Top Chef Season 17 Power Rankings
By Jason Lee
April 22, 2020
Proven Winners: Gregory and Melissa
Though neither chef would have been my pick to win Top Chef: All Stars L.A. before the show began, through five episodes, Gregory and Melissa have been consistently at or near the top. Gregory has two Elimination Wins and one Quickfire Win, and Melissa has two Elimination Wins and likely the most impressive single dish so far — her Michelin-star quality lobster wonton dish in episode 3. In my eyes, they are the current frontrunners for the title.
Got the Goods But Lacking Wins: Bryan Voltaggio and Eric
At the beginning, Bryan Voltaggio seemed to me to have the same sort of air of inevitability that Richard Blais did on the last season of All Stars. He’s clearly got some of the best cooking skills of the current roster — in fact, he completed on Top Chef Masters in its first season. What he hasn’t been able to do yet, though, is show he can actually be the best chef in any single challenge. You need to be able to hit the highest of highs to win the title, and we haven’t seen that yet from Bryan. Same for Eric. Like Bryan, he’s been in the top of two episodes but hasn’t broken through yet. Given the strength he displayed last season, that should only be a matter of time.
Safely Plugging Along: Kevin, Nini, and Karen
These three chefs are in the middle, all for different reasons. Unlike the other two, Kevin has shown he can win, with victories in one Elimination Challenge and two Quickfires. However, again unlike the other two, Kevin has shown that he can bomb challenges. He could have gone home in the very first challenge for overcooking his swordfish, and he could have again gone home in the third episode had he not won immunity. I predict this boom-and-bust cycle will eventually catch up with him. Despite her youth, Nini has proven again and again that she has the chops. She’s been in the top twice now, most recently for her take on nuoc cham, but she lacks the firepower of the four chefs in the categories above. As for Karen, she’s been flying under the radar, mostly safe, and drawing few raves.
Molly, You In Danger Girl: Lee Anne, Brian Malarkey, Stephanie
The three chefs in the bottom seem to have mental blocks. Lee Anne is perpetually overcomplicating her dishes, hindering her execution when the pressure is on and potentially muddying her flavors. She’s skated by so far, but only barely. Brian is Mr. Oblivious — to how he acts, how he comes off, and the scope of his culinary prowess. He doesn’t seem to have a great grasp of what the judges are looking for, challenge to challenge, and I could see this being his downfall. As for Stephanie, she needs to get out of her head and get out of her own way. Every week, she’s overthinking things and second-guessing herself. She’s the opposite of Melissa, who’s calm, collected, and executes cohesive, clearly conceptualized dishes. She needs to turn this around quickly.