Top Chef: Texas Power Rankings
By David Mumpower
December 7, 2011

Don't mess with Texas.

We finally have enough of a handle on this season to launch our initial power rankings. The usual rules apply here. Since we cannot taste the dishes, we are left to parse through the comments made by judges and other tasters. Individual results matter more than group ones. And in one instance, we are even going off the board by including her performance on a different cable network cooking show. Is going maverick retro yet? We’ve always wanted to be maverick.

1. Paul - As was mentioned in the prior recap, Paul is the first chef to win multiple challenges. His bravado with the million point spice was also impressive. He is taking pride in being a Texas chef cooking on the Texas season and it has shown to date. Note that there is very little separation at the top of the board thus far.

2. Dakota - She makes a mean Beer-Battered Tempura Rattlesnake and she has overcome being stuck with a dessert not once but twice. In the first instance, there were some issues with the cake but it was a hit at the party. In the second instance, she came within an eyelash of winning. Dakota clearly puts a lot of thought into her dishes (watch her focus the next time she has a camera close-up after a challenge is announced) and she is performing well under pressure.

3. Lindsay - The only other player to earn individual immunity thus far, Lindsay made an early misstep when she aligned with Sarah. The two of them were a bit cruel to Keith, but by the end of the episode, Lindsay had grown to regret the behavior. We do not believe the same is true of Sarah. To her credit, Lindsay avoided making the same mistake when placed in the same group with Sarah once again. Also, her Vienna sausage dish was a touching tribute to her father. that clearly deserved to be rewarded.

4. Edward - This may be overselling Edward a bit, particularly since he barely saved himself to survive the bubble round. We have him ranked this high for a few reasons. The first is that he kept cooking despite an injury that would have made All-Star Jamie take her ball and go home. The second is that he excelled on a dessert dish last week on the heels of cooking the best looking improvisational dish in the Quickfire challenge. Edward needs to learn some diplomacy, but his dishes look like they are clipped pictures from a fine dining brochure.

5. Grayson - Like Dakota, she has also performed well on a dessert. The primary difference between the two chefs thus far (other than the immunity challenge win) is that Grayson needed to survive the final cut when she was on the bubble. Otherwise, she would have failed to make the sweet sixteen of Top Chef. Since she has been on the show, she has cried too much (but not as much as Beverly). Other than not distancing herself enough emotionally, Grayson has been an impressive performer thus far. The early misstep may have motivated her more in the early stages.

6. Beverly - We may be underselling her a bit because we haven’t warmed to her on a personal level. Between all the crying and the loathsome displays of selfishness in the various kitchens and grocery stores, Beverly has not comported herself well. When it comes to her dishes, however, she has been a solid performer who flat out whipped Nyesha and the now deposed Moto Richie when it was a do or die circumstance. We get the vibe that she is a great chef who happens to be extraordinarily high maintenance.

7. Heather - The grouping between 6 and 10 is narrow right now. What we like about Heather thus far is that she is confident and efficient. The fact that she trained a chef as competent as Ty is also to her credit. The downside is that she has yet to distinguish herself enough to claim a spot in the upper echelon of the cast thus far. We really like her as a person and hope she nets a win soon.

8. Nyesha - This is the one to which we alluded at the start of the column. Nyesha is one of our favorite contestants this year. We are in awe of how unflappable she is in the face of competition. To wit, the engaging but difficult to watch new Food Network program Chef Hunters features her defeating two other chefs to earn her current job as executive chef at Wilshire Restaurant. In that episode, she somehow takes a group of employees she has never met before and turns them into the most organized cooking staff ever known to man. It’s uncanny. Given her complete control of a kitchen, we are overlooking her narrow survival in the chili competition for now and focusing upon her natural gifts as a chef/leader.

9. Sarah - Sarah almost didn’t make it out of the first competition among the Top Chef sweet 16. She was so focused on discrediting every moment of Keith’s existence that she failed to focus upon her own dishes. In the wake of that, she has demonstrated a selfish streak that isn’t quite on the same scale as Beverly but is troubling nonetheless.

10. Whitney - She has made absolutely no impression on us thus far. It may be our fault, not hers. Based upon the fact that she hasn’t been on the top or the bottom on anything yet, the judges seem to feel the same way.

11. Chris C. - In addition to being a horndog, Chris C. is clearly a talented chef. He is handsome, charismatic and confident. The problem may be that he simply cannot make a cupcake. Alternately, he may be someone who looks the part of a chef but is not a serious Top Chef contender. He clearly wants to be considered on a par with Richard Blais and the Voltaggios. Thus far, he strikes us as a less talented version of Jeff McInnis from season 5. And since he finished on the bottom of both challenges in the previous episode, his position in the game is shaky.

12. (Moto) Chris J. - If you asked us to name our favorite cast member thus far, Moto Chris would win. We even consider him to be a good chef based upon what we have seen of him thus far. The problem is that he is trying too hard. Rather than prioritizing good flavors and clean dishes, Chris J. has been obsessed with attempts to wow the judges with his inventiveness when he hasn’t needed to do so. Thus far, he is a magician and everyone can see the wires. Since he seems like a good human being and an even better friend, we hope that he bounces back before it’s too late. Please let us never speak of that cigar again.

13. Ty - In the past, chefs such as Ty who handle private affairs more often than they work in kitchens have struggled. Like any other skill, cooking requires maintenance through repetition. In the absence of that, the skill atrophies. Ty does not lack for confidence and his working relationship with Heather demonstrates that he has proven himself to her over the years. Thus far in the competition, however, he is the only chef to finish on the bottom in multiple elimination challenges. Ty needs to knock off the rust and start making flavorful dishes if he wants to last another episode. We would have put Chuy on the bottom of last week’s power ranking (it was the only thing we agreed upon), and we see what happened to him immediately afterward. Ty is in the same boat this week.