Top Chef Power Rankings
By David Mumpower
December 19, 2012

Fun fact: none of the people from this heat remain in the competition.

1) Kristen - I question the overall strength of Kristen’s game just as much as I question her decision to flirt with Stefan. It’s like hitting on Baron Von Raschke. What is important about Kristen’s Top Chef performance thus far is that she is demonstrating the invulnerability of youth. Her fearlessness is serving her well and counterbalances the key issue impacting the person at the bottom of this week’s rankings.

2) Sheldon - Sheldon continues to dazzle with his multi-cultural feasts. Island living has afforded Sheldon to sample a significant amount of world cuisine. The chef has respectfully drawn inspiration from all of it. The end result is that he is a master of many cooking techniques. While Sheldon has yet to win an individual challenge, he has shared two Quickfire victories and was worthy of victory last week. Assuming Sheldon is aggressive enough, I believe he is a strong contender to win the title this year, something I do not feel is true of Kristen. Her inexperience should eventually cause her to slip up.

3) Lizzie - Lizzie struggled last week. There is no ignoring this. Still, my takeaways are simple. She knew what the issue was and worked to prevent the mistake from being fatal. She accomplished this. Out of all the chefs who struggled during the challenge, Lizzie was the only one who adapted enough in a crisis situation to avoid the bottom group. In five elimination challenges, she has finished in the top group twice and in the middle the other three times. As strange as this sounds, at this early stage in the competition, Kristen and Lizzie are the only two chefs who have never been on the bottom.

4) John Tesar - Tesar may have the personality of avian flu but his dishes continue to be masterpieces. If I judged him only by the meals he creates, he would be the clear choice for number one in the power rankings. The fact that he is prone to self-destruction identifies that no matter how many delicious seafood dishes he crafts, Tesar is unlikely to win Top Chef. Like Kristen, I believe he will inevitably have a bad day that sets him.

5) Brooke - Brooke had the strongest episode of anyone thus far this season. She won both challenges while impressing the judges with her bravado. I stated last week that I believed she is a much better chef than she had demonstrated thus far. I believe that opinion had been validated. Even so, Top Chef: Seattle has already witnessed a pair of stunning reversals of fortune. So I worry about Brooke’s chances this evening. If she survives the episode, she is a strong contender to win Top Chef. If not, CJ will be in a world of hurt at Last Chance Kitchen.

6) Stefan - I readily acknowledge Stefan’s reputation as well as his track record on Top Chef. What I also must point out is that in five elimination challenges thus far, he has finished in the bottom group twice, the middle group twice and the top group only once. He is also 0 for 10 overall in winning challenges. Micah, Lizzie, Joshua and Danyele are the only other remaining competitors who have yet to taste victory. Yes, over half of the current Top Chef participants have won a challenge; Stefan isn’t one of them.

7) Bart - Bart’s elk dish may be the best meal he has prepared on his own thus far. I am not sure if this is a compliment or not since the dish did not earn him a spot in the top group. Bart needs to start demonstrating more of the skill that has led to his global reputation. He is just a guy this season rather than a Knight of the Order of Colicchio.

8) Micah - Micah’s dish last week featured more components than your average Shoney’s Breakfast Buffet. There was absolutely no decision making embodied by the dish. And the plating was messier than Pig-Pen. Whereas Kristen is demonstrating youthful confidence and backing it up with delicious food, Micah is talking a better game than he is playing, at least to this point in the competition.

9) Joshua - I have a lot of dreams about Padma that involve pork-related acts. Fortunately, she has never told me to stop calling myself the pork expert in them. Joshua strikes me as a talented chef whose feelings of inadequacy are costing him dearly. To a larger point, his reputation is being damaged as much as anyone I can ever recall because he has failed twice with his protein specialty. I hope he redeems himself at some point but I also worry that if he tries another pork dish, he’s a slam dunk for elimination. His massive portions create rancor among the judges.

10) Josie - Josie is so dull that she makes me realize why there are no reality shows about accounting or life insurance.

11) Danyele - Oh Danyele, you seem like such a nice woman and truthfully, this was your first time on the bottom. The problem is that the perception of the judges factors into the grading. Right now, the perception of you is that you are insecure and passive, maybe even weak. This is exactly the sort of behavior that led to Jeffrey’s elimination. Fair or not, Danyele’s lack of confidence is ruining her chance of winning Top Chef.