When I was a kid, we had a maid named Romana. She was sweet, charming, and pretty cute, but she was nothing special in the cleaning department. My mom had been hearing stories from her friends about this amazing cleaning woman named Sofie and wanted to try her. Sofie could get wine stains out of anything and even had a magic, super secret technique to make sink fixtures look like new! Some called it voodoo, others called it brilliance. Either way, my mother was intrigued.
When Romana went home to her family one weekend, Sofie was snuck into the house. The stories were true. She insisted on being alone in the room while she worked, so all I can tell you is that in one day, she had our home looking like a shiny palace. And then she started talking. On and on in a tiny squeaky voice she went, only pausing to giggle like a little witch. She told me I was too fat (ok she was right) and she told my sister she had thin hair (sorry, but true again). She called my Father baldie and my Mom Anciana, which is Spanish for “ancient”. She was teasing us, and I think it was her misguided way of trying to build camaraderie. It was sweet, in a way. Come Monday morning, Romana was back at work and we were forbidden to ever mention Sofie again. It didn’t matter that the windows were so clean they weren’t even visible. No one calls my mother old.
This week, Top Chef taught us it doesn’t matter if you’re good enough and smart enough. People have to like you.It’s the final episode of a very juicy, controversial season of Top Chef and the producers couldn’t have chosen a more awkward pair to stick alone together on an island for the last hoorah. Marcel swims and poses like he’s on the cover of molecular gastronomy’s answer to the Abercrombie catalogue while Ilan sits fully dressed on the sidelines sniping at the monkey and pining for romance. Such a beautiful place, he just wishes he could share it with a beautiful woman! Still stickin’ to that story, huh?
Marcel is so at peace in the natural surroundings that nothing could ruin his mood. Then he pricks his finger trying to pull sea urchin out of the water. Ooh, he pricked his finger. Call the medics.
Someone recommends he pee on the tiny wound to avoid infection. I’ll think of that next time I get a paper cut. People at work would love that. It’s not like they’re on a deserted island. Doesn’t the Top Chef crew at least carry a bottle of alcohol around? Where’s Frank when you need him? Ilan doesn’t lend his hose, but says he would have loved to pee on Marcel.
We’re less than three minutes into the finale and already they’re playin’ water sports. What’s next? If it involves a swing of any kind I’m turning off my TV. Marcel peed on himself, earning a whole new following in the process.
Padma and Tom greet them. This past week, gossip abounded that Padma was tokin’ bud (often) on set, and I have to say her slurring and staring off into space is less fun now that I know she’s just high and not an alien. Daddy Tom has packed on another 25 or so pounds during the shoot break, and decides to celebrate his new figure by wearing this shirt.
Dear Daddy Tom,
You are firm, fair, and sexy no matter your weight, but the Hawaiian shirt hurt my feelings. Please never do that to me again. Put on a sexy suit. Feed the people.
The challenge today will be simple. Create their best five courses ever. They will have their own locations and a staff of two, which they will get to choose from the group of, you guessed it, the chopped Chefs! Dooinggg. Cliff’s not back for this challenge, which isn’t really surprising, but it is kind of disappointing. I’m a big fan of unpredictable anger. Oh, that reminds me I need to call my mother.
Before Ilan and Marcel get to choose who they want, the six chopped Chefs get to say who they’d want to work for. Elia and Mikey go for Ilan and so does (shocker) Betty. Sam switches it up and chooses Marcel. At first this looks really sweet, but don’t forget Sam’s a sneaky little bitch. He assures us he has no ill will and is actually interested to see what tricks the monkey has up his sleeve. Besides, he knew Ilan was going to do Spanish because Ilan always does the same thing. Snap. Frank and Mia choose Marcel, too. They know they don’t have a shot in hell of being picked by Ilan. Will they fare better with the monkey? Frank says he wants to work with Marcel to “learn him” how to talk to people.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Uh…that’s a tempting offer, but…Ilan takes Elia and Betty and Marcel chooses Sam and Mikey. And just like that, Frank and Mia are gone again. There are Hawaiian gods, and they are smiling down on me tonight. On her way out, Mia peels a piece of chewed gum off the door before it hits her in the ass. Sorry, but that was my last chance ever for a Mia homeless joke.
