m a classic comfort kind of guy. I know it doesn’t seem like it. I really do like classic comfort foods, I like pumpkin pie more than anything. This is Texas so you’ve got to have pecan pie.