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Welcome to another Top Chef recap! I feel like I’ve been away so long- so much has happened since I last checked in with my cheffy friends in the loft. The holiday season is finally over, it’s 2007, the new season of American Idol has started, and I lost week in which I spent a lot of time in Mexico, don’t remember very much, and didn’t have cable, so for once I’m excited about the recap played at the beginning of each episode of Top Chef. Hmmm… Michael went home last week, eh? Frankly I’m shocked he stayed in the game this long, but I’m kind of going to miss the old lug. Did he take Marcel with him? No? Dang. Well, time to move out of the past and into tonight’s episode.
Let’s hear it for my band- Sexual Chocolate!
We start out tonight with some shots of the Chefs in bed and find that Ilan has moved in with Elia because she was “lonely,” and Ilan was trying to be a good “friend.” We also find out that Elia and Ilan wear their sunglasses at night, and to bed, and that Marcel knew from the beginning of the competition that Cliff, Sam, Elia and Ilan were his biggest competition, and here they all are in the Final Five together.
The Chefs take off their sunglasses and make their way to the Kenmore Elite ™ Kitchen, where they are greeted by Host Padma and Guest Judge Eric Ripert, chef and owner of La Bernardin Restaurant in New York. The Chefs are very excited and nervous to cook for such a well respected and incredible chef, even when Host Padma reveals the hidden chocolate tower and tells them they have ninety minutes to make a sensual dish using at least two kinds of chocolate.
Can I cut in here and say that I think I’ve seen that huge stack of giant Nestle Chocolatier™ bars in my dreams, and for a moment the Kenmore Elite ™ Kitchen seems a little like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory? Seriously- it was a huge amount of chocolate! Delicious dark and semisweet chocolate. Mmmm… chocolate.
Sorry. Back to Quickfire Challenge, and the Chefs are not too pleased to be faced with the challenge of cooking with chocolate. We see some very weird combinations, like Ilan’s chicken livers n’ chocolate ganache, and some things that I would actually eat, unlike Ilan’s chicken livers n’ chocolate ganache.
Up first is Elia with her poached chicken with chili chocolate sauce and caramelized onions, and a second dish of crèmeux and ginger chocolate with strawberry and mint on a crumble. Guest Judge Ripert does not like the first dish and feels that the chocolate overpowers the poached chicken. The dessert is another story, and both Guest Judge Ripert and Host Padma really enjoy it.
Sam introduces his dish by telling the Judges that he is diabetic, doesn’t eat chocolate, and hates this challenge. He doesn’t say that last one, but I know he was thinking it. Sam prepared shrimp and banana with chocolate chipotle, black bean and cilantro pesto. The Judges like the dish, calling it surprising. Yes, I also think it would be surprising to find that a dish that has bananas, shrimp and chocolate in it is good.
Cliff’s up next with braised chicken with piquillo pepper, rosemary and chocolate sauce over potatoes. The Judges aren’t super impressed, but don’t seem to hate it either, which brings us to our next chef… Ilan.
I don’t want to talk about Ilan’s liver ganache nightmare again, except to say that the Judges did not care for it, and Marcel just couldn’t believe Ilan served something that appalling to Guest Judge Ripert.
Finally we have Marcel with his potato cannoli with coffee whipped cream and chocolate mousse with vanilla powder. Guest Judge Ripert calls the potato cannoli “interesting.”
Guest Judge Ripert says that it’s very challenging to work with chocolate , but Cliff, Sam and Marcel did pretty well. Elia should have only presented the dessert, because she probably would have won, and Guest Judge Ripert was not impressed with Ilan’s dish. I think that’s an understatement. Sam is named the winner, because of his originality, and although there’s no immunity for him tonight, he’ll get some special treatment for the Elimination Challenge.
A protein is a protein, is a protein.
For tonight’s Elimination Challenge, the Chefs must prepare a romantic five-course dinner for a restaurant filled with couples. The challenge will take place in Santa Barbara, which Host Padma tells us is one of the most romantic destinations in the world. Wow! You learn something new ever day, I guess.
Because of his Quickfire win, Sam gets first choice on the course and protein he’d like to serve. And, no chef can serve the same protein, which kind of makes me wish that Sam would serve some sort of crazy seafood paella with a side of filet, just to see what everyone else would come up with. Sam announces that he’d like the first course and is serving lobster, scallops and beets. Ilan calls second or third course and clams, Cliff wants sirloin and Elia takes the dreaded dessert course. Marcel doesn’t know what he wants to do, which is illustrated by the question mark shape of his hair.
The gang goes shopping, and Marcel comes up with a plan, only to meet Sam in the beet section. Marcel won’t back down- he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t prepare beets for his course and thinks that Sam is being selfish. Honestly, I don’t think either of them should prepare beets because I hate them, but when do Marcel or Sam ever listen to me? Next it’s off to the winery, and I’m holding my breath hoping that we’ll finally be treated to a Stephen Asprinio appearance, but Top Chef Season 2 lets me down once again.
If you give them enough wine, they won’t care what they’re eating.
The Chefs head to Epiphany Restaurant in Santa Barbara, and it is very charming and romantic until they head into the kitchen which is tiny. Super tiny. Judge Tom tells them they have five hours to cook and takes off to manscape for his date with Judge Gail.
