This week’s Top Chef began with the saga of Josh and John. John says whatever comes to his mind—which is admittedly not always so nice. Josh perceives this as John being out of touch, incompetent and a jerk to boot. The jerk part may be true, but the rest makes no sense due to John consistently landing on top and Josh landing on the bottom. More on that later.
First we saw the week’s quickfire, where Josh actually proved he has the beard to carve a nice piece of meat. He landed in the top with John and CJ, but ultimately John’s braised oxtail dish was the dish that impressed the judges the most. It was one of those times when going out on a limb paid off.
This week’s challenge was a fairly difficult one, however. Everyone was put together in a tiny kitchen and told they needed to create dishes found in restaurants in the 1950s. Chefs had to know about the history of food and even cooking styles, and while some people were in their element, others were not.
We saw weird salads that were heavy on the dressing, baked potatoes and mushroom sides, tons of different types of meats, and to top it off sundaes and sherbet for dessert. Some people did embrace the spirit of the fifties and create yummy dishes to boot, but others missed the mark. Earlier, Padma had announced that two people were going to go home, and thus four landed on the bottom. Josh’s onion soup was cold, CJ’s has used the wrong cooking process that didn’t exist in the fifties, Carla’s squab was not cooked properly, and Chrissy made an overdressed salad. Eventually, Carla and Chrissy went home. The good news is, Kristin earned the win this week for some mushrooms she actually called “easy.” We’ll see if the curse is broken and the winner actually sticks around next week.
#1) John Tesar (36): John might not be the easiest chef in the history of the show to get along with, but if the first few episodes of Season 10 are any indication, he might be one of its most talented. He once again took home top honors during the quickfire, and contrary to what Joshua may have said, his expediting didn’t really screw anyone over. I’m not ready to say he’ll win, but it would be a shock at this point if he didn’t make the finals.
#2) Stefan Richter (33): Stefan had a solid, though unspectacular week. His quickfire pasta dish was very well-received by the guest judge, but it somehow wasn’t singled out among the top three. His throwback kidney at the restaurant during the elimination round, however, was gushed over by just about everyone and landed him in the top. In fact, I was pretty positive he was about to be declared the winner when Kristen snuck in. This is the chef we all thought we’d be seeing. Now he needs to keep it up.
#3) Lizzie Binder (32): Lizzie went out on a limb and made pickled herring for the elimination round this week. She’s consistently shown us solid dishes and good judgment, but she hasn’t won anything, yet. She, like Stefan, needs to hop over the hump and take home a quickfire or elimination challenge win to land in that top spot.
#4) CJ Jacobsen (31): CJ probably shouldn’t be this high this week. He made a huge mistake when he used a cooking technique that wasn’t around in the 1950s. However, he’s gone hard since the beginning of the competition. Last week, his turkey was the hardest dish of the night and he cooked it to perfection. This week he took on grill responsibilities alongside the creation of his own dish. He’s hungry for the win, and all he needs to do is find the right balance between his own stuff and working with others to land on top.
#5) Danyele McPherson (28): Every time someone willingly elects to make sweets during a group meal, I always scratch my head and wonder what’s going on. This isn’t Just Desserts. That being said, it’s hard to find fault when the offerings are well received by the judging panel. Danyele has been quietly impressive thus far during her tenure on the show. She doesn’t seem like the type of girl to make silly mistakes, and at some point, she should put out a flavor combination that rises from her usual good to great.
#6) Kristen Kish (26): Kristen may have been more shocked than anyone when she took home this week’s elimination challenge win for making simple mushrooms, but more often than not, the early rounds of Top Chef are about executing tasks properly. I’m not sure anyone has ever gone home in the first few episodes for making something the judges enjoyed eating.
#7) Micah Fields (23): Micah made some vegetables this week that looked like a collection of veggies in the 1950s, but weren’t cooked overly well. He’s consistently landed in the middle of the pack throughout the competition, and thus has also landed smack dab in the middle of the power rankings. At some point, he’ll need to stand up and make a statement or head home.
#8) Brooke Williamson (22): Brooke received decent marks from the judges this week for her seafood salad. The praise was enough to land her in the middle, but it wasn’t nearly the outpouring of support she got for her biscuits last week. She’s been quietly good thus far this season, but without any victories, she still has plenty of room for improvement.
#9) Tyler Wiard (20): Tyler landed in the bottom 3 for his gumbo last week and it gave him the confidence to really push through and create a good dish this week. His fifties throwback starter was a crab cocktail that landed him in the top. One week of coming through in the clutch is not enough to land you in the top 3 at this point. History says Tyler will likely fail again, but we hope not.
The Dark Horses
#10) Sheldon Simeon (19): Sheldon’s had the worst bumps in the power rankings over the last few weeks. He started with some strong dishes and landed toward the top of the ranks, but in the subsequent weeks, he hasn’t had a great grasp on what his dishes need in order to be great. This week he made an alright mahi mahi dish, but he has landed in the bottom before and he’ll need to work his way back to the top.
#11) Josie Smith-Malave (15): Josie made baked potatoes this week, and all anyone seemed interested in was their bigness. On the one hand, it’s a good sign they didn’t have many complaints. On the other hand, the last time the judges were obsessed with the size of something was Grayson Schmitz’s obnoxiously large steak, and that wasn’t a compliment either. Josie may have won the quickfire last week, but she’s still running near the back of the pack.
#11) Eliza Gavin (15): Eliza has mostly been forgettable in the competition thus far. This week her quickfire dish was certainly notable for its weird flavor combinations (Seriously, who pairs flank steak with cherries and asparagus?). She’s failed to impress so far, and for the final challenge this week she created a couple of ice cream dishes. She needs to make something spectacular at some point, or she’ll continue to land in the bottom.
#13) Bart Vandaele (12): Bart needs to become more than just the goofy, good-natured foreign guy. I genuinely had high hopes for him coming into the season, but on his good weeks, he blends into the middle of the pack and on his bad weeks, he flirts with getting sent home. Why is he here? What is he good at? These are questions I would rather get an answer to sooner rather than later.
#14) Joshua Valentine (10): Josh comes with a lot of baggage. He has an axe to grind and he always feels like people are out to get him because he is from Oklahoma. The latter fact is patently untrue. It’s annoying to see him pick fights from week to week and he’s consistently been on the bottom, but has lucked out by not being quite the worst in any given week. He’s not even cooking his way into the middle. It will take more than simply one good quickfire run to move this guy up in the ranks.
Here’s a look at how each of the two ballots shook out: