Thursday, December 9, 2010

Top Chef Recap: Thank God There Was No Ben Stiller Cameo

I know I'm 2 weeks late with my Top Chef musings, but let's blame it on the hectic holiday season.

At first, when I heard about the Top Chef: All Stars show, I was lukewarm on the idea. I thought it was nothing more than a gimmick, like the when Survivor would bring back players. But after the first show I was pleasantly surprised. These chefs had something to prove, and they didn't really care who they ticked off to prove it. Most, extremely confident in their skills, regardless of how they fared in their specific Top Chef episode, and they wanted to show it.

So it was no surprise when Elia was eliminated in week 1. It never seemed like she wanted to be there, she didn't cook with any enthusiasm, and honestly she was a boring character. That's not really an indictment on her personality either; I'm sure she's a great person and has plenty of vibrance (I would imagine a good chef would have to have this). I just think, once she stepped on the set, the memories came rushing back, and she didn't want any part of it all over again. Fair enough.

That's what made the elimination from week 2 such a shock - and a stark contrast. Jen, during her original season, showed off a lot of skill and talent, and that carried her far into the competition. Regardless of how difficult the situation of the challenge was (I understand the sleep deprivation was probably difficult for the chefs, but they all had to cope), she still took pork belly, what I consider to be one of the five greatest things on Earth, and made it not good. That's a pretty egregious offense.

Did I want her to leave? Nope. I always liked Jen and thought she had the ability to go far. Do I think the decision was controversial? Not really. Obviously, we can only rely on the judges reactions, but I don't buy any conspiracy to get Jen off the show. She has a great television personality, and if anything, I think the judges would try to keep her on longer. I think she made a bad dish, didn't want to admit it to herself, and lashed out a bit at the judges. Sorry to see you go Jen, I wish you weren't eliminated.

With that said, let's look at the rest of the chefs, and give some odds on how far they might make it...

Tiffani Faison
Odds to win: 4-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 10-1

Losing in the finale of her season, Tiffani has a chip on her shoulder and something to prove. I think she has a chance to go a long way here, even with her whiny "I thought T-Rexes ate EVERYTHING! Whaaaah."

Stephen Asprinio
Odds to win: 12-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 8-1

Stephen is a perfectionist, which will take him a long way, but I'm not certain of his cooking skills. I think he'll last long enough to show off his ridiculous wine knowledge, but after that, he's probably gone.

Marcel Vigneron
Odds to win: 3-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 25-1

Marcel, the villain's villain has so far taken a fairly low key approach up to now. Sure, he talked a little shit in an interview in episode 2, but that was to the camera and not to the other chefs. So far, he has been a team player (as much as he can be a team player) and has cooked well. I'm sure he's due for some drama (the previews suggest as much) but Marcel has a way of surviving them.

Casey Thompson
Odds to win: 12-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 5-1

Casey hit her stride right when she needed to in her season, and rode the wave all the way to the finale. But I don't think she has the ability to keep up with the talent with some of the other chefs in the kitchen now. Her palate, which is her strength, won't help her much in these early episodes, and I can see her getting eliminated in the next few weeks.

Tre Wilcox
Odds to win: 8-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 5-1

Inconsistency seems to be Tre's moniker this season. And he never does well with others, it seems. Left on his own, I think he can go pretty far, so it depends on how many "team" challenges there are that he has to get through.

Dale Levitski
Odds to win: 6-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 7-1

Dale might have been the biggest to make the finals during his season. Having an epiphany at the time, I think the show helped him find his love for cooking again. And he's definitely come into All Stars with a mission. Confident, catty and brash, Dale came to win. Do I think he can? No. But he surprised people before and I'm sure he can do it again. His problem might be that the drama (which seems to be higher with this group) within this season is too juicy for him to ignore.

Richard Blais
Odds to win: 3-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 20-1

My odds on favorite to win, Richard brings creativity and seems to cook with a purpose - using different techniques to support his cooking and not overshadow it. I think he was the favorite to win his season and was upset when he didn't. And he'll be the first to admit it. He definitely has something to prove.

Antonia Lofaso
Odds to win: 15-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 4-1

Antonia doesn't seem to bring much to the table. I think she's trying to fly under the radar, and while that can sometimes work, I don't think she'll be able to much longer. Some of the chefs involved here won't allow it.

Spike Mendelsohn
Odds to win: 9-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 9-1

Spike is an enigma, which is exactly the way he wants it. Probably the one chef that will play the most mind games, he has sneaky talent and I think his strategy is to try to guess what the chefs want and cook toward that. Whether that will work or not in the later episodes remains to be seen. But I think he views the show more as a reality competition than a cooking show. That will take him far, but I'm not sure it can get him the win.

Dale Talde
Odds to win: 10-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 5-1

Dale gets angry too quickly. That can't help his cooking. I think his technique is good, but wonder if he can cook on the fly when the pressure is there.

Carla Hall
Odds to win: 7-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 4-1

Much like Dale (the gay, muscular one), Carla came on strong late and made a surprise appearance in the finale of her season, which shows she knows what she's doing. Again, I think her season might have not been one of the stronger ones however, and I'm not sure she can handle the talent here. But she could surprise.

Jamie Lauren
Odds to win: 18-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 4-1

Much like Elia, I don't think Jamie wants to be in the competition. The hand cut controversy aside, I think she realized during the museum challenge, just how taxing this show can be, and doesn't want to put up with it. I think in a straight up cooking challenge, she would probably do well, but the obstacles the chefs have to deal with each week will be her downfall.

Fabio Viviani
Odds to win: 50-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 6-1

Fabio is in over his head. I'm sure he's a great chef, but I don't think he can compete on this level. He has a great accent and makes great tv, which is why I think he was asked back. He'll survive a few more episodes, but the other chefs already have started working against him in subtle ways, and that's going to explode soon. Which is a shame, because I like Fabio, and I think he just wants to cook without any of the bullshit that this show creates for the chefs.

Mike Isabella
Odds to win: 30-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 7-1

Another "middle" chef in the All Stars, I think Mike has talent, but he lets too much other stuff throw him off his game. Very little chance for him to win, especially with Jen off the show, who was with him in his original season and I think respected him and complimented him enough to help him keep going.

Tiffany Derry
Odds to win: 5-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 15-1

Tiffany, a great chef has big upset potential to make the finals and actually win this whole thing. Grounded, humble but hugely talented, I think she's got a chance here.

Angelo Sosa
Odds to win: 8-1
Odds to be eliminated next week: 8-1

Angelo is a true wildcard. Extremely talented, I think he tries to play the mind games, but he's too sensitive to be really effective with it. I think he thinks everyone else is playing mind games often when that isn't the case. That will be his downfall. Still, his talent will take him far.

1 comment:

khop said...

oooh, i just saw this and am delighted to get in on this conversation. I only started watching TC a few seasons ago, and they don't have all of them on Netflix, so I'm not as well-versed. But I'm agreeing with much of your analysis thus far. Except I would give Stephen much worse odds, b/c he seems talentless relative to the competition, and I'd also give Tiffani F worse odds as well. Will this be a weekly post?