We're about midway through the current season of Top Chef
, and in case you've missed it, here's all you need to know: There are four clear favorites and two potential dark horses. Everyone else is dead weight, as far as I'm concerned.
The leaders of the pack:
-Jennifer Carroll. Very strong and consistent. By far the most talented of the female contestants.
-Kevin Gillespie (aka Red Santa). Seems like a genuinely nice guy with terrific culinary instincts.
-Bryan and Michael Voltaggio. These brothers seem to trade wins every other week. Bryan is more conservative, straightforward, and thoughtful. Michael is somewhat of a punk, but an excellent chef in his own right. Bravo
is a bit too enamored with this brother-vs-brother storyline, but the fact that they could both make it to the finals on their own merits breathes life into the drama--which the show's producers have nearly beaten to death.
- Michael Isabella. Extraordinarily cocky and obnoxious, Mike is easy to dislike. He's a tough competitor, though, and he has the capacity to take down one or more of the favorites with a well-timed brilliant dish. (I also happened to dine at his DC restaurant
last month, and the food was, admittedly, delicious).
- Eli Kirshtein. He's been decent all season -- never seems to make it to judges' table; as a winner or a loser. He's managed to hang in there without alienating any of the judges or memorably screwing up, so he might just sneak up on folks with a few solid weeks in a row.
- Robin Leventhal. Richly deserves the boot, ASAP. Over/under - 1 week left.
- Laurine Wickett. A bit vanilla, not especially creative, and has narrowly avoided the axe a few times already.
- Ash Fulk. Excuses, excuses. Has he put out a single good dish yet? Very forgettable.
- Ashley Merriman. Despite a minor surge in recent weeks, she still seems weak. Question: Hey Ashley, can you talk about how your family was poor growing up in the woods a little more, please?
I was skeptical of Vegas as a host city for a cooking show, but it's been wonderful so far. Cool guest judges and creative challenges have made this season quite enjoyable, as has the relative lack of contrived personal drama (think Hosea/Leah kissy-face awfulness). Head judge Tom Colicchio has commented a few times that this is the strongest pool of contestants of any TC
season thus far, and it's hard to disagree. When the show finally sheds the wannabes, there could be an amazing run of episodes down the stretch--with very little room for error. Looking forward to the rest of the Vegas run.