Top Chef: Just Desserts' Chris: It Was Important for Me to Do Everything Myself
Top Chef Just Desserts: Chris
Chris Hanmer can sum up his Top Chef: Just Desserts win in one word: unbelievable. "It feels unbelievable to just not have to bite your tongue and hold it in any longer," he tells TVGuide.com. "I can finally talk about it! It's just unbelievable." Hanmer, who owns The School of Pastry Design, triumphed over Matthew Petersen and Sally Camacho, the latter of whom relied on sous chef Orlando to make her showpiece — a point Hanmer drove home at Judge's Table. Does he think that put him over the edge? Find out. Plus: See how his daughter is doing.
Top Chef: Just Desserts' Matthew: I felt like the odd man out
Congratulations! Did you think you were going to win or was it too close to tell?
Chris: It was so close. Matt, Sally and I had gotten so close. We'd been duking it out for the past couple of challenges and so walking out, we really thought it was anybody's game. I thought everybody did their best and put their best foot forward, so I think we were all really, really proud of what we put out.
The editing made it seem like it was between you and Sally.
Chris: I think it was closer between all three of us. After watching the show, you get a better perspective of what everybody else did, but at the time, you're head down, working so quickly that you don't really know what everybody else is doing. I just knew the talent level of everybody else. They give you such negative and positive that we walk out going, "OK, how's it going to go?"
What do you think was it about your showpiece and desserts that put you over the top?
Chris: I really set out to do a whole concept and design and kind of outthink everybody else. The overall vision was that I wanted the judges to see that I thought about the whole picture, so from the moment you looked at my showpiece to the moment you looked at my plated dessert, there was a constant them of look and design that I incorporated into everything. Ultimately that and the flavor were what I think set me apart.
Did you think that fallen brioche off the showpiece would hurt you?
Chris: [Laughs] I think there was so much technical strength in the showpiece and like I said on the show, I had never tried gluing bread to a showpiece before. I don't think it took away anything from the aesthetic, but yeah, it made my heart jump a little bit because you never know what's going to be the deciding factor for the judges.
Top Chef: Just Desserts' Orlando: I'm sorry if I came off as the villain
Did you not notice it until Johnny pointed it out?
Chris: It kind of happened when they were coming up, so it would've been awkward and made it even more obvious to kind of reach out and go, "Oh, yeah, there's nothing to see here." It happened and they saw it, so to try and hide it, what's the point? They all knew. My best explanation was that I had never tried it before and I was trying to push the limit, but it doesn't take away from the aesthetic. ... Chocolate will release from a smooth surface and the bottom of the brioche was just a little bit smooth and as chocolate cools, it just reacts a little differently. It had to sit there for quite a long time. Just the service alone was over an hour and there was setup time before that.
You kept saying you made your showpiece, whereas Sally relied on Orlando. Do you think you reminding the judges that helped you win?
Chris: I think that making it myself was something that I set out to do. Amanda and Rebecca helped me out tremendously, but I have competed before at different levels and it was important for me to do everything myself. When Gail said the challenge was to have you push all of your skills, for me, I needed to have my hands in everything. Regardless of who ended up helping me — one was a random draw and one you got to select — it was my goal to make as much as I could by myself and delegate them with things that would help me save time. But yeah, I think that was a factor in the judges' decision, absolutely.
Some fans think you were throwing her under bus by repeating it so much. Was that intended or were you just pointing out the facts?
Chris: I don't think pointing out something is throwing somebody under the bus. She was completely within her right and ability to use him, and Matthew and I both used our sous chefs to the best of their abilities as well. I can only really state the obvious of what happened. The judges aren't in the kitchen the whole time. When it's coming down to such minor things, it wasn't so much about Sally, it was more about, "Hey, this is what I did." I really can't speak for all the components that Sally did except for, "I made my own showpiece. I made my own bonbon. I did all my work." So that was really the point.
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If you had gotten Orlando, would you have used him so much?
Chris: I don't think so. What Orlando would've helped me with was just speed up my own showpiece, if that makes sense. I still would've done everything, but I would've felt more comfortable doing a little bit more elaborate showpiece that was still all of my components, if that make sense. He's more skilled at tempering chocolate and all that, so he could've saved me all that time in tempering and I could've cut out all the shapes.
Were you pressed for time like Sally and Matt were at the end?
Chris: No. We were running the whole time. I think the only thing more time would've allowed was me putting more things on the plate. It really wasn't that big of an issue to me. Everything went out the way I wanted it to. Time was short, but I wasn't against the clock that badly.
What are you going to do with the money?
Chris: [Laughs] I started my business less than two years ago, so this will bring some stability. You never know what's going to happen. Having money in the bank is really going to provide for my family in the future. Also, having a daughter with a congenital heart defect that has just been repaired, we have a lot of expenses associated with that, so we're going to use the money to take care of that as well.
How's your daughter doing?
Chris: She's doing fine. She had open-heart surgery three months ago at 3 months old. The surgery was a tremendous success. The surgeon and her cardiologist say that she won't need to have another surgery, which is a tremendous blessing for parents with children with congenital heart defects.
What's next for you?
Chris: Well, it's twofold. One is to continue to build my business and the second one is I really want to be involved in bringing more awareness to congenital heart defect. It's very difficult to be a parent and a first-time parent and to have this happen because your world gets rocked pretty hard. I really want to bring awareness to parents that through this opportunity, we can really come together and help each other out. I've had some tremendous outpouring of support from parents whose children have had three or four surgeries before they're 3 years old. I really want to use this bring some hope and some light.