Top Chef Power Rankings
By David Mumpower
January 15, 2014

They are like an old married couple. I bet neither of them fights this much with their wives.

During a recent batch of Power Rankings, I mentioned that I expected a series of unpredictable eliminations from that moment forward. Since then, Carrie has been voted out by the judges because of lingering resentment over a dish she prepared when she had immunity. In the next challenge, half a dozen players were inexplicably divided into teams. And one of them was again provided immunity.

What happened next was, in the Lemony Snicket vernacular, a series of unfortunate events. Nick, the player who performed by far the worst in the challenge, had immunity. His team lost specifically because of him. When Nick chose to keep himself safe, a right he had earned via his first Quickfire challenge, an exceptional chef who had cooked extremely well was eliminated from Top Chef. It’s going to be that type of denouement this season. The Power Rankings may as well be entitled Nina and the Other Five at this point. Based upon recent events, that means the odds of Nina not winning Top Chef are about 100%.

1) Nina
Nina’s team got beaten last week by Stephanie and Shirley. Had Nick played it safe with his dish instead of swinging for the fences, we would probably be discussing other options at the top of the Power Rankings. Acknowledging the puzzling nature of the last challenge’s voting, Nina still crafted the best dish for her team. Since her team “won”, Nina was the overall victor, her first victory since episode six, questionable though the outcome may be. That is enough for me to believe I have to rank her in first place.

2) Shirley
The joke above about Nina and the Other Five notwithstanding, Shirley has basically become the 1A player this season, the Brooke Williamson to Nina’s Kristen Kish (or vice versa). She is tied for the most victories with Nina and out-cooked her foe last week. We generally only see miscarriages of justice like this with regards to outcomes in boxing, ice skating and gymnastics. Top Chef is designed to guarantee that the better player wins. People didn’t do their jobs last week, which is why Nina was given a victory that Shirley rightfully owned. At this point, I think that the women have distanced themselves from the men. None of the three dudes deserves to be champion the way that Nina and Shirley do.

3) Nick
I understand why people are upset with Nick. I must admit that since Stephanie is my favorite player this season (well, ever), I am aggravated with his decision not to fall on his sword. Doing the right thing would have been better for his career, assuming he does not win this season. Still, the blame lies with the show’s producers, ordinarily the best in the realm of reality television. Nick simply played by the rules. If Stephanie had beaten him during the Quickfire challenge, she would be in the game right now. Of course, if anybody else had won, Stephanie still would be in the game right now. That didn’t happen, and it’s not Nick’s fault. What he did accomplish in the last episode was a win during the Quickfire challenge. He also did exactly what Tom Colicchio always asks of people with immunity. Nick grew bolder, leaving his comfort zone to attempt something epic. He failed mightily. That is not what is important. Nick acted like a Top Chef winner in that moment. I have to believe he has a better chance of winning than the other two remaining men in the Winner’s Bracket.

4) Brian
I am still not sold on Brian, who seems like a great dude. His stubborn refusal to be eliminated has allowed me to make innumerable “hip tang” mentions over the past few episodes. I still do not think of him as a person capable of winning Top Chef, though. Then again, I never felt that way about Kevin Sbraga, who not only earned the championship his season but also has a huge supporter in Michael Voltaggio. If I were to take the optimist’s point of view on Brian, I would note that after finishing in the bottom group three times in five episodes, he has been in top group in three consecutive episodes. Brian may be streaking at the right time.

5) Carlos
Ignoring the nonsense between Carlos and Nick, most of which I believe is an outlet for the pressure most men are feeling, here is what is important about Carlos. He once again was the rightful person to eliminate last week as his food was the worst of the six participants in the challenge. Carlos has been solid overall this season. He also has been lucky. I believe that his luck is finally about to run out tonight. Then again, guessing who gets eliminated is no different than drawing the short stick at this point. Anybody could go. The remaining talent is relatively equal, especially among the men in the winner’s bracket.

6) Louis
I actually believe that the finest remaining male chef is the one who has been shredding the competition in Last Chance Kitchen. Louis started his run by beating a solid chef in Janine. Then, he had a couple of victories over Sara and Travis that are not quite as impressive in hindsight. Neither of those players seems well suited for a heads up challenge. The last three people Louis has defeated, however, are all among the best contestants this season. If he only had three victories but the victims were Justin, Carrie and Stephanie, I would be impressed. Since Louis has won six in a row against several strong opponents, he has earned a claim as the best Last Chance Kitchen performer ever. And the champion last season, Kristen Kish, went on to become Top Chef. Now is the time to start taking Louis seriously as a potential re-entry candidate and overall winner. The odds are still only 16.7%, yes. Consider that the odds were only 8.5% when he was eliminated from the winner’s bracket, though. Louis went from having one chance in 12 to one chance in six. That in and of itself is exemplary.