Top Chef

Season 2 Episode 9


Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Jan 03, 2007 on Bravo

Episode Recap

When the remaining seven chefs get to the Top Chef Kitchen, their Guest Judge, Ted Allen, needs no introduction. They are told that this round is about creativity, something they will all need since the winner of the QuickFire Challenge no longer receives immunity. They are reminded that cooking is the only art which regularly stimulates four of the five senses: smell, sight, taste, and touch. For this QuickFire Challenge they are asked to design a dish around a single color, to be determined by drawing knives. Ilan draws red, Michael,orange, Elia picks white, Sam draws yellow, Cliff (who is colorblind) gets purple, Betty chooses green, and Marcel is left with brown. The chefs are given 30 minutes to prepare their dish, which must taste as good as it looks.

Ilan begins with a very red steak tartare accompanied by taro chips. Betty is next, presenting a green zucchini tamale to Ted Allen who comments that it has a lot going on. Marcel is proud of his brown steak and eggs, served with a bowl of coffee to add a scent of breakfast to his dish, but a mishap with the coffee press ruins his presentation. Elia creates a white Dover sole with mushrooms and a poached egg on top. Cliff does a red snapper with grilled eggplant and a blackberry compote which Ted quite enjoys. Sam prepares a duo of muffins (lemon and corn) with a breakfast crudo salad, and Ted praises his dish for its interplay between sweet and savory flavors. Michael makes sushi rice with an orange glazed salmon with carrot chips, which Ted loves.

When asked his opinion, Ted says Betty's dish was the least successful because her presentation was a mess, as was Marcel's. Ilan is criticized for being too literal in his interpretation of the challenge and that his creation also lacked textural contrast. On the bright side, he found Sam's offering the most visually appealing. Cliff did a great job with one of the tougher colors, creating a dish that was good in both taste and texture. And he considers Michael clever for choosing a fish that began pink but cooked orange, and he loved the carrot chips. It is a very close decision for him, but he names Michael as the winner.

The Elimination Challenge is about inspiration. They are told they are going to be making a seven course dinner inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins for Entourage star Debbie Mazar and a group of her friends. For the challenge they are told Ted will be taking the place of Gail Simmons, and the Guest Judge for the Elimination Challenge will be one of Debbie Mazar's favorite Chefs, Roberto Ivan, Consulting Chef at Fred Segal. The chefs draw knives again to see which chef will get which Sin. Michael draws Lust, Sam draws Anger, Elia selects Pride, Ilan picks Gluttony, Cliff draws Greed, Betty pulls Sloth, and Marcel is left with Envy. Michael, as winner of the QuickFire Challenge is given the opportunity of switching his Sin with one of the other Chefs, and he takes Envy from Marcel.

The chefs confer to decide who is going to do each course. Ilan calls dessert and Betty wants to do the soup course, which is fine with everyone but Marcel, who says he'd like to do either the second course or a dessert. The other chefs fume while he deliberates, but eventually he decides he is also going to do a dessert. That settled, they are given a budget of $150 and 30 minutes to go shopping at Wild Oats Market. Michael is disappointed when he discovers they don't have the crab he had intended to pair with fake crabmeat, but he soon selects salmon and trout for his course. Then they go to Charlie's Fixtures to shop for plates and serving dishes for their meal, they have an additional $150 and 30 minutes to make their choices. When Ilan goes to pay for his purchases he is offered a discount by the store, which makes Marcel question whether this is allowed in the rules governing them for the competition. Sam snaps, telling Marcel that he is always talking trash and he should just stay away from everyone since he's annoying. They leave the store, and back at the Kenmore Pro Kitchen they get to work. The chefs have three hours to prepare and pack their items for the dinner party. While they work, Ilan and Marcel continue to snipe back and forth, but once they get to the party site they all agree to work together to plate and serve the food.

