Top Chef

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Morning. Yoga mat. Andrew's feeling that "the room got a lot uglier" since "Ryan pretty boy left" -- taking his good looks (depending upon your opinion) and oral diarrhea home to San Francisco. Antonia's feeling the intensity ratchet up, as all the remaining cheftestants have "all had really great training" and are solid competitors (with the possible exception of Nikki, although Antonia doesn't say that). She knows that "there is no room for error when it comes to execution" and that even the tiniest mistake could be grounds for dismissal. Jen's feeling redundant -- in case you didn't know, she's doing this all for Zoi, and she wants to kick some ass. She'll be doing it for Zoi with "blood, sweat, and tears" -- just use a dental dam, OK?

And they're off. A table piled high with a huge array of sweets awaits them at the Top Chef kitchen -- seriously, this thing is like heaven's dessert buffet, with cakes, tarts, cannoli, petit fours. Apparently Nikki sometimes orders multiple desserts when she goes out to eat -- is that really the most interesting tidbit they could cull to accompany the sweeping views of an altar to sugar? Padma, looking like a sexy schoolmarm in a rose-colored blouse and gray pencil skirt, introduces this week's guest judge -- Johnny Iuzzini, author and James Beard Award-winning pastry chef who's toiled under both Daniel Boulud and Jean Georges Vongerichten (his current employer). He's a little cutie, in a Jersey sort of way, and while I'm not a big baker (although I do like making cookies), I always enjoy his appearances on Martha Stewart.

Mark gets a bit mealy-mouthed, calling him "Johnny I-wah-zinni" and mentioning his status as a "pastry icon" in "the New York ree-elm." Mark knows that Johnny will tell you if your dessert sucks -- an observation as obvious as it is boring. Johnny will also tell you what's important about this week's challenge, so listen up: "Advance preparation and organization in a pastry kitchen is imperative. Every quantity has to be just right or else the end result could be disastrous." Which is why I'm not much of a baker -- I inevitably screw up at least one of the ingredients and all the effort turns out to be worthless.

Padma holds up a copy of the Top Chef Cookbook, a white canvas-jacketed book that "contains a lot of original recipes from the first three seasons." Describing dessert as "the Achilles heel of many a contestant," she throws down the gauntlet with a challenge to "make us a delicious dessert." Don't have a dessert recipe memorized? "Improvise."

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Top Chef

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