Everything moved along pretty well for both teams. The products at the Farmer’s market were gorgeous and there was no budget restraint. Everyone got along and concentrated on the task ahead. Marcel decided to not use a foam this time, which was a huge disappointment. He needed to come to the table with his most complex Spit Foam ever, but settled on taking his other signature, the Tear of a Clown, to the next level by encapsulating a hit of vinaigrette with a thin layer of isomalt to put on top of his salad. Salad? As a smackdown dish? Dude, you can’t serve a salad to these people. No matter what’s on it, they’ll be pissed.
At the end of the four-hour prep, both teams are feeling positive. Ilan drones on into the camera about how talented he is while I order Indian food for delivery. Hey, I know it’s not Hawaiian but I don’t know how to pronounce any of it, so that should count for something. Ilan’s ego is turning out to have hip hop star proportions.
Goyz n the Hood
Elia tries not to be jealous and bitter, but it doesn’t work. She tells us that the Chef should always trust his Sous Chef, because the Sous Chef is the true Chef in the kitchen. Ouch. Hope you don’t lose your room service Sous Chef job over that one, a hole.
Daddy Tom talks up tonight’s guests, describing them as heavyweights in the industry and people who have individually pushed the limits of fine dining in America today. There is nothing scarier than a table of professional Chefs, and I say a little prayer for both Ilan and the monkey. I may not like either one of them, but it doesn’t mean I want to see them get hurt today. Wait a minute…(doorbell.) That must have been my starvation talking. I hope they both get skewered.
The list of guests is impressive, and a little familiar. Michelle Bernstein, chef/owner of Michy’s and consulting Chef for Social is back with her Sandra Bernhard drawl; Scott Conant Chef/owner of L’impero and Alto joins her along with Wylie DuFresne, a famous molecular gastronomist and chef/owner of Wd-50, and Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Steakhouse in Hawaii. The Guest Judge for the final challenge will be Hubert Keller, chef/owner of Fleur de Lys in San Fran and Vegas.
Ilan went first, and started with pan con tomatte with baby eels and caviar. He had been leading Daddy Tom on with the promise of a “surprise” as his first course, but no one was shocked or awed. Guest Judge Hubert said the eels were interesting, just not enough to make an impression. Wylie DuFrense calls the toast soggy and Chef Conant says nothing went together. Padma doesn’t have much to add. She’s too busy flying her plate around like a flying saucer in front of her glazed eyes, entranced.
He follows the eels up with a pan roasted moi over macadamia gazpacho, and it was right on the money. The mood at the table turned in an instant. Roy Yamaguchi cheered the macadamia nuts, and Michelle Bernstein had nothing but dramatic, sexy praise. Conant gives it a soap star turn in his thumbs up. He should have been holding a mic to coo into. “This is exactly what I look for in a young Chef.” Eyebrow raise and nod. “He gets it.”
Back in the kitchen, things are getting testy. Elia treats us to more whining, saying it’s hard to cook for someone else’s win, but she’ll do it. She doesn’t want to mess Ilan up. That’s real big of you, Elia. You LOST. Get over it and flip the damn fish over. Betty did her best to juggle the many components of Ilan’s squab and surf, and eventually freaked out because the heads were coming off the shrimp. Ilan snapped at her, but thankfully she didn’t walk out of the kitchen and refuse to serve, like she did during the Deadly Sins Challenge. OK, enough ragging on Betty. She’s been chopped, her abuse should stop now. She smiles reeeeeal big and says “I don’t want to ruuuiin it for him!”
Nothing was ruined. The squab was a smash. Yamaguchi loved the seafood sauce with the tender poultry. Daddy Tom said it captured the essence of lobster and worked perfectly. Score. The beef short ribs with romesco were like the squab’s jealous sibling. We’re from the same womb! How is she so much better than me?!? And how many baby gifts am I expected to buy, exactly? Oh sorry. Indian food sucks. Moving on to pudding.
