Johnny Iuzzini kept criticizing Sally Camacho for having sous chef Orlando make her showpiece, but she doesn't think that cost her the Top Chef: Just Desserts win. "I fell short on my plated dessert and if I had executed what I had planned, I would have won," Camacho tells TVGuide.com. The pastry chef couldn't finish off her spheres as she planned in the end. How did she run of time? Find out. Plus: See what else she had to adjust on the fly.
Top Chef: Just Desserts' Chris: It was important for me to do everything myself
What were you thinking when Gail announced Chris as the winner?
Sally Camacho: I was overjoyed with relief that it was finally over. I was saddened also because, of course, I wanted to win. But I was still happy for Chris. He is definitely very talented, as is Matthew.
It seemed like they were torn between you and Chris. Was that the case?
Sally: During Judges' Table, I felt that. We have similar experiences in competition. We have both competed in the National Pastry Team Championship, which has very similar criteria to the finale's [challenge]. I have only competed nationally, but Chris competed in Worlds and won.
Do you think it was the fact that you didn't make your showpiece that cost you the win?
Sally: I do not feel that that was the case. I feel that I fell short on my plated dessert and if I had executed what I had planned, I would have won. I was very confident in my flavors and composition of all my items. In any true pastry competition, flavor is the majority of the points scale and whoever scores highest on flavor wins, so I focused all my energy on that because that is what I stand for and am highly regarded for. I wish I could see the judging points scale if there was one.
Were you surprised at how much Johnny harped on the showpiece? And when you assigned Orlando to do it, did you think it would be such an issue?
Sally: I was surprised that Johnny did harp on that so much. I knew having Orlando make the piece might be an issue, but I felt that was the best strategy for me — using my sous chefs at their best. In competition, that is what you do to win. In any given sport, you place your people at what they do best to win, even if that means stepping back.
Top Chef: Just Desserts' Matthew: I felt like the odd man out
Do you regret having him make the whole showpiece?
Sally: No, I do not. I did work on the piece; they just don't show that. Things happened in the kitchen that made me sacrifice my time on certain things. I did need my sous chefs to step up for me so I could rectify the situation. Like I said, I put all my energy on the food.
What happened with your plated dessert that you were so pressed for time?
Sally: I am known for plated desserts and I was definitely ambitious. I had planned to seal my spheres and glaze them. Everything was ready and all my tools were set in their place, but what I didn't have was time. The kitchen is also huge, so a third of your time is used running back and forth.
Do you think you should've been given more time for it?
Sally: Twenty minutes to make the plated dessert of your life and to win $100,000 — I felt was not enough. I wish we had 30 minutes. I knew that once I started building my dessert and seven minutes were gone, I had to think, "What can I edit without affecting the end flavor?" So I cut the aesthetics, but the flavor was still great.
What happened with your entremets? How much time did you lose fixing it?
Sally: Oh my! I had just grabbed one of the fleximold inserts for my entremets and didn't think to measure it. I just started to build it. Once I went to build the final montage of my entremet, my insert was too small. This, I know in competition and judging criteria, would be unacceptable. I quickly made the decision to remake my entire entremet, [so] I lost so much time the first day. Also, I looked to my sous chefs for support, so Orlando did have to take the reins on the showpiece so I can make the right food. Also, my bonbon was going to be two layers — caramel on top and salted milk chocolate on the bottom — but with the time being against me, I made the bonbon one layer, with all the combined flavors. That was a sacrifice also.
Top Chef: Just Desserts' Orlando: I'm sorry if I came off as the villain
The cast seemed really close this season. Who do you still keep in touch with?
Sally: Orlando, for sure. We text every day and talk often during the week. We were close from Day One. All the Fantastic Five, of course: [us], Carlos, Chris and Matthew. Also, Craig, Amanda, Vanarin and Nelson.
What's next for you? Are you still at WP24?
Sally: Next is focusing on my competition in Madrid this coming January. I won the Valrhona C3 National competition and will be representing the Americas in the world competition in 2012. I am still with the Wolfgang Puck Co. and am currently opening the Hotel Bel Air. The future is very open and who knows what it will bring. Funny, I hear talks of having my own show. Who knows? ... I am still focused on competing.