The Contenders
#6) Aaron Cuschieri (27): Aaron didn’t do particularly well last week, but he has jumped up in these power rankings numerous points for just crushing it this week. In fact, he barely lost the gumbo quickfire challenge to Carrie, and the filling he contributed to her empanada helped to make that dish great. Aaron will still need to cook his heart out over the next couple of weeks, but I’d definitely say he was the most improved contestant this week. It’s still pretty early in the game, but Aaron fought hard for higher slot this week.

#7) Brian Huskey (26): Brian’s ice cold ceviche went over very well with the judges for three reasons. First, it had great flavor. Second, it was head and shoulders better than Bret’s ceviche, and third, it fit in perfectly with the other dishes on the winning team. He may not have been declared the winner, but he clearly proved his talent this week.

#8) Janine Booth (23): Janine made a cold soup this week, and while she didn’t blow anyone away, she clearly wasn’t the reason her team didn’t win. The guests all talked about what a nice change of pace it was. I’m not ready to say she’s a possible winner yet, but after the dishes she’s cooked so far, it would be a surprise to see her go before at least the halfway point.

#9) Louis Maldonado (22): Louis is one of the contestants who hasn’t really earned a ton of screen time thus far. This week, he made an unmemorable gumbo and basically helped his team to expedite and put together dishes that were conceived by other people. Oh yeah, and he chilled some watermelon. That’s certainly one way to keep from going home, but he’ll still have quite the climb to make it to the top.

#10) Justin Devillier (21): Justin had a sad look on his face when he didn’t make the top three on the gumbo quickfire challenge, but it’s not like he was in the bottom. Thus far, he’s stayed in the middle of the pack, but given his James Beard award nominee status, there’s clearly a whole lot more he can give.

#11) Stephanie Cmar (18): Stephanie’s the contestant that didn’t earn a coat last year. This year, she’s back and she is constantly talking about how she has something to prove. Yet, she’s timid in the kitchen and timid with the cameras. While she hasn’t sucked by any means, she also hasn’t created anything that has wowed the judges. She will need to step up her game in the coming weeks if she expects to keep moving forward.

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