Itís the show weíve all been waiting for- Top Chef Finale night! In case we donít know from the weeks and weeks weíve been watching this show, Host Padma goes over the prize for the one named Top Chef, and then we see Marcel and Ilan putzing around on the beach before the final showdown. WaitÖ Marcel and Ilan? Marcel and Ilan are the final 2? How did that happen? Was Sam somehow disqualified last week? Iím joking because of course I watched last weekís show and saw Sam banished to knife-packing-ville, but thereís still a little part of me that doesnít believe weíre going to be watching a Marcel/ Ilan battle tonight.
Back on the beach, Marcel and Ilan spend some quiet time together bonding and eating raw sea urchin. Is sea urchin traditionally served raw? It seems kind of gross, but these two are the culinary experts, so I should trust them I guess. Somehow, Marcel manages to stab his finger with a sea urchin barb, and knows the best way to relieve the burning pain in either for him or someone else to pee on his finger. Ilan is extremely excited about the possibility of peeing on Marcel, but Marcelís not really into water sports and takes care of the problem himself. And we get to see it.
And to rub salt into Samís woundsÖ
Marcel and Ilan are called in front of the Judges so that Host Padma can brief them on the final challenge. The Chefs are tasked with making the best meal theyíve ever made. There is no budget, they will get free reign at a farmerís market, they will be preparing five courses for eight diners, and can each choose two sous chefs to assist them.
The Chefs draw knives to select their cooking/ serving locations, and Ilan chooses Donatoniís Restaurant, and Marcel is left with Imari. After the location selection, Host Padma brings back some familiar faces so that Ilan and Marcel can choose their sous chefs. Their choices are Michael, Mia, Betty, Frank, Sam and Elia. Before the finalists select their sous chefs, Padma asks each of the chefs to tell her who they would like to work with. Michael, Betty and Elia pick Ilan while Mia, Frank and Sam choose Marcel, (Sam picks him to mix things up- he probably doesnít have much affection for either of these chefs who beat him to the final 2).
Ilan wisely chooses Elia, and not so wisely chooses Betty, and Marcel picks Sam, and then on Samís suggestion selects Michael. Michael who did not want to work with him, and who can be kind of a mess in the kitchen. I think Marcel may have made a little mistake here, because although Mia was a little crazy at times, and quit the show, she actually wanted to work with Marcel, and would probably have been an excellent sous chef for him. But, maybe all the product Marcel had to put in his hair to combat the humidity affected his brain, and so Sam and Michael it is.
The Chefs learn that they will have an hour to shop at the farmerís market, then four hours to cook, and then will have one hour to prepare before the service the following day.
You know what would have made this part more interesting? If Ilan and Marcel had to arm-wrestle for their ingredients.
I must say, this farmerís market is beautiful and unlike any that Iíve ever been to. For one thing, Ilan and Marcel are the only ones there, so they donít have to fight their way through people and their random dogs, or strollers, and thereís no one trying to get them to sign any petitions or look at political or religious propaganda. I guess thatís because itís not a real farmerís market at all, you Top Chef fakers! Oh well. The produce does look amazing, and Marcel and Ilan are able to find what they need to make their meals.
Marcel did not want to come into this leg of the competition with any preconceived ideas about what he would prepare. Iíd say this is really smart, or really, really stupid. He sits with Sam and Michael and manages to get his menu hammered out, and it is: 1st course: Uni (sea urchin- I hope he keeps his fingers safe, because I donít think itís very sanitary to pee on your hand in the kitchen), 2nd course: Salad with Yuzu vinaigrette, 3rd course: Kampachi with hearts of palm, 4th course: seared beef and 5th course: blini with Kuna coffee and caviar, (yes, thatís a dessert that includes caviar. Yum!)
Ilan did give some thought to this final task, and brought some special ingredients from home. He and his sous chefs are really excited about his menu which is: 1st course: Angulas appetizer, 2nd course: pan seared Moi, 3rd course: squab and shrimp, 4th course: short ribs and 5th course: balls of fruit, sorbet and a bay leaf dipped in donut batter and deep fried. Okay, that sounds a little more dessert-y than caviar, but Iím not sold on the deep fried bay leaf yet.
Sam really must hate this.
Four hours is a long time to spend in the kitchen with someone when you a) didnít want to be his sous chef in the first place, and b) think that you should be in the final 2. That said, Marcel, Sam and Michael seem to get along well. Mike likes Marcelís good attitude, and Sam approves of the menu. While the sous chefs work hard on the prep, Marcel works on a special technique to encapsulate the vinaigrette for the salad in a sugar teardrop thing. Yeah, I donít know either. Marcelís been working on the technique for two weeks, but when Judge Tom pops into the kitchen, heís concerned about how itís going to work with the humid Hawaiian weather.
Over in Ilanís kitchen, Ilan wonít tell Judge Tom what the first course is, because itís better to be surprised with Spanish eels, but gets Tomís approval on his dessert. Ilan is also working well with his sous chefs, and his kitchen is a very upbeat and happy place.
Once again, what this competition needs is arm- wrestling.
Itís challenge day, and I think we can safely assume there was no drunken head shaving the night before.
Ilan is up first, and he and his team pack up their stuff in record time and move it to Donatoniís to start the prep. Ilan is pleased with his sous chefs and thinks that Elia is technically a better chef than he is. Betty accidentally calls him ďMarcel,Ē and the group has a good chuckle about how much they all dislike Marcel.
