Top Chef: May the Best Chef Win (Season 2 Finale Recap)
Well, we reached the end of Top Chef Season 2! We can now stop speculating which chef is better than the other. Was the finale what you expected? Did you have money on the right candidate? Or did you just stop caring after last week?
The episode starts off with Marcel and Ilan frolicking on a beach in Hawaii. They eat fresh sea urchin for breakfast (which, although my opinion of sea urchin is not always high, I was crazy jealous of) and Marcel even gets stung by one and is forced to pee on his hand. At this point I need to stop the recap for a second and say that I have been tastefully avoiding this topic all season long, but really what was the whole Ilan wanting to pee on Marcel, how homo-erotic was that? And have you noticed it all season long?? - Okay back to recap.
The chefs are told they need to make a 5-course dinner for eight. They get to pick up their produce at a local farmer's market. They will then have four hours of prep time before heading to their respective restaurants where they will have one hour to cook. Ilan is cooking at Donatoni's Restaurant and Marcel will cook at Imari.
Full recap with big time spoilers ahead, including the WINNER, so
Before heading to the farmer's market, the finalists are greeted with ghosts from their past. Mike, Mia, Betty, Frank, Elia and Sam are there to be sous chefs. Surprisingly, half of them want to work with Ilan and the other half, Marcel. Marcel ends up choosing Sam, who convinces him to pick Mikey (which, no offense to Mikey, but really, you've a lot on the line and you pick the perpetually stoney-sounding Mikey??). Ilan chooses his BFF Elia and then Betty. Frank and Mia once again get sent packing.
Each chef needed to prepare a five course meal, for eight guests.
The guests were:
- The three regulars (Padma, Gail and Tom)
- Hubert Keller
- Michelle Bernstein
- Scott Conant
- Roy Yamaguchi
- Wylie Dufrense
The chefs both end up picking great produce (did you see those rambutans!?!) and built their recipes around what they saw. Ilan was up first and he served:
- Pincho of Pan Con Tomate with Angulas, Osetra Caviar & Tomatillos
- Macadamia Nut Gazpacho with Pan Roasted Moi
- Seared Squab with Foie Gras, Shrimp, Braised Leeks & Lobster Sauce
- Braised and Grilled Beef Short Ribs with Mushrooms & Romesco Sauce
- Tangelo Soup with Hawaiian Fruit, Surinam Cherry Sorbet & Bay Leaf Fritter
Overall the judges loved the meal, they thought the appetizer was okay, they LOVED the soup, thought the lobster sauce on the squab was great, wished they could get more from the short ribs, but were crazy for the dessert. From my vantage point, I thought the soup sounded great (I love gazpacho, so a macadamia nut gazpacho sounded even more delicious) and I definitely wanted to try the bay leaf fritter. Talk about a great infusion of sweet and savory!
Next up was Marcel. Now right from the beginning you knew this was going to be a disaster. They had talking head clips of Mikey and Sam talking about a hectic kitchen, and then the Bravo TV cameraman zoomed in on several trays left in the hotel fridge. Like I said, not a good sign. However Marcel still managed to pull out a great looking meal. He served:
- Sea Urchin & Meyer Lemon Gelee with Fennel Cream, Caviar & Kalamata Oil
- Cucumber and Radish Salad with a Citrus Yuzu Vinaigrette
- Hearts of Palm & Maitake Mushrooms with Kaffir Lime Sauce & Sea Beans
- North Shore Strip Loin with Garlic Puree, Crispy Taro Ball & Micro-Greens
- Blini with Kona Coffee Caviar & Hawaiian Chocolate Mousse
Like I mentioned earlier, there were a few snafus. Marcel's ingenious encapsulated vinaigrette teardrops didn't work due to the humidity and the fish for the third dish got left behind (lucky for Marcel, Sam was able to whip up an alternate dish). The judges, however, enjoyed the meal. They liked the texture of the urchin, they thought the salad was a bit weak, loved the balanced flavor of the sea beans, thought his beef was better than Ilan's and thought the blinis were whimsical and clever. From my point of view, I also thought the blinis looked fun, I couldn't figure out why on earth he would tell the judges that he forgot the fish, and I was saddened by the fact that his tear drops didn't work out.
Now for the judge's table. They liked everything and were split on whom to declare the winner, so they got some input from the sous chefs. Elia said Ilan should win because his food was superior (even if she didn't taste or see Marcel's), Mikey and Sam confessed that Marcel's kitchen wasn't run very well. Sam also took credit for the sea beans.
After much deliberation, the judges finally have a winner.
This year's Top Chef is Ilan Hall.
Were you surprised? I wasn't really, although I wouldn't have been surprised if Marcel won either.
Now for a few things to discuss:
- Marcel telling the judges he forgot the fish. Why would you do that?
- Even though Sam fixed the fish dish, he takes credit for the sea beans, but weren't the sea beans actually Marcel's idea? He said he was going to do fish with palm and sea beans
- Elia dissing Marcel - Really did she need to get so petty? I've lost a lot of respect for her.
- Were you as weirded out as I was about the whole urchins and peeing scene?
- Would you have chosen Mikey as a sous chef?
- Was the fish forgotten on purpose?
- At the end Marcel says, "I thought it was going to take more than saffron and paprika to beat me." My guy swears he said "f**king saffron." Did you hear it?
- Before declaring the winner Tom says, "One of you may go on to be the superior chef, but in the end our decision was based on who we believe to be the best chef right now." Do you think he believes Marcel will be a better chef than Ilan?
- Did you think the right person won?
Source: Bravo TV