Thursday, January 25, 2007

Top Chef Recap, Finale, Part 1: Aloha Oe, you smell like poi!

In this "supersized" episode we spend approximately thirty seconds looking back at all the other chefs who were kicked off the show. Then Padma reminds us again what's at stake. Does anyone really care about winning a stupid Kenmore Pro Kitchen? We hear in a commercial a little later on that it's "priced within reach!" Well that makes it even more special, doesn't it?

OK, It's two months later and we're visiting with the final four:

We visit Marcel at Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas where his coworkers praise him for being "cutting edge." Then we visit with him at home with the other two members of his "gastronomic society," which I think translates to "ménage à trois." They're heavily into "research and development," or S&M for short. Let me know if putting everything in quotes is "getting on your nerves." Oh, one more thing: Marcel has emulsifiers and he's not afraid to use them. Watch out!

Elia, also in Las Vegas, is working at The Cafe, I think at Mandalay Bay. She has been doing her researches on the Internets and learning about the Hawaiian food. We learn that she was two seconds from going to the Olympics. She just missed her flight. Just kidding; she was a swimming champ and almost qualified for the Olympics. So she's used to just missing greatness. That will come in handy.

Ilan works in New York at Casa Mono, which I think means House of Venereal Disease. I like his apartment with the bed loft.

Sam apparently doesn't have a job. He's selling himself for pastry lessons. We learn that he has no ego. He's putting jars of food in a suitcase. Aren't those going to break? Maybe they're plastic.

The next scene is Los Angeles International Airport but I don't know if that means Sam was in Los Angeles because it turns out everyone is catching the same flight from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Their first/business class seats are not impressive, though apparently they get good food. After they land they are leid by Miss Hawaii. Ooh, hee hee! See, that sounds like she had sex with them but she didn't really.

They take a terrifying (to Sam) helicopter ride to visit Padma, Gail, Tom, and guest judge/birthday boy Alan Wong, grandmaster of regional Hawaiian cuisine, whatever that means. They are in the taro fields of Waipi'o Valley on the Big Island and they are having a traditional Hawaiian meal.

I should explain that I grew up in Honolulu so I know a little about Hawaiian food; specifically, I'm really good at frying SPAM! So, they're having a meal that is so traditional that they are actually eating with their fingers. And yet for some reason they are sitting in chairs, which is not very traditional. Chef Wong tells us about the importance of taro, which is used for the traditional starch dish poi. He then tells us poi is actually anything that has been pounded and cooked a long time and can also be made out of ulu (breadfruit) or sweet potato. This is news to me. I've never heard of poi made out of anything other than taro. I'll take his word for it. Anyway, the chefs are also introduced to laulau (which can be almost anything cooked in Ti leaves) and poke (which is like ceviche and I can't stand raw fish so I always skip this). Apparently they also have haupia because everyone talks about it the next day but we don't get to see it, as far as I can tell. Haupia is a stiff coconut pudding (it should be as stiff as jello) and it's basically just coconut milk, corn starch, and sugar. It's my favorite!

The chefs check in to their suite at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Everyone hates Marcel. In fact, even Wendy Pepper refuses to share a room with him. For some reason Elia suddenly can't stand Marcel and acts like he's been awful the whole time even though she seemed to like him before. What's up with that? Does it have to do with her shame over the terrible events in the last challenge? I'm really confused by her sudden contempt for him.

The next day they are told their challenge will be to make a cutting edge traditional luau.

"But that's oxymoronic!"

Yeah, yeah, whatever; just do it! They have to take the traditional flavors of Hawaiian food and put a twist on them.

Marcel makes his interpretation of lomi lomi salmon, which, of course, he serves with foam. His second dish is poke with pineapple poi. Or, more accurately, pineapple "poi." Its very popular, though the judges' reactions to it are really erratic. Padma and Gail get into a cat fight over its viscosity (Padma thinks it's too runny and Gail thinks Padma is crazy) and Tom and Alan can't seem to decide whether they appreciate the twist on "poi" or whether it's too much of a stretch. I'm very confused.

All the other chefs have comments about Marcel's food and presentation. Sam praises Marcel's food, saying he could make rat crap on a plate look good:

Sam: "That wasn't a compliment."

Oh, my mistake.

Sam: "He's deconstructed the food. It's almost destructively deconstructed."

I see.

Ilan: "Marcel thinks he's so superior but even he knows he's not."

So he thinks he's superior but he knows he's not? What the hell does that mean?

Elia: "Ugh, Marcel is going on and on describing his dish. He's been describing his dish for fifteen minutes. The guests are actually dropping dead from boredom. It's like he's reading a story to his daughter."

Oh, how I loved hearing that story when I was a little girl: "Then the wolf showed Little Red Riding Hood how to use emulsifiers to thicken the pineapple puree ..." Yeah, that really brings back fond childhood memories. By the way, Elia seems to be the only one bored by Marcel. The guests and judges didn't seem to mind his explanation. And does Marcel have a daughter? He must have been a sperm donor because he's never had sex, remember?

Sam makes poke with sea beans (what the hell are sea beans?) and he puts a ceviche twist on it. For his second dish he makes a marscarpone mousse with coconut milk and citrus tuile, which he says is his twist on "that coconut desert we had last night." I wasn't sure if he meant haupia because at that point I hadn't realized they had been served haupia the previous day. What he's making doesn't sound even remotely like haupia, which really is nothing like a mousse. However, everyone loved it and the judges thought it was a good twist on the traditional dish. So, obviously I'm an idiot. One complaint about Sam's food is that he didn't actually cook anything:

Padma: "So what?"