There are too many chefs in the tiny kitchen, and Sam vows to put his head down and work through it, and Marcel vows to annoy everyone else, especially Cliff. At 25 minutes until it’s time to serve the first course, Sam asks Marcel if he will be able to help plate. Marcel says no, telling the camera that he’s not really into helping the competition. Ilan and Cliff step up to help, and Sam’s dish of organic beets and seared scallops goes out without a hitch and is very well received by the diners and Judges.
Ilan has the second course, and he is preparing until the very last possible moment, using ten of the burners, leaving only one for Marcel who has the third course. Sam and Cliff help Ilan plate his Fideos with clams and saffron, and his dish is also a hit with everyone.
Karma is a beyotch sometimes, Marcel, and you’re about to get a huge dose of it. No one will help Marcel with his dish, and in fact all stand by and watch as a tray of his salmon falls to the floor and can’t be served. Sam eventually relents and helps Sam out, although he didn’t want to be that kind of guy, (forgiving and helpful, I guess), and the Judges and diners also like Marcel’s dish.
Cliff thinks romance is fatty and sensual, which is kind of an odd statement. He has prepared something with sirloin and plums, Marcel comments that Cliff always plays it too safe, and the Judges agree and call Cliff’s dish “hotel food.” *Gasp!*
Finally it’s time for dessert and Elia is having a chocolate disaster. The chocolate she planned to cut into hearts to place on top of the desserts will not cut and is stuck to the sheet. Sam suggests she break up the chocolate and place it on top of the dessert, and Elia finally decides to do this, but not until after she whines about how screwed she is and threatens to quit the competition. The diners seem to like the dessert, but the Judges hone in on the fact that the chocolate is not heart shaped and decide that Elia did not deliver what she promised.
All in all, it seems the meal went well, and the Chefs decide to take one of the cameras back to the loft to celebrate the last competition before someone is sent packing, and everyone else is sent on to Hawaii. Hey Chefs, you know what’s not a good idea? Five over-excited competitors, a video camera and lots and lots of alcohol.
I really don’t want to see Marcel with a shaved head.
The Chefs make it back to the loft and immediately start drinking. Once the alcohol begins to flow, Elia shares that she’s always wanted to shave her head, and she thinks this is her last chance. Ilan jumps on the bandwagon and says that he’ll shave his head if Elia shaves hers, and Sam thinks they’re both crazy. He thinks they’re even crazier when the clippers come out and Ilan actually shaves his head, and… well, hello Ilan! How you doin? I have to say the shaved head is a good look for Ilan. But then Elia shaves her head too! Oh my gosh- I was not expecting this when I tuned in to my favorite reality cooking competition show tonight!
Although Cliff is not participating in the head shaving, he is participating in the drinking and decides it would be a good idea to wake Marcel up and shave his head. So, he flips on the lights, rouses Marcel and basically attacks him, pinning him down on the carpet while someone, (Ilan maybe) yells for Elia to come in the room and shave his head. Cliff finally lets Marcel go, and Marcel is furious, explaining that Cliff made him eat the carpet, (I won’t make a joke about that statement, I won’t!). Now, I’m not a fan of Marcel, but I know that if I was in his place, I would have been extremely angry as well, and may have also slept on the bathroom floor, so that I could lock the door and protect my hair.
Time for Judge Tom to be a badass contract enforcer.
Bright and early the next morning Judge Tom enters the loft, announces that he needs to speak to Cliff alone and tells the other boys to go to their rooms. He doesn’t mince words, telling Cliff that the previous night’s tussle with Marcel crossed the line and violated the Top Chef contract. Cliff broke the rules when he physically handled Marcel, and he’s out.
While Cliff packs, Judge Tom tells the others what is going on. Elia cries, and Ilan says that he wishes he could do something about it, but he can’t, and Marcel says that Cliff’s reputation could be tarnished because of this, but it was a huge deal. Cliff says good bye and hugs everyone, then sincerely apologizes to Marcel, telling him that things got out of hand, and he wishes nothing but the best for him. He calls his own actions incredibly stupid, and he’s right, but I’m glad he’s being an adult about the whole situation.
I had no idea chefs had to be role models.
Time for another Judges’ Table, and Judge Tom immediately drops the bomb and tattles on the Chefs. Judge Gail is shocked that Cliff has been sent home, and Host Padma remarks that his dish was the weakest anyway. Before they call the Chefs in, Judge Tom warns them they are all in for a surprise.
The Chefs troop in, and the Judges’ mouths drop open in shock at Ilan and Elia, but mostly at Elia I think. Then the lecture begins and I tune out. I did hear some things about the Chefs behaving stupidly and almost throwing everything away, and blah, blah, blah, but I tune back in when Judge Gail tells them they are supposed to be leaders and role models which I find very interesting. If I had kids, I don’t know that I’d want them to emulate Anthony Bourdain, at least in his younger years, but yet he was a Guest Judge earlier this season. I don’t think it’s really out of the realm of possibilities that Anthony Bourdain once got drunk, shaved his head, and then tried to shave someone else’s head. Just sayin.’
Ultimately, Sam and Ilan are put through to the finals in Hawaii, and then… Marcel and Elia are also put through to Hawaii! I did not see that coming!
Tune in next week for part one of the finale, where at least one chef will be sent packing, and I’m sure at least one other will have a meltdown of some sort!