Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Top Chef: Vegas preview

With news of the new Top Chef season starting in August, I couldn't be happier. Sure, Top Chef Masters is decent, but it's no substitution for the original. I love the heightened ability and reverence everyone pays to one another, but hate the format. It seems every chef with any amount of personality (save Rick Bayless who made it through) gets trounced. So, while I'll continue to watch, all it's really doing is getting me excited for the big dog.

Over at Bravo, they have posted bios for all the chefs competing in season 6, so I figured why not take a look at them, dust off my handicapping skills and see what I get right and wrong based on appearance, and 50 words of copy. I briefly thought about a Top Chef pool, and I still may do it, but I also know there are sites out there that spoil the results and I didn't want to get into the world of Tim Donaghy. Maybe if there's enough interest, I'll set something up. Anyway - onto the chefs...

After last season, it seems the producers stepped up their search and brought in some good talent. Looks like a lot of these chefs have some great experience, which should make this season a great one!

In my handicapping, I am including odds for winning, and odds for being the first chef eliminated. Enjoy!

Ron Duprat

Odds of winning: 10-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 100-1

Ron appears to have a lot of personality, which will keep him on the show for awhile. No, this isn't any conspiracy theory suggesting producers have a say in who stays and who goes; it simply means personality is a great trait for a chef and for Ron I think it will help him shine. Another great little tidbit that I've gleaned from his bio - he enjoys making flourless cake, which means he has at least one dessert recipe - something no chef should be without on this show.

As for winning, I think he might be too bold and adventurous, which will hurt him in the later stages. Remember, the judges are looking first and foremost for perfectly executed dishes.

Robin Leventhal

Odds of winning: 25-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 8-1

Robin is a tough one to handicap. She's self taught and it doesn't look like she's currently cooking anywhere (professionally). She lists as one of her favorite summer recipes as "Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad with a great piece of fish or meat." Really? You couldn't name the fish or meat? Red flag. Of course, her artist background could really come into play and she could take a Carla-like run to the finals.

Preeti Mistry

Odds of winning: 8-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 40-1

With a name like that, how can you go against her? Well, her Google chef experience might not help her too much, but her formal training at Le Cordon Bleu certainly will. Not to mention one of her strengths is sauces. That can take a chef a long way.

Michael Voltaggio

Odds of winning: 7-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 20-1

He looks like an 80s teen movie villain which is probably exactly what Top Chef wants. Still young, his appearance comes off as cocky as well. Could be the bad guy in the kitchen everyone respects and hates. Or could fall flat on his face and go down in a blaze of explosive ranting about how the judges don't get him and his style. He definitely appears to have the awards hardware to back up his style.

Michael Isabella

Odds of winning: 30-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 8-1

Though I love the simplicity of the ingredients he always has on hand, I'm a little wary about his specific greek style. I'm sure he makes excellent food, and I'm sure he has a more rounded background in food, but sometimes chefs trying to shoehorn their style into s challenge that has nothing to do with it leads to disaster. But don't you fret, his Steve Guttenberg looks will definitely have me rooting for him. Because I love Police Academy. And Young Doctors in Love. Not Cocoon so much, but that had to do with a bare chested Wilford Brimly that scarred my childhood. Where were we?

Mattin Noblia

Odds of winning: 20-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 6-1

Admit it, you thought the scarf was a dead giveaway that he was gay. Nope. Unless he wants to eat dinner with Jessica Alba to go over...[insert vulgar joke here]. He's French, and Top Chef seemed to have an affinity for the foreign chefs last year, I'm thinking this year they uniqueness will have worn off. This guy simply looks happy to be here.

Laurine Wickett

Odds of winning: 8-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 40-1

Laurine looks like the type of chef that cooks clean, cooks fresh, and cooks well. Exactly the type of chef that can do well on Top Chef. And her picture also suggests she might have a bit of attitude, another great trait to have in the kitchen.

Kevin Gillespie

Odds of winning: 50-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 4-1

With the style of Dom Deluise and the facial hair of a Michael Landon movie, I fear this guy could just be too nice and intimidated by the kitchen and other chefs. But who knows, maybe his heart is black and he'll make a run.

