Top Chef Just Desserts: Chef Michael Laiskonis Looks Back and Ahead

Would Chef Laiskonis ever participate in Top Chef Just Desserts Masters? We’ll ask him next week!

Le Bernardin‘s Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis will be joining OpenTable to report on the second season of Top Chef Just Desserts. He’s out of town for the premiere, but will be with us next week until the finale. Meanwhile, he shared his thoughts on last season and what’s to come.

“The second season of Top Chef: Just Desserts debuted last ight, and once again I’ll be reporting with an armchair perspective following each week’s episode. Before the action begins, perhaps we can quickly recap last season’s drama, as well as predict what we might see as the current season unfolds!

The inaugural group of pastry chefs ran a gauntlet of tough challenges, from wedding cakes to edible fashion pieces, ‘savory’ desserts to humble bakesale items. A few contestants saw highs and lows, but through it all, the very talented Yigit Pura emerged the victor. In the end, I think the series shed a rare spotlight on the inner workings of the sweet kitchen; I can’t wait to see more of the same this time around!

From what I’ve seen and heard of this season’s roster, the competition should just as fierce. I’m betting the bar will be raised, with a higher degree of difficulty; as was the case last season, I’m betting the challengers won’t have the luxury of working from written recipes. The judges, too, will be heavy hitters, and rank among the industry’s finest.

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On Our Plate This Week: Your First OpenTable Reservation; Houston Restaurant Weeks, Miami Spice + COOLINARY Kick Off; Michael Laiskonis + TCJD Return

Looks like you could use a cupcake! Or, is that just me?

Happenings on and around OpenTable this week…

* We’re wondering what your very first restaurant reservation on OpenTable was. Share your answer on Twitter or Facebook.

* We’re still celebrating the release of our 2011 Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 50 Scenic View Restaurants. Peep the winners here.

* Restaurant Weeks happening this week include Howard County Restaurant Week, Houston Restaurant WeekHudson Restaurant WeekMiami SpiceCOOLinary in NOLA, and SF Chefs Restaurant Week.

* Looking ahead, reservations are now open additional restaurant weeks, including Alexandria Restaurant WeekBaltimore Restaurant WeekRestaurant Week BostonCenter City District Restaurant WeekCosta Mesa Restaurant WeekDallas-Fort Worth KRLD Restaurant WeekD.C. Restaurant WeekDowntown Raleigh Restaurant WeekSan Diego Restaurant Week, and Dine Tampa Bay.

* If you’re going to be in the New Orleans area on August 11th, Fight Crime with a Fork.

* We’re looking forward to another season of Top Chef: Just Desserts and are thrilled that Le Bernardin Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis will be watching with us once again. If you have any questions for Michael about what transpired on last season or what we should look forward to this season, share them in the comments below or on Twitter.

* Finally, do you know what’s not on my plate this week (or last)? Carbs. I gave them up. It’s actually going miserably great. I’m starving not hungry at all. P.S.: Can someone please send me a cupcake?

Chefs + Restaurateurs Share Sexy Recipes for Romance on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, OpenTable diners. In honor of Cupid and his bow, we polled chefs and restaurateurs about their picks for the most sensual dishes they would serve to put diners in the mood on this most romantic day. Check out our exclusive video with advice from Manhattan’s Zac Young (Flex Mussels), Derek Koch (MPD), Manuel Trevino (Lavo), Maximo Lopez (Wall & Water), and Johnny Santiago and Jim Chu (Jo’s).

Other chefs around the U.S. also weighed in…

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Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 9: Michael Laiskonis on Cold Spray, Payard + More

Zac quickly learns that flirting with French chef Francois Payard won't help his chances.

It’s down to the wire on Top Chef Just Desserts and Le Bernardin Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis was along for the nail-biter of a ride we took last night. His expert answers helped shed light on Francois Payard’s impeccable reputation, Yigit’s spray can, and what it really takes to make a chocolate truffle.

Thanks for being here again! I’ll be honest; I think I missed the advent of Chef Payard. I’ve heard the name, but I’ve never dined at his restaurants, and they’re now closed. Can you put his reputation into perspective for those of us who don’t know at all who he is?

Let me tell you… I’d have to say, that as a very young cook, Francois was certainly my first pastry idol. What many don’t realize is that way back then, in the early 90s, he was the pastry chef at Le Bernardin, his first big job in the US. We know Francois today for his beautiful retail shops, but he was doing some very creative things with plated restaurant desserts when that form was in its infancy. Of all the chefs with whom I’ve rubbed shoulders over the years, I’m most proud of the fact that he’s become a good friend. And, for those who mourned the closing of his Upper East Side boutique, there’s good news: Francois Payard Bakery opened just six weeks ago on Manhattan’s Houston Street!

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