Top Chef
Season 2 Finale, Part I

Episode Report Card
Keckler: B- | Grade It Now!
The Poke's On You
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Starting off the episode, we do something I don't recall being done last season. In the vein of Project Runway, we visit the final four cheftestants in their various home or work kitchens and get another look at their lives. Marcel's in Vegas at Joël Robuchon's restaurant. With its black and white wall tiles and black equipment, it looks more like a home kitchen. There's also something about the tile and black equipment that is triggering a slight claustrophobic response -- the place looks very small and closed-in even though it's obviously quite large. Weird. A co-worker tells us that Marcel is constantly on top of the food world. In his own apartment, Marcel explains that he and his roommates have come up with a "super exclusive gastronomic society" that has them all bringing their restaurant work home with them. They're always looking for ways to broaden their experience and explain their knowledge. Marcel packs up his stuff (presumably for Hawaii) and says, "Top Chef has given us the opportunity to bring our own equipment and our own ingredients." He lists some molecular gastronomy ingredients that he's packing up, including xantham gum. Ferran Adrià has recently released a line of pricey ingredients that allows you to turn your own kitchen into an El Bulli lab. I don't know about you, but I'm certainly craving some Sperificataion Calcic right about now. Marcel gets excited about "busting out shit they've never seen before."

Still in Vegas but moving over to The Café at Mandalay Bay, we check in with Elia. She tells us she's researched Hawaiian cuisine on the "eeeenternet" and read some "booooks." She also talked to her co-workers at Mandalay Bay. The assistant manager of The Café tells the cameras that Elia has the passion and the patience and the knowledge, "everything that it takes" to win the competition. She also has the finger-pointing and the lying. Elsewhere, we are exposed to Elia's Wall of Over-Achievements. Lo and behold, she used to be a competitive swimmer for the Mexican National Team and was two seconds away from the Olympics. Hey, Marisa -- how do you like them cupcakes? With all the swimming medals, she also has all her culinary degrees. Elia packs up her bag of special ingredients and equipment, but we can't really tell what she's bringing. It looks like a mess. Much like Elia.

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