The diners start to arrive, and they are all stars in the culinary world: Michelle Bernstein, Scott Conant, Wiley Dufresne, Roy Yamaguchi, our old friend Hubert Keller, and of course Judges Tom and Gail and Host Padma. Ilan comes out to introduce his meal, and tells them that it will incorporate Spanish flavors with food grown on the Islands.
First up is the Angula appetizer, and the guests are not overly impressed, especially because Ilan brought the eels from home as a special treat. They like his pan seared Moi much better, calling it ďfabulousĒ and stating that ďIlan gets it.Ē Itís time for the squab and shrimp, and back in the kitchen Betty is having a mini meltdown because she keeps breaking the heads off the shrimp as she plates them. The diners donít care though, because they love the dish. The squab is perfect, and squab is very hard to prepare, and the lobster sauce was wonderful and had the essence of lobster. Probably because it was made out of lobster. The 4th course of short ribs is tasty, but the diners think it needed more juiciness and flavor. Finally, Ilan serves the dessert, which the diners call ďsmart,Ē a beautiful ending and a great combination of flavors. I am happy to see that the diners just ate the deep fried donut coating from around the bay leaf, and I can now get fully behind this dessert.
Back in Ilanís kitchen thereís lots of love, and one very happy Ilan. He feels that even if he doesnít win, heís already won. When he appears in front of the diners for one last time, Judge Tom tells him he exceeded his expectations, and presented a bold menu. Everyone congratulates him, and Ilan is sure heís won, because Marcel doesnít have his same passion about cooking. To be fair though, Ilan certainly doesnít have Marcelís same passion about hair care. Everybodyís got something they love.
This is so funny- Wiley Dufresne is the inspiration for all of my work too!
Now itís Marcelís turn to shine, but heís not having an easy and organized time packing up his food to move it to Imari. Heís not offering his team much leadership, and they donít seem to be very motivated to ensure everything goes smoothly for him, so as they wheel their carts out of the kitchen, we see two large trays of food left behind. Bummer!
The frenzy and disorganization does not die down once they get to Imari, and Marcel is very nervous, since this is a culmination of everything he has ever done. He greets the diners, and is really excited to see Wiley Dufresne because Marcel has always looked to him as an inspiration. Back in the kitchen, things are screwed up. Judge Tom ducks in for a moment, but wisely decides to leave Marcel alone because things are tense and time is running out.
Marcelís first course of Uni is well received, and the diners think it is nice, good, and like the texture. Itís time for the salad, and Marcelís encapsulated vinaigrette is not working because of the humidity, so Sam tells him to scrap it. The diners are not happy to be served a salad, and one of them snidely comments that itís deliciousÖ for someone in culinary school. Oh, snap! Now itís time for the Kampachi, but remember how Team Marcel left some trays back in the other kitchen? Yeah, well that was the Kampachi. Marcel freaks out, Mike doesnít care, and Sam nicely steps in and tells him to serve it without the fish. Surprisingly, the diners love the dish, and tell Marcel he should not have admitted he forgot the fish. Next is the seared beef, which Judge Tom thinks is okay, but can be improved upon, and finally the chocolate and fish eggs. The diners love it, and think itís fun and whimsical. Yeah, whimsical.
Marcel thinks he did a pretty good job since he was saddled with unmotivated sous chefs and was missing one of his key ingredients.
The Final Judgesí Table
The Judges meet to discuss the meals and decide that Ilan was very confident with his dishes while Marcel was very cutting edge. They compare the meals course for course, and reiterate that Marcelís salad was a disaster, but Ilanís short ribs were really out of place. Ilanís dessert was a joy to eat while Marcelís had a sense of humor. Unlike Marcel.
Itís time for the sous chefs to weigh in, and Betty and Elia think that Ilan should win. True, they werenít in Marcelís kitchen and did not taste, or even see, his dishes, but they know that Ilan is the more talented chef. Mike and Sam tell the Judges that they were focused for the 4 hour prep work, but it all fell apart when they got to Imari. Marcel didnít have a master plan, and Sam had to bail him out when they lost the fish. Here it comes out that Sam essentially put together the dish of Marcelís that the diners liked the most!
The Judges bring in Marcel and Ilan and ask each of them why he deserves to be the Top Chef. Ilan says this is the best meal heís ever made, and it was a high point in his life. He tells the Judges the difference between he and Marcel is that he has a greater passion for cooking, is more forgiving and is gentler or more respectful with those he works with.
For this meal, Marcel made five dishes that heís never prepared before, and gives Sam credit for saving the hearts of palm dish. That was nice, but then he turns around and says that the reason that dish had to be saved in the first place, was because his sous chefs forgot the fish. He then tells everyone that he is very likeable, and a nice guy but he didnít make friends on Top Chef because he looked at it as a competition, not an opportunity to make friends.
Who will it be? Who will it be?
Ilan! Itís Ilan! Marcel looks kind of pissed about the news, and tells us he though it would take more than Ilan and his ďf*****g saffronĒ to beat him. I guess not Marcel, and no one likes a sore loser.
As for Ilan, he is so, so happy to be the Top Chef and is excited for the future. Me too, Ilan, me too.
Well, thatís it for this season of Top Chef. Thanks for watching, and for reading, and a huge thank you to Yardgnome for sharing the Top Chef writing duties with me! Your recaps were always funny, interesting and a little oddÖ much like Marcelís hair.