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.

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