Photo: Scott Schafer / Bravo
Slashfood spoke with Danielle about her time spent on Top Chef Just Desserts, her homemade root beer and the one thing everyone is asking about.
Considering the contestants you were surrounded by, how did you not commit any violent crimes in that house?
DK: [laughs]. It was close. Very, very close. When I came back to the house, I had two things: pool and a puzzle. I'd just sit there and do my puzzle and tune everybody out. Then I'd go back to my room -- luckily I'd remembered to bring pictures with me, so I'd look at people out there who loved me. My weakness is that if someone annoys me, I can't tune it out. This was a little much, but luckily we all made it out alive.
Did you get a "no respect" vibe while you were there?
DK: Like I said in the finale, I figured by that point people were like "Oh, I didn't expect Danielle to be here." But I did! That's why it was hard, when the judges didn't like [my desserts]. I always made the first thing I thought of and I stood behind it. One thing that I didn't like, and I felt it was played up so much -- was how the guys would make shiny, glossy happy things with twenty-four different component on it, and I've never made that stuff in my life. Just because I didn't [bake that way], people were like "Why is she here?" What I try to do with my business is make things people want to eat, often.
Johnny mentioned towards the end that you'd stepped up your game in certain elements. As much as it is a competition, is there a learning curve to getting your work to jive with the judges' expectations?
DK: For the cake challenge, I did what I normally would have done. For the finale, I was thinking about whether the judges hadn't seen something. I've worked in restaurants a long time, and I know how to design a cake for a client, but I can't cook something that's not within my palate. There were a lot of times when they were like "It's not strong enough!" At the end of the day, you can't make something you don't like. You can't go up there and say "I didn't like it, but I thought you would." It's about that balance, of what I want to do and what they want to do.
You seem good with dessert drinks and sodas. Had you made root beer before?
DK: I want to have a soda shop some day, so I've tinkered around with it. But I'd never actually made root beer. So I thought this would be the time to make it, on the Top Chef finale. Root beer is pretty complex.
You didn't win the money, but have you seen a spike in business at Bittersweet?
DK: Oh yeah. Business has definitely increased. Now people from other states are ordering stuff, so that's really great to see. That's all I could ask for, going into this.
Do you have any special items rolling out for the holidays?
DK: I always have seasonal stuff, but people keep asking about the baseball truffle. I think that's what's been nice about this show. On regular Top Chef, you see some steak and some vegetables, and you can say, "Hey, that looks tasty," but you can't go order it. But on this show, when you see something you can order it and have it delivered.