Sam's dish is first, and he serves a spicy shrimp ceviche with chili pepper popcorn, which everyone loves. Betty has some trouble getting her soups into the champagne flutes she chose to serve them in, but eventually sends out a trio of slow roasted soups: carrot fennel, sweet white onion, and beet with red pepper. Unfortunately the guests find her soups too chunky and not hot enough. Michael asks Sam to present his dish since he had his wisdom tooth pulled the day before, giving him chipmunk cheeks, but Tom insists he show himself. He gives the partyers a seafood duo of salmon and trout in a lemon-thyme beurre blanc with asparagus and mushrooms. All of the guests love it, and even Tom is amazed by the sophistication of his dish.

Next up is Elia, who adds to her display of Pride by presenting the roast chicken to the guests and carving it table side. The guests find it wonderfully juicy and comfortable. Cliff follows with a bouillabaisse in a green Thai curry broth, but the guests are disappointed in the small amount of broth they are given compared with the amount of seafood - therefore it's not a proper bouillabaisse. Marcel gets ready to present his cherry tart, but snaps at Betty, causing the rest of the chefs to refuse to help him until he apologizes to Betty. He relents, and the guests are given his cherry tart topped with cherry foam, cherry gelée, and chocolate sauce. When asked, he even personally serves one of the diners, but afterwards they all agree his offering failed to invoke Lust. Ilan comes in last with his Gluttonous dessert: a rich chocolate cake with funnel cake, macadamia nut brittle and crème anglaise. He leaves the guests with a parting shot at Marcel's dish (cherries are supposed to lower your libido), but the guests are more disappointed by his own limp, soggy dessert.

At the Judges' Table, the judges agree that overall they are impressed by the dinner presented by the competitors. Roberto Ivan comments that the two desserts are the weakest dishes in his opinion, and he has reservations about the soups. He says he felt Michael fulfilled his sin the best with good presentation and food that was tasty and sophisticated without being overpowering. Elia's course is complimented as tasting good and her decision to carve tableside added a level of difficulty, but her presentation wasn't Proud enough for Tom. As for Sam, his flavors were good and they could have each eaten handfuls of his spicy popcorn.

The decision is unanimous, and they call in Elia, Michael, and Sam who are told they are the top three. The final decision lies with Roberto, and he chooses Michael as his favorite, making him the first competitor in Top Chef history to win the QuickFire and Elimination Challenge in the same round. He is asked to send in Marcel, Betty and Ilan.

The bottom three file in, and they are told they served the weakest dishes of the group. Padma begins by asking Ilan why he thinks he is there. He says his funnel cake was a disaster, and Tom counters by asking him why he served it at all, since it wasn't necessary for his dish. As for the rest, the brittle was a good textural contrast to the other components, which were soggy. Ilan defends himself by saying he isn't a pastry chef and he took a risk, which should give him more credit than just playing it safe. Then Tom asks why he slammed Marcel's dish in front of the guests, but he plays it off as a harmless joke.

Marcel's dish is complimented by Roberto as being the most beautifully presented, but the Judges are all in agreement that it didn't evoke Lust for them. Padma also takes issue with his constant use of foam, and says it detracted from his dessert instead of enhancing it. Roberto agrees, and says it didn't belong in the dish.

Then it's Betty's turn: Tom says the textures of her soups were too chunky, and some of her flavor combinations, particularly the beet and red pepper, were odd. They ask Betty who she thinks should go and she says without hesitation she thinks Marcel's dessert was hampered by a gelée that was tasteless, and he should go. Ilan agrees with her assessment of the gelée and Marcel. Marcel says his gelée was just fine, and Ilan should go because he failed to execute his dessert properly.

The judges dismiss the contestants so that they may confer amongst themselves. They feel Ilan and Betty's criticisms of Marcel were personally motivated, which has no place in their decision. The judges call the three back in, and tell them their decision has been made- Betty is going home. In her exit interview she says that while she's disappointed she didn't outlast Marcel, being on Top Chef was one of the greatest experiences of her life.
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