Tom: "So, this is a cooking show not a refrigerating show. Do I have to explain everything to you, Padma?"

Elia makes a Mediterranean style poke, which has nothing to do with the flavors of Hawaii and then she makes a snapper laulau, which the judges think is very good.

Ilan uses his knowledge of Spanish food and makes another laulau, this one with squid and sausage, which the judges really like. Then he makes a fried coconut-milk and saffron desert. As Alan points out, simply using coconut milk doesn't make something Hawaiian; that desert was closer to Indian food. But his food is so good the judges seem to ignore the fact that it wasn't very Hawaiian.

Elia is mad at Marcel for moving one of her pots. Marcel says the burner wasn't on and that he said he was moving the pot but Elia says the burner was on and she never heard him. Again, it's too bad nobody was filming the action so we would know who is correct. I tend to believe Marcel simply because he is the one who saw the burner before he moved the pot and the burner was either off or he's lying, for which he seems to have little motivation. While on the other hand, Elia was obviously not paying attention to the pot so she wouldn't actually know if the burner was still on when Marcel moved it. With so many people in the kitchen it's a little difficult to prove Marcel actually turned off the burner. And he admitted to moving the pot, which he wouldn't have done if he had been intentionally sabotaging his best friend on the show. Throughout the competition, whenever Marcel wants to use the stove or needs someone to get their vegetables out of a sink or keep the refrigerator doors closed, everyone says he's rude. Why is it not rude for Cliff to keep his vegetables sitting in the sink when other people need to use it? I don't get it.

While the judges are deliberating Sam, Ilan, and Elia suddenly decide to accuse Marcel of cheating.

Ilan: "Come on, Elia, this could be our last chance to screw him over."

Elia: "I don't know. I really want to do it but for some reason it just doesn't seem quite right to accuse someone of cheating for absolutely no reason."

Sam: "Don't be such a pussy."

At the judges' table:

Tom: "There are no losers here, other than the two losers."

Ilan: "Uh, Elia has something she'd like to say."

Elia: "Oh, thanks, Ilan; that's very gracious of you to make me do it. OK, Marcel has been cheating through the whole competition."

Tom: "What did he do?"

Ilan: "Well, we don't think he respects the kitchen and food as much as he should. Also, I don't think he's ever had sex."

Sam: "Everyone hates him. But I don't really want to say anything bad about him because ..."

Everyone: "Because you're not 'That Guy;' we know!"

Elia: "Come on Marcel, you know you've been cheating."

Tom: "Can you give us an example?"

Elia: "Well, today he moved my pot. It didn't actually affect my cooking but I think it demonstrates his terrible attitude in the kitchen."

Gail: "You accused him of cheating! Can you give us an example of cheating?"

Elia: "Everyone agrees he's annoying! In fact America just voted and they all want Marcel to be eliminated. Why should I have to come up with actual examples? Can't a person just accuse someone of cheating without being subjected to the Spanish Inquisition? Geez!"

Tom: "OK, remember when I said there were no losers here? I was wrong. I think you're all losers."

Padma: "Marcel and Ilan, you're going to the final. Elia and Sam, pack your knives and get out of my sight."

Elia: "Well, at least I can leave with my head held high, knowing I handled myself well. Except for the time I was involved in an assault and when I maliciously accused someone of cheating for no reason. Now that I think about it, why am I holding my head high?"

Well, that was another depressing episode. Where does Bravo find these people? Anyway, tune in next week when we learn that Ilan has more than just paprika in his kit. You know what that means! Well, if you do, could you explain it to me? Thanks.


Anonymous said...

Spot on, as usual. Boy can't wait to see the crap they'll pull in the next episode. I don't really want to watch it, this season has just been so messed up and the only likeable contestants got the book early (or were smart enough to get themselves kicked off...) but curiosity will get the better of me and so I will. I think I'm far more intersted in seeing what all the blogs will say after that one though.

Melanie said...

You've started off my day on the right foot, laughing and smiling all through your recap.

Thanks, Eric! You are a master blogger.

Java Junkie said...

Eric, you are indeed a master blogger (does that have anything to do with you operating on European standards?).

You are just so damned funny! You had me laughing out loud. Thanks!

Calady said...

Alway a treat to read your blog. You are the best.

Anonymous said...

Ilan DOES have more than paprika in his kit. He's got SAFFRON. Ugh! Enough of the saffron already!

Anonymous said...

Padma only gets opinionated when she get liquored up. Katie was the same way, I believe.

Anonymous said...

I've only just discovered your blog and I'm so glad I did. You are hilarious. Keep up the good work - what a treat!

bluey said...

OMG!! I love your blog!!!!!! SO witty!!!!!!!!

ok, now that we're best friends, and since you grew up in Hawaii, ya gotta tell me the truth - is it true that poi is really disgusting in real life and is just gruel with good PR courtesy of Trader Vic and those 4 episodes of the Brady Bunch???

bluey said...

OMG, forgot to mention - just watched the finalé (or "final" as Padma would put it) - wasn't the first five minutes the most homo-romantic ever???

At least we finally know Ilan's taste in fetish-porn, though vanilla beach-side watersports is a little disappointing. I was expecting something a little more S&M and "urban" after the previews from "Gangbanger Chefs" that we saw on Bravo 2 weeks ago.

eric3000 said...

Thanks, Bluey!

As I've mentioned in comments on Blogging Top Chef and Top Chef 2, as with anything, there is good poi and bad poi. If it isn't made well or if it is not really fresh then it can be revolting but I've had poi that was absolutely delicious. Some people hate tapioca pudding because they can't stand the consistency; those people would probably hate poi for the same reason. I like it!