If you get the chance, see the documentary Kings of Pastry. If only to remind yourself that not all pastry chefs are whiny, self-indulgent crazy babies like the ones on Top Chef: Just Desserts.
In fairness, only a few of the TC:JD team are truly unhinged — but, naturally, they're the ones we see the most of. There's Seth, the whiny, pouty, dramatic, solipsistic dervish who's wept, ranted, uttered the words "the red hots are for my mommy" and appears to maybe go to the hospital next week. And Morgan, who says he bonded with Seth because they're "both heterosexual males" and has asserted said heterosexuality in every episode. Oh, and hoards butter for revenge. There's Zac, he of the "disco dust" and relentless doubles-entendres. The show has been dramatic, no doubt, but it's not doing the industry's image any favors.
Contrast this sideshow, then, with the contestants in Kings of Pastry, which chronicles three chefs' attempt at earning the coveted title of Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. The competition is held every four years and to call it grueling does not begin to describe the blood, sweat and tears involved. The 16 competitors — all men, France's kitchens are still largely a boys' club — have to master not just pastry but confectionery, chocolate craft, sugar-pulling.
The preview makes it seem kind of light-hearted, which I can assure you it is not. No horror film, no thriller, no heist has made me more tense — the transportation of the sugar pieces alone will age you ten years. And when they cry, the audience is in tears too. You just want Seth to watch it to see how real pros handle pressure.
At the beginning of Top Chef: Just Desserts, some of the contestants talked about the fact that, in America, pastry chefs don't get the respect of their savory counterparts. It's too bad that a few peoples' antics won't do anything to mend this. There are professional and gifted craftspeople on the show, but I doubt that's what anyone will remember when Seth is alternately sprinting around the kitchen and cursing at his competitors. Heather, Erika, Eric and many of the others seem competent and professional. But that's a lot less exciting than histrionics. And so, to defend the reputation of pastry chefs worlwide, I propose Kings of Pastry and their "buffets" — one sugar centerpiece of which is enough to make you forget a reality TV meltdown.