The short ribs were good, but there was something…missing. Michelle Bernstein said she was left wanting something to “sop it up with”. A bread basket can make or break you, people. The ribs were not a failure by any means, but they weren’t a raging success, either. And even though Ilan doesn’t know much about pastry, his dessert was the perfect cap to his meal. The multi colored sorbets were topped with a battered and fried bay leaf and no one didn’t praise it. Ilan’s meal was a firm success. Before he goes out to thank the Judges, he is full of positivity. “If I don’t win, I still win!” Uh…no you don’t. After the Judges heap their praise on him, he isn’t as sweet. “Marcel doesn’t have a chance.” Then he gets all gay and huggy with Betty and Elia and cocktail hour begins.
Marcel’s day started off a bit rocky. As he was doing a last run through to make sure they were’t forgetting to take anything to their space, he found stuff that wasn’t packed. Mikey is shifty eyed, but that’s how he always is, so I can’t tell if he’s screwin’ the monkey on purpose or not. Sam tells us a line cook is only as good as his Chef, which sounds like “yeah Mikey fucked up and you should have known he was going to.” No kidding. What real Chef would choose Mikey for the final challenge? As they leave the kitchen, the camera crew stays behind to go get shots of the two pans of abandoned fish. Ruh-roh. Never trust a camera man. That’s probably the same guy who told Marcel to pee on his finger.
Marcel is impressed with today’s Guests. Especially Wally DuFresne, the molecular gastronomist. Wally looks like he is considering eating Marcel whole.
His stress level isn’t helped by the complete lack of competence in the kitchen. First there are missing orchids. No one brought them. Then Marcel notices that his milk measurements weren’t right for the mousse. Mikey shrugs. He confused cups for quarts. I know Mike’s an idiot, but is anyone really this dumb? Seems like he’s tryin’ to trip up the process, but the only time he wasn’t trippin’ up was when he was trippin’, so I am still unsure of his motives.
Marcel began his meal with a lemon gelee with sea urchin and caviar which scored. No one raved, but every guest was happy. And then it all started going downhill. The Tears of a Clown weren’t quite coming out. I’ll use Sam’s words here. “The tear drops failed. Miserably.” Tom warned Marcel about the humidity, but the monkey didn’t listen, and now he was stuck with a plain old salad. Daddy Tom told the table about the Tear, so there’s no pretending it was on purpose. Ilan didn’t have any glaring mistakes like this, so unless Marcel pulls out the big guns, he’s screwed. He does pull out a big gun, and shoots himself in the foot. No one can find the fish. Mikey doesn’t get it. “Where’s the fish? I’m not playing for a hundred grand, you are! You tell me where the fish is!” Sam suggests using sea beans sautéed in honey ginger instead, and they are forced to send the dish out fishless. When he presents to the Judges, he admits there was a mistake with the kampachi. He should have kept his mouth shut, because they loved it as it was. Michelle called it “round, bold and beautifully balanced” and kept on spouting adjectives. She finished with “it’s dancing on my tongue!” That’s probably my favorite new phrase of 2007, and I mutter it over and over as I gnaw on a frozen Snickers bar. Yamaguchi says the fish excuse should have been saved for the radish salad.
Marcel’s sirloin with fried taro ball was also appreciated all around. His presentation was flawless. Gail feels that in general, Marcel’s meal was much lighter and had an overall gentler progression. His blini with kona coffee caviar on top of a Hawaiian chocolate mousse was delicious and inventive, closing Marcel’s meal out successfully. When all was said and done, the monkey knew he made mistakes, but was ultimately proud. He ended feeling confident that his meal was more creative than Ilan’s, and the Judges pretty much agreed with that.
Guest Judge Hubert from Fleur De Lys is the only guest invited to the Judges table. Darn! I was hoping Michelle would be here to shoot love daggers at Sam, but no such luck. Gail and Hubert both named Marcel the most “cutting edge”. Then Gail said on the other hand, it was a little light. Wait. You said that before like it was a good thing. Lighter = points off. Got it.
