When we arrived for the taping of Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts at The Edison downtown, we had no idea just how stressful the evening would become. The top rated reality show arrived with a massive crew to tape the final episode of the season – the very episode that would crown the First Top Chef for the series. On hand were pastry giants Hubert Keller, Jonny Iuzzini, Claudia Fleming, Elizabeth Falkner, and Sherry Yard. And, of course, the three final contestants.
I soon discovered that the show’s casting had forgotten one group for the taping – the servers. So, I jumped in head first. After all, I’d spent much of my life working the front of the house in restaurants all over the country. How difficult could it be? How difficult, indeed.
Turns out, the three master chefs – Yard, Falkner, and Fleming – created a little pastry genius in the kitchens of The Edison. They were served blindly to the final three contestants, with the trio then serving as the finalists’ sous chefs for their last challenge. The Edison’s kitchens, however, are not only VERY FAR from the area of the bar that hosted the taping, but also up a ramp, through a garage, and down a very steep, two story flight of stairs. As we watched the trio prepare their dishes, I nervously asked the producer if “they will be making extras?” To which she repied “Nope. Just the four, why?” Looking around at the three servers, it occurred to me that I hadn’t carried a tray in years, and the other two “servers” were played by an Edison security guard and a bar back. And we were all nervous wrecks! “Please just be really, really careful,” the producer added. Thanks, THAT HELPS!
On the first take, we were to walk down two flights of stairs carrying the dessert trays. After begging and pleading, they changed the shoot, so that we would not be on camera until we hit the bottom of the stairwell, allowing us to look down and hold on. Now, the nerves were uncontrollable!
We managed to make it up the ramp, through the garage, and safely down to the bottom of the staircase in one piece, where we then waited. And waited. And waited. In fact, we stood holding the dessert trays for over twenty minutes, while Iuzzini and the finalists laughed through an eternity of conversation. We were sweating, arms shaking, moving the trays from hand to hand.
The desserts were served as instructed and in unison. Only after we passed, did I hear Iuzzini say “Annnnnnnd, no one thought that we might need silverware to eat these?” They all chuckled. We headed for the bar.
After the taping, we discovered that the “release” that we signed was actually a confidentiality agreement. Apparently, Bravo goes to great lengths to protect the names of the finalists and the winners until the episode airs, including some pretty intimidating legal action if you slip up. Just to ensure that we didn’t make any premature announcements, we left the set before the winner was announced. When a million or so dollars is involved, it pays to play it safe!
The final episode aired last night. Incredibly, we completely forgot to watch, distracted by a brilliant underground dining experience in downtown LA. As I replayed the TiVo this morning, I was releived to see how beautiful The Edison looked on air, as well as the massive national press coverage that the show brought to the space. I also laughed out loud – and I do mean LOUD – when I saw that all three of the servers had been edited out of the final cut. After all we’d been through, it couldn’t have been funnier!
Yigit Purum was crowned winner of the first season of Top Chef Just Desserts, with LA’s Danielle Keene making an impressive run to the final three. It was not only a pleasure to meet these rising culinary talents, but to share some laughs remembering the final episode of a show that will likely play a very large role in their future success. To these talented chefs, we say CONGRATULATIONS! To the cutting room editors of Top Chef, we mercifully say THANK YOU!