On last week’s episode of Top Chef Just Desserts, Malika Ameen gracefully bowed out of the competition, leaving viewers’ mouths agape and leaving some of her fellow cheftestants counting their lucky stars. She shared some thoughts on her decision to leave and the experience as a whole.
Malika, many viewers, such as I, are sad you left. Can you talk a bit more about your choice to exit?
My choice to exit was a decision that took some time as I worked through challenges — and one that I really felt very good about once I knew that it was the right decision for me. It was difficult to actually do it at the judges’ table, but that was the exact moment where I felt it was the right timing with the circumstances around the challenge. It was never preconceived, so I must admit I was really nervous, but I just said what I truly felt and believed strongly in.
The competition ate away immediately at a lot of people, in a way we’ve not even seen on the savory Top Chef competition. Why do you think so many people wigged out or wanted to walk out? What aren’t we seeing?
I don’t feel that people wanted to walk out in the competition as much as the media has stressed it. Pastry chefs are wired very differently from savory chefs. We are used to very controlled environments, working with our recipes, and managing our time by working our desserts in stages. I think we also tend to be more emotional by nature, but that doesn’t mean we are not tough! I think we are just more comfortable with expressing ourselves on an emotional level because our egos are not as big as savory chefs!!!
Who do you think may have been sweating it out before you opted out?
Heather C. because she had been eliminated, and her dessert did not turn out as she had planned.
There are a lot of big personalities on the show, while there are also some folks, like you, who seem a bit more grounded and self possessed. What was it like to cook alongside some of the more dramatic folks? I mean, Seth was completely freaking me out!
I think cooking around the drama kept things interesting! I never got too involved in it. Seth’s issues really didn’t get to me as much as some of the other chefs. I would see him do certain things but then tune him and everyone else out of my mind when a challenge began. There really isn’t time to think about anyone else while you are cooking. You have to focus your mind on only what you are doing and need to get done to do your best. I felt very badly for Seth — that his emotional issues became so heightened during the competition. I think he is talented, and his dessert style brought a very different element to the competition. Wherever he is, I wish him well.
What are the challenges of working within a team on these QFCs and ECs? Don’t you usually work in teams when you’re in a kitchen?
Team challenges are difficult in a competition. Working in teams in our designated jobs is very different because we are the bosses! The pastry chefs on the show are all brilliant and the best at what they do. In saying that, we all have very different styles and palates, so there is a lot of head butting to decide on an actual menu and desserts that everyone is pleased with.
Were Johnny’s sideburns ever distracting?
Sideburns? What sideburns??? ☺
Who were some of your favorite folks to work alongside?
I loved working with Zac and Eric the most. Zac and I naturally work well together without a lot of communication. Eric just has a wonderful energy and calmness that I like to be around.
What were your most and least favorite challenges?
My most favorite was the bake sale challenge. It was fun being in a school environment and being around children — being able to shout and cheer and letting out all our tension!!! And really, who doesn’t like bake sale treats? My least favorite? Well, let’s think back….aaaah. the wedding cake quickfire?
Malika also makes a mean sticky toffee.
What would you like viewers to take away when they think of you and your work?
I hope the viewers remember me for being a talented pastry chef who stayed true to herself and made a decision that I knew was best for me — despite that it may have been frowned upon by others. That I left the show with dignity and set myself moving in a positive and happy direction which I felt great about.
What’s next for you?
I launched my own online business, which sells “couture” gourmet cookies and takes special requests for custom dessert orders and cakes. The website also has a recipe of the month for “chef driven” family-friendly meals with a twist of incorporating spice.