When they put each Chef’s dishes in a head to head, Marcel’s sea urchin easily beat Ilan’s eel pan con tomatte, but Ilan came back with his juicy, tender moi and obliterated Marcel’s salad. The Judges were only being human when they found the salad offensive. A radish salad to boot. Just serve me tiny nails and be done with it. Padma doesn’t think the Teardrop would have been enough to make that choice the right one.
They tied with their third courses. Both were delicious and interesting enough to win. The monkey’s sirloin beat the short ribs, but dessert was another tie. So with that math, Marcel wins by a dish. But the overall Chef is what counts, so the Judges call in the Sous Chefs. This should be good.
Betty and Elia loved working for Ilan, and think he should win even though admittedly they didn’t try Marcel’s food. Elia said Ilan has to win, because at least people can work for him. Marcel is a disaster in the kitchen. Gail points out again that she didn’t taste Marcel’s food and Elia says incredulously “was it good?” and Gail snapped “yes! It was amazing!” Shut up, Elia. Don’t make them kick you off again.
Mikey starts ripping the monkey apart the second the Judges address him. He says at first everything was organized, but when they got to the kitchen, he had no idea what was going on. Apparently. Guest Judge Hubert asks Sam how involved he was in the menu, and Sam said he put out the missing fish fire with the sea bean. That was one of Hubert’s favorite parts of the meal, which takes off points from the monkey. In the head to head it tied with Ilan’s squab, so the Sam influence makes them even. I hope Marcel doesn’t march in and deny that Sam put the sea beans together, like Tiffany did last year with Dave. He needs every point he can get right now.
Ilan and Marcel come before the judges. Light the lights! Tune up the orchestra! It’s time to tap dance! Ilan is humble and innocent. He thinks that even though he has stuck with Spanish, he’s tried to step out of the box. He would be a better Top Chef than Marcel because he is kinder, gentler, and more forgiving. He respects people. Sweet harp music fills the air. I find it awesome that he has the nerve to say that with such sweet conviction two weeks after he instigated the monkey rape, and four weeks after dissing Marcel in front of the guests at the Deadly Sins challenge. You can say what you want about the monkey and I’d agree with you, but at least he’s up front with who he is. Ilan’s a manipulative, lying little snake. He’s just enough of an a hole for me to fall in love with him, but….ew, no.
Still, everyone hates Marcel. And if he’s going to be hated, he at least has to be respected/feared in order to lead. He’s not at all forceful, but I’m kind of impressed how he always keeps it together. He gives Sam due credit for the sea beans and hearts of palm. He says he put too much trust in his Sous Chefs but at the same time, he didn’t give them enough of a grasp of the big picture. Padma asks him why everyone has a problem with him and he pulls out the old “didn’t come here to make friends” routine. If he had any chance at this point of winning, it was to blame his teammates of sabotage and be teary eyed and misunderstood. But, to his credit, he doesn’t go there.
The Judges are finding the call tough to make. Both prepared a fantastic final meal, but both had problems. At the end of the day, Ilan sticks to one thing, but does it really well. Marcel is creative and inventive, but might need some more time to get a full arsenal of tricks to entertain the circus circuit. Ilan wins and grins like a little girl. Marcel keeps his mouth shut at the time, but his testimonial is a different story. Looks like Padma passed him the blunt. “I was (bleep) surprised when they called Ilan. I thought it was gonna take more than (bleep) saffron and paprika to beat me, but I guess not. It’s extremely disappointing.” Ilan is elated, and says he looks forward to maturing. I think we can all second that.
So what do you think, dear Readers? Are you pleased with the outcome, furious, or indifferent? Was the monkey sabotaged? Have you ever peed on a cut?
On a personal note I would like to thank you, TVgasm readers, for choosing me as your recapper. It’s been wonderful and prosperous, and a pleasure working for ya. Until next time! HEART, Flipit.