Jesse Sandlin

Odds of winning: 75-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 5-1

Sassy looking yet self taught, I can see Jesse trying to fit in, and failing. Worse, I can see her not being able to take the pressure and crumbling in episode 1. And that would be a shame, because she looks like a lot of fun and would probably bring something cool to the table every week. So while I'm rooting for her, I don't have high hopes.

Jennifer Zavala

Odds of winning: 50-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 6-1

Another self taught, regional specialist, I fear Jennifer too might have too much going against her. I want her to succeed because she's from Philly, and I don't think Philly gets the respect it deserves from the culinary world.

Jennifer Carroll

Odds of winning: 6-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 100-1

Pretty, and a sous chef for Eric Ripert? Yeah, that's a pretty good pedigree for a contestant on Top Chef. Keep an eye on this one.

Hector Santiago

Odds of winning: 11-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 100-1

Is this the villain for season 6? His profile pic certainly suggests it. You couldn't get a more intimidating pose and scowl from a chef. I'm sure he can back it up in the kitchen, I just wonder if he will have the personality to be flexible to deal with some of the more "colorful" challenges Top Chef comes up with.

Eve Aronoff

Odds of winning: 40-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 8-1

Sassy, attractive and "cougar material," Eve could easily become a fan favorite - or a fan foe. With her own cookbook, her own restaurant and a laundry list of credentials other chefs would love to have, at first glance Eve looks like she'll be able to compete. But there's something about her that I can't get over that makes me think she's got a great chance of exiting early. I can't explain myself, other than to say read Blink.

Eli Kirshtein

Odds of winning: 25-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 9-1

Looking less like a chef and more like a criminal mastermind's mentally challenged sidekick, Eli still looks like he has the chops when it comes to cooking. I am a little concerned about describing his style as "unique." That can sometimes mean "scatterbrained," which is not something the judges smile on too much.

Bryan Voltaggio

Odds of winning: 6-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 30-1

Bryan's food philosophy of "local, organic" ingredients, marries nicely with Tom Colicchio's approach, which will certainly give him a great starting point in the kitchen. As long as he realizes he won't be able to always use the local ingredients he wants (Vegas really doesn't boast too many farms and foodstuffs being in a desert) he should do well.

Ashley Merriman

Odds of winning: 5-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 50-1

She's from a town called Sandwich. That's gotta count for something. I like that her go to ingredients are simple and classic, and also like that he favorite dish is something simple and elegant, with just a touch of sophistication. Unassuming looking, she will quietly glide through the early rounds to become a force in the later competitions. Definitely a favorite.

Ash Fulk

Odds of winning: 25-1
Odds of being eliminated first: 3-1

Looking like a cross between John C. Reilly and Patton Oswalt, with a smidge of Liberace style, if I had to choose someone to go first, it would be Ash. Taking nothing away from his culinary skills (which I know nothing about) the formula for early failure is there; fairly young, self taught, not-so clever witty answer to favorite meal...which is why I'm making him the odds on favorite to pack his knives first.

So there you have it...insight based on nothing but a picture and stock bios for the next season of Top Chef. I'm already assuming I'll be dead wrong on all my choices, but isn't that the fun of watching competitions like this?

Feel free to give your thoughts in the comments section. And let me know your interest about running some sort of pool before the season starts. If enough people want, perhaps I'll scrounge something together.


wix / amelish said...

I think the weird thing about Eve is the way she's standing. Everyone else gets to straighten their spines and look tall, or to strike an aggressive pose (like Jennifer Z), but the way Eve's standing makes her look vulnerable. Like a tired pregnant lady whose back hurts.

Or... she could turn out to be a pain in the ass. You never know!

Also... how did *two* Voltaggios get on the show? Is this season of Top Chef elaborate cover for the filming of a mistaken identity caper comedy?

@keithwade said...

The Gutte was in Bad Medicine, not Young Doctors in Love. Both great movies, but only one could handle the Gutte.

Goose said...

Dammit, I keep getting my comedic med school comedies mixed up. My favorite being of course the Modine/Zuniga tour de force, Gross Anatomy.

Gold IRA said...
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