skip to: content | navigation | search | footer

Top Chef: Let the Flames Begin Indeed

I’m a Top Chef fan. That’s really no secret. With season 4 starting next week, the anticipation is palpable. This being the first season where I’ll be watching (and living) in NYC, I feel a closer affinity to the show since it gets so much coverage here (7 out of the 16 contestants are New Yorkers.)

Over at you can get to know this year’s contestants. I decided to sit down and read each bio and watch each video. Here I’ve compiled my thoughts on each cheftestant based on a) snap judgment (the fun part) b) reflection after watching their video and c) parting thoughts. After all that, I make my prediction for the elimination schedule. I can’t wait to see how close I come to getting it right.

Let’s go alphabetically. Click their names to go to the Bravo page and watch the videos and read their bios (so you can judge too!)


andrew.jpgSnap judgement: This year’s CJ

After watching the video:
Like him. He’s passionate about food, and treats it seriously. He’s confident but not pretentious. He’s an academic foodie, and really loves food as a medium. I like his cadence, his personality. Plus, he loves Jamaican food and hot wings, and duck confit–he’s just like me!

Parting thought: His strategy is to “cook with honor” I like that.


antonia.jpgSnap judgement: Uninspired, first to cry

After watching the video: Boring… She loves to cook, but doesn’t come off as a chef. I’m not sure she has the desire or the strength to put up with the igorous demands of the show (Padma, Tom, and the Ripper ain’t your family for Sunday dinner.) She seems pretty tied into Italian, that’s going to hurt her when they demand she steps out of her comfort zone. She’ll pull a Camille and fall on the sword the first time someone needs to make a dessert. She loves Balsamic but hates Saffron? Puh-leez…

Parting thought: What’s with all the people liking the Japanese Mandoline?


dale.jpgSnap judgement: I hate you

After watching the video: Yeah, he works at Buddakan, big deal. He used to be at Morimoto, yawn. He’s young and cocky, which this show seems to require in at least one of its contestants. He’s this years Hung for sure–cocky and gaysian. Will he have what it takes? We’ll see. “You kinda never have to grow up”, yikes!

Parting thought: his motto is “expect perfection, because if you fail short your left with greatness.” Maybe so, but what is your right with? Zing!


erik.jpgSnap judgement: Oh, scary. Nice chains dude. No motorcycles in the kitchen.

After watching the video: Are you wearing a chef coat with the sleeves cut off? Eww. This guy seems like he might have a little Howie in him but I think it’s more likely that he’s boring.

Parting thought: I like what he has to say, but he just seems kind of one dimensional.


jennifer.jpgSnap judgement: Good travel and experience under her belt. Looks promising

After watching the video: She has a “rustic” cooking style where she hides behind seasonal ingredients. I don’t think that’ll last long on the show. You won’t be working with fresh ramps and black trumpets every day honey.

Parting thought: I’m sick of these damn boring Californian chefs who love their lean proteins and seasonal produce. Bring me Sam Talbot who wants to “make love in duck fat”. Ramps are for rabbits, give me preserved meat!


lisa.jpgSnap judgement: She seem likes she’s firey. I like it.

After watching the video: She’s kind of hot, in a mean way. She thinks lobster is overrated, awesome. I hope she takes Dale’s ball’s in the first episode and doesn’t give them back till Restaurant Wars.

Parting thought: I like this girl. She’s got what it takes to last on the show.


manuel.jpgSnap judgement: His favorite simple spring recipe is “Crispy soft shell crabs with charred ramp vinaigrette”– now that’s something I can get behind.

After watching the video: Southwest/Mexican by way of classic French training and experience at Le Cirque and alongside Batali? This guy’s got what it takes. A winner across the board. He’s humble but confident, and sees food as an art. He likes fancy sea salts and hates raw peppers. I like him.

Parting thought: I love Dos Caminos so maybe I’m biased toward this guy, but he’s the man. He said it in the video: all these Asian influenced people will fall at his chile-slinging feet.


mark.jpgSnap judgement: This year’s Mikey?

After watching the video: He reminds me of that douche who threw a party? He doesn’t seem to be very focused? If he has a natural talent, it might take him a few episodes, but I can’t see him making it past the first half? Also, he has that habit of ending every sentence like it’s a question? which I hate?

Parting thought: He worked in a slaughterhouse…cool! I bet he won’t turn out seared scallops every week like all the other poofs. If he’s missing you can check the backroom where he’ll be toking up with Padma.


nikki.jpgSnap judgement: Front of house experience - she’ll be good at restaurant wars, too bad she won’t last that long.

After watching the video: I’m not sure what it is but I can’t see us getting to know this woman. I think she’s off after the first week. Never trust a skinny chef.

Parting thought: I love when your mom wakes up in the morning and starts a pot of sauce too.


nimma.jpgSnap judgement: She’s good looking, but her favorite food to cook is pasta? So is every other home cook’s. Not promising.

After watching the video: She sounds like a product of the Food Network. I dont see her being extrodinarily innovative or groundbreaking. Why do I think her favorite “Italian” food to cook and eat is fried and drenched in sauce and not so much good, fresh, Batali/Oliver Italian?

Parting thought: Why are these women all so boring? Lisa’s the only one who I actually want to watch.


richard.jpgSnap judgement: Can we RIP the faux-hawk? Please? This guy seems like a wanna-be Jaime Oliver.

After watching the video: This guy likes being in a kitchen, which is great, and one of the supreme joys of the trade, but you need more than that to compete here. He doesn’t seem to think about food as artfully as others.

Parting thought: Immersion circulator? Maybe this guy has a few tricks we haven’t seen yet. A surprise molecular gastronomist (who isn’t douchy) would be a good addition this season.


ryan.jpgSnap judgement: Fan favorite. Philanthropist, frat-boy good looks, he’s a shoe-in.

After watching the video: This guy seems down to earth and passionate. I still say all the ladies are going to swoon for him. He seems to have a casual confidence and knowledge with food and his “seasonal” style seems authentic and not trendy. He hates bell peppers too. I smell a trend.

Parting thought: His favorite food is pizza but he lives on the west coast. How is that possible? Oh, ranch dressing.


spike.jpgSnap judgement: For every stuffy CA chef making seared scallops they caught with their bare hands that morning there’s a NYC chef opening a burger and hot dog joint for his family and friends. Which is better? