last season of top chef was a dud. after tiffany got booted, i didn't care anymore. i might have just punted on the show, except that the new season that starts tonight is an all-star season, in which they are bringing back favorite non-champs from previous seasons. that's either going to be awesome or awful, and i am willing to bet awesome.
i was talking about the cast yesterday with jennifer decamp, and here is how i handicapped the field, using little more than my wishful thinking:
first six out: the first six weeks or so weeks of any top chef season is usually spent culling the field and setting up drama between contestants that will be going deep into the season. so we never really get to know the people that go out early. this season is different because we start out knowing all the contestants, and most already went deep into their season. so here are the ones that i think will be the first to be eliminated, in no particular order:
antonia, stephen, elia, spike and both dales. i remember antonia, but was stunned to go back and realize that she made it so deep into her season, because i remember almost nothing about her. anyone who watched season one remembers stephen, with a roll of the eyes. elia was good
but i just don't see her sticking in this crowd. it will be interesting to see if dale l has overcome his lack of confidence, and it seems unlikely that dale t has overcome his overabundance of it.
i feel confident that antonia and elia will be out early. i am less sure about the guys, because three are dramatic, instigating pot stirrers. which is how they made it deep in their respective seasons. dale l is not a pot stirrer, but he seemed legitimately good, so he could stick
the middle six: my guess at the middle tier of eliminations would be marcel, angelo, mike, fabio, carla and jamie. marcel was stephen 2.0 and the runner-up on what i think was the worst season (season 2). i could never figure out how carla made it past week 3 of her season, and she made it to the final. angelo may or may not have been amazing, i could never decide whether to believe the hype. it seemed too much. ditto fabio. i love jamie, so i hope i'm wrong there. mike, meh.
the final six: richard, jennifer, casey, tre, tiffani and tiffany. all were people i thought could have/should have won their seasons. richard was odds-on fave in his finale, and while i think that stephanie kicked butt in the final and deserved to win that one, i thought richard's biggest mistake came at judges' table, when he started talking about mistakes he made, then the judges started agreeing with him. they weren't saying anything bad about him until then. granted that could have all been editing, but still.
casey was in the weird season where they taped the finale in aspen, then did a live judges table in chicago who-knows-how-long later. so she spent the interim thinking she did fine, then learned that the judges didn't like it. that was a bizarre finale. (and here's praying they don't spend this season overdramatizing the situation between casey and carla, where casey was carla's sous chef in carla's finale. it was carla's fault. totally.)
tre was the earliest to be booted off in his season among the all-stars. he got kicked off during restaurant wars because he took too much responsibility. i still don't understand that one.
jennifer looked like she was going to be awesome in her season, tearing it up in the early episodes. then one episode she was sick, and it seemed to zap all her super powers or something. she limped into the finals, but never really seemed like she would win. my guess is she'll be strong here.
tom colicchio often mentions how much he liked tiffani from season 1, so i suspect she'll be strong. and tiffany's departure from last season was sort of stunning. she was the only person in the cast that i wanted to see win.
all that said, my two favorites are richard and casey. i'll be happy if either of them win.
so, we'll see. i'm probably totally wrong.