Top Chef Power Rankings: Week 1
By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 17, 2008 2:15PM
By now anyone who cares should have had the opportunity to check out last week's "Top Chef Chicago" premiere episode, which saw former Scylla owner/chef Stephanie Izard win the elimination challenge with her Asian-influenced duck a l'orange that almost had BOURDAIN! making indecent proposals to her. That she came back to lord over all after an
auspicious ill-conceived start in the deep dish pizza quickfire challenge and a major bout of nerves saucing the duck (watching her hand shake as she sauces the duck is seared in our brain) should be a major confidence booster.
But it's only good enough for Ms. Izard to land the second-place spot in our inaugural power rankings. The top spot goes to Richard Blais. The Atlanta-based chef and culinary designer posted strong showings in both the quickfire and elimination challenges while also getting under the skin of Andrew D'Ambrosi. His aroma of ras al ghanoush that enveloped his crab cake in the elimination challenge also showed that Richard will be the "molecular gastronomist" of this season. Is Richard and Steph continue to build confidence as the season progresses we could be looking at a classic "old versus new style" cooking matchup all the way to the finals. It's too bad he shares his haircut with another contestant.
Here are the rest of the power rankings.
3. Antonia - Apparently she loves to feed people. Strong showings in both the quickfire and elimination challenges, although the latter was a no contest thanks to Nimma's over-salting and inability to form a flan from cauliflower.
4. Dale - It was only the premiere, we get a feeling that soon enough he's going to get under our nerves as much, if not more, than Andrew. But - unlike Andrew - the boy's got skills and acquitted himself well.
5. Nikki - Felt like she let down her "paisanas" in the elimination challenge, earned a spot in the best dish top four in the elimination round with Richard, Steph and Antonia with some homemade lasagna.
6. Jennifer - We suspect that, had she cooked her vegetables more thoroughly, her lasagna dish might have beaten Nikki's. Shares a haircut with Richard (the Jayna to Richard's Zan). She's also a better chef than her girlfriend Zoi, which might have ramifications if they wind up going head-to-head.
7. Spike - Made a damn good deep dish and pushed Lisa to the limit head-to-head making eggs benedict during elimination. Probably the best head-to-head dish of the challenge.
8. Mark - The Hobbit Hottie did wonders with marmite in his deep dish but couldn't construct a good duck a l'orange. All his busywork had Steph shaking for naught.
9 Manuel - Mushroom ceviche and scallion cilantro sauce were sabotaged by a greasy steak au poivre.
10. Lisa - Anyone who complements eggs benedict with toasted challa gets our respect, but we feel this might be the high water mark of her stay on this show.
11. Zoi - At least had the common sense to go sweet with her soufflé, but still did herself no favors. Her announcement that she and Jennifer were a couple were met with a collective "meh."
12. Andrew - Note to Mr. D'Ambrosi: "showing strong to a badass" like Richard would mean knowing how to make mayonnaise, mother*BLEEP*er, which is something we learned in fourth grade science class. If Richard and Jennifer are the Wonder Twins, Andrew is their foul-mouthed space monkey, Gleek.
13. Valerie - the other local girl did herself no favors in either challenge. The chicken piccata head-to-head was the weakest of the elimination challenge cook-offs. Needs to step up her game or she won't be long for the show.
14. Ryan - The "prodigy" who was cooking in kitchens since he was 12 might have benefited from spending some of that time with his nose in a cookbook. His chicken piccata was nothing more than glorified chicken nuggets, and he didn't grok it even when Tom, Rocco, and BOURDAIN! explained the dish to him.
15. Erik - Good guy to drink a beer with or have you bake a pizza. Just don't ask him to make a soufflé. Might wind up in flip-flops in Hawaii sooner than he wants.
16. Nimma (eliminated) - Between her under-salted deep dish pizza and her over-salted shrimp scampi with cauliflower
baby food scramble, the poor girl never really stood a chance to dull her knives.