Top Chef
Season 2 Finale, Part I

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The Poke's On You

Chef Wong points out the Lau Lau (butterfish, beef short ribs, and pork wrapped in taro leaves), Lomi Lomi Salmon (salt-cured salmon with tomatoes, onions, and green onions), and Poke (cubed raw marinated fish usually drizzled with sesame or kukui nut oil and seaweed). Oh, man, I love poke. I crave it, and the only place in San Francisco I've found that serves really good poke is at Roy Yamaguchi's. Padmadala gives the cheftestants the bum's rush, telling them they get to go check out their suite at the Hilton Waikoloa Village and mentally prepare themselves for the next day's Elimination Challenge. The cheftestants board their helicopter.

They arrive at Waikoloa Village to see "TOP CHEF" spelled out in white coral on the lava rocks. It's Hawaiian graffiti, and you can see it all up and down Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway. They goggle over the hugeness of the resort. And now for our commercial-within-the-show. Korbel. They fly first class, they eat with Alan Wong, and now they get Korbel. You know, there are plenty of wallet-friendly sparkling wines out there that are amazingly good. It doesn't have to be Dom or Billecart-Salmon, but why not Gloria Ferrer, Roederer, Domaine Chandon, or anything that won't strip your throat to the bone? There's just a huge disconnect between the products they pimp and the caliber of the chefs they bring on as contestants and as guest judges. I guess I should be grateful it's not Martini and Rossi Asti Spumante, you know? Oh. That's just LOVELY. Now I'm going to have that in my head all night. The cheftestants walk into their suite. Meh. I was more impressed by the MGM Grand suite last season. This place just looks like a hotel lobby. However, this time they have a piano! Yeah, that's going to come in really handy. To continue the commercial-within-a-show, Marcel invites the other cheftestants to have a glass of bubbly. Clink.

Blah, blah, blah, they-all-want-to-win-pokecakes. They turn out the lights and-- how bizarre -- someone has to sleep in a single while another cheftestant gets a queen or king. Last year, they all got queens or kings.

Next morning, we pan around the Waikoloa Village and get a VO squeak of a dolphin as it bumps up to the camera. It's totally stock footage from a Welcome to the Hilton Waikoloa Village and Thank You for Choosing Waikoloa Village as Your Reality Television Finale Location video. The cheftesants arrive at the outdoor Krapmore Kitchens and are greeted by Chef Wong and Padmadala. Chef Wong tells them his birthday was yesterday, so since his friends apparently all forgot that event, he's throwing himself a traditional Hawaiian luau and the cheftestants will be doing all the cooking. The cheftestants have to put their own spin on traditional Hawaiian luau food. If Marcel makes a suckling pig foam, smear, or gelée, I might have to retire my snark. Padmadala shows them the bounty of Hawaiian produce and products in the Hawaiian Krapmore Kitchens and reminds them they also get to pull from their own ingredients and supplies. They have three hours to make two dishes and two of them will be going home.

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Top Chef

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