Top Chef – Finale pt. 2

Finally, the train wreck that is Top Chef season 2 is over. I didn’t really care for either of the two finalists, but Ilan is just a turd and I didn’t want him to win.

The show opened with Marcel and Ilan hanging out on the beach in Hawaii together, kind of getting along. It was kind of nice! Then Ilan asserted his heterosexuality by saying that he wishes he could be walking along the beach with a beautiful woman instead. Insert an eyeroll here. Marcel stabbed his finger on a sea urchin and was advised to urinate on his hand to lessen the infection and Ilan says, “Marcel, would you mind if I peed on your hand?” Marcel declines, does the duty, and then Ilan says, “In the end I didn’t pee on Marcel, but I would have loved to pee on Marcel.” Didn’t know he was into water sports. The first thing Marcel says after he gets poked is “I hope my finger doesn’t fall off” and they edit in a shot of Ilan doing his best indifferent or even that-would-be-fine-with-me look on his face with a little head tilt and shrug. Dick. At this point, in watching the show, I almost turned it off.

Finally, they get to the final challenge: cook the best meal of their lives for the judges. Imagine that: Ilan draws the “number one” knife. They bring out the last six chefs to have been eliminated, sans Cliff who was disqualified. God, I never wanted to see Betty’s smarmy face on my tv again. Mike, the slacker; Mia, who threw herself in front of the knife to save Elia (who is dead to me); Ugly Betty; Frank; Elia; and Sam, who should have won Top Chef. They each get to choose which of the two finalists they’d like to cook for. It’s fairly even, so I can only assume that the sous chefs were coached that they couldn’t all choose Ilan, since everyone clearly hates Marcel. When they are told they will choose, Ugly Betty covers her mouth and does this little snicker, as if no one would choose Ilan. Bitch.

The finalists choose two of the sous chefs to cook for them. Choosing Ilan are Stoner Mike, Ugly Betty, and Elia. Choosing Marcel are Mia, Frank, and Sam. Mike was pretty straightfoward and just chose Ilan. Betty adores Ilan, and hates Marcel, so she chooses Ilan. Mia decides to “mix things up a little” and chooses Marcel. An adult! Yay! Frank chooses Marcel so he can “learn him how to talk to people not at people.” How about learning how to talk first? It’s “teach”, you moron. Insert shot of Betty smiling at anyone who is picking on Marcel. Sam, to make it fun, chooses Marcel. He says he can help and maybe he’ll learn something from Marcel with the chemical thing because he knows that Ilan will go to Spanish cuisine. Because that’s what Ilan always does. Unexpected and mature, Sam! Marcel is cooking second, so he gets to choose first and he chooses Sam. Ilan chooses Elia. Sam tells Marcel to pick Mike. Betty lets loose a hate filled giggle at Mike’s proposed fate. DON’T DO IT, MARCEL!! Ugh. He chooses Mike. Should have picked Mia. She wanted to work for you! Ilan has last pick and Betty gives an exaggerated wink to Ilan and he chooses her and she kisses his butt with that fake smile glued on her face. Mia and Frank get to hang out at the pool while the rest of them work. Not too bad of a gig, if you ask me.

The teams go to a farmer’s market to shop for fresh ingredients with an unlimited budget! Four hours to prep in the main kitchen today, transport the ingredients to their respective restaurants where they are serving the food tomorrow, and one hour to cook tomorrow.

Ilan brought a jar of baby eels (from Spain, natch) with him for the trip and wants to use those. Betty nudges Ilan a little and asks if he is doing all Spanish again or if he’s going to add any elements of the island and Ilan responds, “The ingredients are from the Island, I think that’s as far as we need to go.” Uh, that’s because Ilan can’t make a successful dish that doesn’t contain saffron. Ilan’s menu: “Surprise” angulas appetizer (the surprise is the jarred baby eels), Pan seared moi with gazpacho, squab & shrimp with foie gras, and short rib. For dessert, he is sure that he wants to use fried bay leaves. Why? Because he knows how to make them. They serve them already at the restaurant where he worked. Lame. They build a dessert around the bay leaves: tangelo soup and cherry sorbet.

Marcel doesn’t have a pre-conceived notion of what to make, so he chooses his food based on the food that is available. Mike grunts a bunch while Marcel lists off his ideas.

Time for the four hours of prep. The teams are both getting along, Mike offers some praise for Marcel’s leadership in the kitchen. Maybe they’ve all decided to be mature! Marcel’s attempting a new technique to make a pretty tear drop of vinaigrette for a salad. Chef Tom comes in to monitor the kitchen and see how things are going. He questions whether or not the tear drops will hold up in the humidity. Marcel decides to bank on positive thinking. Marcel’s Menu: Uni (sea urchin) in meyer lemon gelee, salad with yuzu vinaigrette, kampachi with hearts of palm, and seared beef. For dessert, blini with kona coffee caviar. Marcel is checking over the pull cart with the dry items. He says the boys worked on packing the refrigerated items.

