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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Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 3: Half-Baked Sale

Chef Michael Laiskonis admits he was nervous about baking a cake for the great Sylvia Weinstock.

The situation on TCJD gets stickier and stickier every week, due to the increasing pressure and clashing personalities of the pastry pros. Thankfully, renowned pastry chef Michael Laiskonis is back to help us navigate what went right and wrong with everything from this week’s wedding cakes to one cheftestant’s dry cupcakes.

My first question tonight is not entirely related to TCJD, BUT I just saw Kings of Pastry and — WOW! Seeing this competition certainly puts TCJD into perspective (insofar as it has NOTHING on the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France). Did you see the film?

I did, of course, get a chance to see the inspiring Kings of Pastry documentary and I’d like to think its theme of intensity, discipline, and quest for perfection is something that will resonate beyond an audience of just pastry chefs. Being awarded the MOF (literally translated, “Best Craftsman of France”) represents the sum total of a candidate’s life work and training, so it is serious business. The judging is ridiculously technical, but it’s a jury of peers — a panel of previous winners — so there is a deep sense of community and support there as well. Sadly, it’s the very spirit of camaraderie that unravels by the end of this week’s episode of TCJD. Whatever the venue, the best competitions manage to reveal the true test — how each individual overcomes his or her own self-imposed obstacles.

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