The Top Chef: Seattle competition kicked off with a quickfire challenge that brought back a motley crew of past contestants, Stefan, CJ, and Josie, to judge. The reasons for bringing back those three became clearer after the quickfire when sly Padma announced a curveball: the three former contestants were jumping back into the competition!

Padma had thrown the contestants into teams of three for the quickfire and those teams continued into the challenge, which included picking fresh Seattle ingredients and cooking in a restaurant located in the famous Space Needle. Overall, the teams did pretty well, with John, Kuniko, and Sheldon’s team pulling through with the win on both the quickfire, where John took immunity, and the final challenge, where Kuniko’s ingenious method of cooking in chili oil earned her the win.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out so well for two other teams. Stefan, Josie, and CJ were rusty upon the return, with the judges mostly pointing a finger at Stefan’s cooking of the quail in the dish. Jeffrey, Bart, and Brooke also landed on the bottom, due to overcooked fish and a seeming lack of cohesion in their dish (Brooke and Bart stated they had different cooking styles, blah, blah, blah). It almost seemed like the veterans were sent to the judges table because the judges expected more out of them than because their dish was truly bad, but it’s hard to tell without having eaten the quail. Due to this, it was really no surprise when Jeffrey was asked to pack his knives and go home for the bad fish dish. One down, sixteen to go until Top Chef: Seattle finds its winner.

The Top Chef Power Rankings are an ordered compilation of weekly lists put together by TV Blend writers Jessica Rawden and Mack Rawden. Each week after viewing the episode, they each rank the competitors in order. Eighteen points are given for a first place vote, and this week, two were given for a last place vote. One competitor has already been eliminated (not counting those chopped in the early rounds); therefore, those people automatically occupy the bottom slots. Here is how this week’s voting panned out, complete with analysis on how the contestants might fare moving forward.


The Favorites
#1) John Tesar (36): John’s a little smarmy and a little bit of a cocksucker, but it’s clear that he has the skill sets to remain in the competition. Tom barely had to see his skills to know he was a good fit in the initial rounds, and his team won both the quickfire and the final challenge this week. Maybe his team-up with Kuniko was just great, and maybe he simply has the drive and the talent to propel himself to a win in Season 10.

#2) Stefan Richter (34): Stefan should have won the fifth season of Top Chef. He was definitely the best contestant that season, but now and again, the competition doesn’t work out as planned. Last night was a good example of that. Stefan burned the damn quail and wound up in the bottom. Still, given his talent, he belongs near the top of these power rankings.

#3) Kuniko Yagi (32): Kuniko is clearly talented, and cooks because it is her passion, no matter what her family thinks of her skill sets. She won the challenge this week, and we expect her to go far in the competition. The one thing that might impede her is a complete lack of ego. That might serve her well in many ways, but I’m worried her voice and vision might get lost among louder members if a team challenge comes along again.

#4) Sheldon Simeon (29): Had he skated by in the middle during the quickfire and the elimination challenges, we’d likely be reminding ourselves that Sheldon is the one from Hawaii. Luckily for him, he’s now the guy who made the dashi the judges loved who just so happens to be from Hawaii. That’s a far better characterization.

#4) CJ Jacobsen (29): CJ looked like he needed to wake up this entire episode. I was impressed by what he had to say concerning what he has been doing over the past few years and what experience he has accrued. At the beginning of the episode, he seemed ready to play, but Top Chef is a competition for those bringing their A-game, and right now CJ seems a little slow. Mad props for thinking of using quail, though, even if it didn’t work out so well for Stefan.


The Contenders
#6) Tyler Wiard (25): Tyler’s cooking really hasn’t separated him from the rest of the pack thus far, but his pictures with John Elway definitely have. As the executive chef of the Elway Restaurant Group, he’s apparently worked closely with the hall of fame quarterback. Here’s to hoping this season goes better for Tyler than his boss’ first three trips to the Super Bowl.

#7) Micah Fields (22): Micah wasn’t particularly impressive during this week’s episode, but he did look good while cooking in Tom’s kitchen during the qualifier. He had plenty of confidence and was willing to get his hands dirty, roll up his sleeves and work. Sometimes doing well on Top Chef is about charting a course and following through without second guesses.

#8) Kristen Kish (21) Kristen beat out her best friend for a shot at a win on Top Chef: Seattle. Since then, she’s come across like she knows what she’s doing, digging in mud and winning the geoduck this week. It’s still early to tell if she’ll be able to remain in this spot or move up in the rankings, but this week she pitted herself smack dab into the ranking’s safe zone.

#8) Danyele McPherson (21): Danyele seems like a competent chef, but I still don’t understand how the hell she got excited about picking a fish without knowing what the hell it was. How can you properly plan the different components in a dish without knowing what the main ingredient is? Luckily, regardless of what happens, she still looks like a grown up version of Merida from Brave.

#10) Lizzie Binder (20): Lizzie has a disgruntled serious face. Onscreen, she’s made a few great comments about what other people are doing with their dishes and why or why not that will work. However, as part of the all girl’s team this week, she only managed to land herself in the safe realm with the judges. She’ll need a little finesse to pull herself into the top.

#11) Eliza Gavin (16): Part of the problem with team competitions is that it’s hard to differentiate between who made the group dishes better and who made them worse. As it stands, Eliza was a non-descript member of an average or below-average team. Hopefully, she’ll stand out next week by picking a main ingredient she can actually identify prior to cooking.


The Dark Horses
#12) Brooke Williamson (12): Brooke was in the bottom 3 this week and presumably could have ended lower. However, she had nothing to do with the poorly cooked fish and was even aware the fish were probably going to land the team in the bottom this week. She also seemed to be pretty astute as to why their dish didn’t work out. She’s got a lot of fight in her, and will probably do a whole lot better in an individual challenge. If not, down the rankings she will go.

#13) Carla Pellegrino (11) : Carla already gets the award for the most hateable cast member this season. She’s like the “twinnies” currently occupying space on The Amazing Race--loud, annoying and open to using feminine wiles. As off-putting as her over-animated personality is, Carla may not be the best of the best in the kitchen, but she also isn’t the worst of the worst. We’ll have to see if her cooking ability will shine through or if her mouth will end up getting her into trouble with the judges.

#13) Josie Smith-Malabe (11): Josie finished eleventh during her initial run on Top Chef. Unlike CJ and Stefan, she was never a threat to win. In fact, she never even won a quickfire. Consequently, while it’s nice to have her back, she has as much to prove as any of the new chefs.

#13) Bart Vandaele (11): Bart has confidence and swagger, and beyond that he’s a little bit bossy. Two episodes in, I still can’t figure out why. The dude may be knighted in Belgium, but he still seems to have less actual cooking skill than most of the other contestants, and unlike the Italian chef Fabio, he’s certainly not going to get by on charm.

#16) Chrissy Camba (7): This is the problem with doing paragraphs after only one real episode. Chrissy hasn’t done anything wrong thus far. She could well be great, but thanks to her loud mouth teammate, she’s only come off like an annoyed woman getting belligerently shouted at. Here’s to hoping we see her as more than that after next week.

#17) Joshua Valentine (4): I really wanted to dig the bearded wonder. Unfortunately, both on a social scale and a cooking scale, he barely seems to rate above incompetent. Thus far, he’s managed to whine about the addition of the veteran contestants, lose some mushrooms in the kitchen, freak out in the kitchen, and produce a portion of an alright meal for the judges. Even if the guy ends up proving himself in the kitchen, I get the feeling that a minor fuck-up, will still give the other contestants the opportunity to throw him under the bus.

Here’s a look at how each of the two ballots shook out:


Mack:
John Tesar (18)
Stefan Richter (17)
Kuniko Yagi (16)
CJ Jacobsen (15)
Sheldon Simeon (14)
Tyler Wiard (13)
Danyele McPherson (12)
Micah Fields (11)
Lizzie Binder (10)
Brooke Williamson (9)
Kristen Kish (8)
Eliza Gavin (7)
Belgian Bart (6)
Josie Smith-Malave (5)
Loud Carla (4)
Chrissy Camba (3)
Joshua Valentine (2)
Jessica:
John Tesar (18)
Stefan Richter bottom (17)
Kuniko Yagi (16)
Sheldon Simeon (15)
CJ Jacobsen (14)
Kristen Kish (13)
Tyler Wiard (12)
Micah Fields (11)
Lizzie Binder (10)
Danyele McPherson (9)
Eliza Gavin (8)
Carla Pellegrino (7)
Josie Smith-Malabe (6)
Bart Vandaele (5)
Chrissy Camba (4)
Brooke Williamson (3)
Joshua Valentine (2)

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