Ilan cooks first. Why do they make them room together? Ilan voices over that he can’t wait to beat the [bleep] out of Marcel. I’m sure he means cooking-wise. Ilan walks out the door and says he’ll see Marcel later. Marcel turns, looks and nods his head rather than wishing him luck. Mildly snarky. What the hell is Ilan wearing!? He’s doing his pantry interview wearing a huge blingy chain and these gigantic red suspender-looking things. Wha? Those suspenders look about three inches wide and fire engine red… Good teamwork on the chick team. Betty accidentally calls Ilan Marcel in the kitchen and it’s a big joke… because we’re in high school. Baby eels? Look gross to me. Ilan calls them beautiful, but they look pretty gray and icky to me. Then again, I’m not a foodie. I’ll eat Goldfish and have grape flavored water for dinner.

The chefs are not all that impressed with the first course. Second course is enjoyed. All around. Great compliments. Third course, Betty’s throwing the shrimp around and the heads start falling off when she plates them. She freaks out but the others help. Unnecessary drama, since the judges don’t even mention it. All is well with the third course and everyone loves the surf and turf. What the heck is “squab”? Oh. Ew. It’s pigeon veal. God, how do people come up with this stuff!? Next course, ribs with spanish twist. Yawn. They look overdone and dry to me… wait, maybe that was Betty. There’s a pile of some red sauce on top (romesco sauce) but it just doesn’t look tasty to me. Despite my opinion, the judges think it’s okay. Some like it more than others. Sorbet time. The judges love the colors and taste. It’s a good palate cleanser and perfect end to the meaty, rich meal. Ilan feels good about the meal, Ilan says he feels like even if he didn’t win he feels like he’s won. Judges say complimentary things to Ilan. Ilan then decides that, even though he feels good about his meal, he needs to knock Marcel. Dude, let the food speak for itself if you’re so good! “Blah, blah, I love food more and have greater passion.” What an egocentric person.

Marcel cooks. They get five minutes to pack things up and pull the cart over to the restaurant. Marcel is shown in the walk-in getting some stuff that hadn’t been packed. Oops! Marcel sees some other stuff that hadn’t been packed. Then they show Mike looking shifty while watching the whole thing. Insert eye roll. Sam, in his pantry interview, says “In my opinion, a line cook is only as good as his chef. There was no leadership” Hm. Mike had said that Marcel was displaying good leadership qualities in his interview two commercial breaks ago… Anyway, cut to shot of the dark walk-in containing two trays of the kampachi fish that didn’t make it onto the cart. 20 minutes to service. Marcel is looking for orchids. He asks Mike if he pulled them. Mike, head down, unconcerned, “Nope.” Sam, tells him it’s alright, he doesn’t need them. Marcel notices that the amount of milk that Mike brought was wrong. Mike thought “quarts” sounded like “cups”. Marcel is running nervously around the kitchen. Service begins. Marcel is a dork and apparently lacks social skills, but I love the way that he plates food. It’s pretty. First course is well liked by the judges. Marcel has problems with the humidity and can’t get that vinaigrette tear drop to work. So he has to put out a salad. Pretty, but salads just won’t win it for you. Just ask Carlos. He shouldn’t have done a dish just to display a “wow” factor. Go for taste, dude. And make sure you cook! Chef Tom likes his food to have hit some heat at some point. Third course. Marcel realizes that the fish didn’t make the trip to the kitchen with them. Mike, around his mouthful of chew, says in his pantry interview, “Man, I’m not playing for 100 grand. You are. You tell me where the fish is.” ‘Kay. Should have chosen someone who wanted to cook for you, Marcel. Shot of cold, dark, lonely kampachi with the title “Hilton Main Kitchen” in case you missed that it was left behind. Made me giggle a little. Sam settles Marcel down a little and tosses out an idea. Marcel and Sam discuss how they can make a dish without the fish. Sam calls that day in the kitchen a disaster and he’s right. I think Sam did do his best to help Marcel win. They use all the ingredients of the fish dish minus the fish and serve that. They serve this to the judges and Marcel spills the beans that he had to adapt this since the fish was left behind. The judges wonder why he even mentioned it because they love the flavors. “It’s dancing on my tongue.” “A totally different level” But really, two vegetarian dishes in a row? If he hadn’t mentioned it, I’m sure that someone would have dinged him for that. Next course, the meat looked a little tough when someone was cutting through it. But they like it. Looked pretty. Dessert is cute. Chocolate mousse in a pastry cup type thing with little coffee caviar on top. Look like Dayquil gel caps to me, but cute! Dinner is complete and it’s not clear yet who’s won. Unless you read the article that Food & Wine magazine accidentally posted on their website on Monday. Oops, they revealed the winner by posting the feature.

Finally, the judging. Tom notes that Ilan was a little safe and Marcel tried new dishes and put himself out there a little more. Gail agrees. Everyone agrees that the first course, head to head, would go to Marcel. Second course goes to Ilan. Salad? Tsk, Marcel. Ilan’s was very good anyway. Third course is a toss up. Both were great. Fourth course. Sounds like Marcel’s was liked a bit more. Dessert. Everyone loves Ilan’s. Everyone loves Marcels. Sounds like a tie.

They bring out the sous chefs to get their opinions. Betty explains that Ilan was great to work with and for. He knew what he was doing. Well of course he did! I knew what he was doing. Spanish!!! Tom asks Elia if she liked the food. She nods and says, “Yeah. It was spanish. Authentic. Food. Good.” Was that a sentence? Faint praise, if you ask me. She mentions that he played it “wise” by using things that he knows. When asked if she thinks Ilan deserves to win, she says she thinks he “deserves to win over Marcel. Totally.” She’s still bitter about having been eliminated last night. Elia mentions that if you just compare the food, Ilan deserves to win. The judges call her on rooting for Ilan by mentioning that she doesn’t know how it compares to Marcel’s food. She changes the story and says Marcel doesn’t know how to run a keetchen and then asks if Marcel’s food was good. Gail replies that some of it was amazing. Elia gets a crappy look on her face. Mike tries not to laugh. Mike explains that the first four hours of prep went well but the next day was lacking direction and leadership. Betty giggles. Chef Hubert asks Sam what his involvement was with the cooking and Sam says, when they realized the fish was missing he “put that dish together for him on the fly.” He says the sea bean was his idea when asked by Chef Hubert and the chef tells him it was a great touch. The sous chefs leave with smiles on their faces.

The final two come out. Ilan has a smug grin on his face. Ilan says he came up with his menu on the spot. Padma calls bullshit. “Really.” “Well, I brought a few things from home, but it was really developed and inspired by what we saw at the market.” And his former employer. Tom asks him if they should award him the title if he’s so focused on one cuisine. Ilan says that throughout the competition he’s stepped outside of that. But when he has, he’s usually done poorly. The only times he has done well was when the dishes were saturated in saffron. Tom asks him what’s the major difference between him and Marcel. Ilan prefaces by turning to Marcel and saying, “Don’t take any offence, and you will, but…” Okay, when you preface a statement with that what do you expect? Jesus. Why did I watch this show? Ilan’s answer, “I feel that I have a greater passion, I’m a bit more forgiving and I think I’m a bit more gentle with the people I work with… and I respect people.” Unless it’s Marcel and then you egg people on to haze them while you record with a video camera. Marcel feels the major difference between them is that, while he’s attempted some of the techniques displayed in the dinner before, there was no dish, as a whole, that he’s ever created before and the majority of the menu was of his own inspiration. Tom asks which part wasn’t and Marcel explains that Sam and he decided to redo the fish dish once he realized that they didn’t have the fish. Marcel says he put too much faith in his coworkers and that’s the reason that the fish was left behind. If I remember correctly, he was in the walk-in double checking, so take a little responsibility, brah. Marcel thinks that Sam displayed somewhat of a lack of motivation. I disagree and would have said that about Mike, based on what I saw. But Marcel explains that Sam went to bat for him after having lost the night before even though they’d had their disagreements in the past.

Judges deliberate. Tough decision. They think one is more ready and the other needs a little more time in the bottle. Thank the gods, this is almost over. Padma tries not to cry while explaining, again, the winner’s spoils. The winner is revealed to be Ilan, who the judges believe to be the best chef right now. Marcel shakes his hand. The judges come over to hug Ilan. Ilan’s voice goes up about an octave because he’s so excited. It sounds kind of gay. Marcel is bitter in his pantry interview. “I thought it was gonna take a lot more than [bleep]ing saffron and paprika to beat me but apparently not. It’s extremely disappointing.” Marcel thinks the food he cooks is more complex and takes a little more skill. Everyone hugs Ilan.

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3 Responses to “Top Chef – Finale pt. 2”


  1. 1 Shel February 3, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Wow, thanks for this review. It reads like a transcript for your own version of a top chef podcast!

  2. 2 leatherfootthong February 3, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Wow, that’s… really long. Yeah, kind of a recap thing and who knows why I invested that much time and energy into it? I plan on posting about the L word soonish… maybe. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  3. 3 Shel February 4, 2007 at 8:33 am

    Ya, well, I’m glad you did it because I had fallen asleep during this finale episode so thanks! Eagerly awaiting your L Word 404 review. I love that you see a preview of the webpage when you point to the links! Sweet!


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