Top Chef Power Rankings
By David Mumpower
January 30, 2013
There was almost another cataclysmic shakeup at the top of the power rankings this week. Brooke, the number one player last week, made critical errors during what should have been a simple challenge. Because of the snafu, I’ve had to re-evaluate who is the best performer on the show right now. Eventually, I settled upon…
1) Brooke: As much as I was tempted to slot Sheldon in this slot, I went back and re-watched the key aspects of last episode. What I noted with the benefit of hindsight is the respect directed toward Brooke. Tom Colicchio and Wolfgang Puck in particular were hard on her when they tasted the food. After they took time to reflect on the situation, both men were willing to give her a pass.
Most chefs during a season of Top Chef have a moment of utter failure. The question of timing is what matters. Richard Blais famously experienced his worst challenge during the final tasting. Conversely, Hosea and Kevin flirted with disaster throughout their seasons before winning. Being perfect every challenge has only been accomplished by one chef in the show’s history: Paul Qui. Upon reflection, I’ve decided not to overreact to Brooke’s struggle last week. She has been more consistent than Sheldon throughout the season so she deserves to be the frontrunner.
2) Sheldon: Since facing elimination in the eighth episode and being average in the ninth episode, Sheldon has stepped up his game dramatically. He is an overheated fryer away from winning three consecutive elimination challenges. That is a remarkable hot streak at this point in the competition. He also has earned the respect of his peers as well as diehard support from the judges. I have maintained for a while now that Sheldon is the most likely man to win the competition. I still believe that. Although…
3) Joshua: Joshua has been all over the place this season. He started as the pork specialist whose pork was reviled by the judges. Then, he redeemed himself not once but twice with this particular protein. Since then, he has found his confidence. In the process, Joshua has become a force in the competition. He has finished in the top group five out of the last six challenges, easily winning the most recent one. Yes, that was partly because of an equipment malfunction suffered by Sheldon but the result stands. Joshua never seems to have those issues because he is phenomenal with time management. He also has a plan for every dish. Usually, said plan is to keep cooking pig or chicken until the judges smile. The plan is working.
4) Lizzie: With only five players left, any sort of ascension by a player leads to the potentially unfair drop for someone else. Lizzie was in the top group in the Elimination challenge last week, delivering delicious flavors albeit ones that were not applicable to a fried chicken competition. What I find fascinating about her candidacy is how much she has maintained balance.
Lizzie has finished in the top group four times, the middle group five times and the bottom group twice. In nine out of 11 challenges, she has been in no danger of elimination, which is great. Sheldon is the only other player who has been in the bottom group so few times. Brooke and Stefan have been in the bottom group three times while Joshua leads (or trails?) the pack with four appearances. Despite avoiding the bottom group 82% of the time, Lizzie has never managed to win. Her path to the title of Top Chef is quite odd in this regard. As the herd has thinned, Lizzie has struggled twice but one of those was no fault of her own. I actually believe that she is a better chef than Joshua. She simply hasn’t proven it by winning anything, at least not yet.
5) Stefan: If Padma were the sole judge, Stefan would have been eliminated then left for dead in a way we haven’t seen since The Bride in Kill Bill. Even after garnering his first victory in the Quickfire challenge last week, a win that should come with an asterisk, Stefan still almost talked his way out of Top Chef. First, he ignored the caveman-like instruction of “make fried chicken." Then, he feigned ignorance when called on his idiotic decision.
What killed Josie last week is that all of the judges were tired of her excuses. The same could be said of Stefan, who has burned so many bridges this season that he will regret the decision to return. Well, he will if he does not win Top Chef. He still has a 20% chance of ultimate victory. Well, it’s 17% including Last Chance Kitchen or 15% including the people’s choice twitter hashtag campaign. Anyway, there are maybe seven people left who can still emerge victorious. Despite his lackluster performance this season, Stefan is still one of them. For now.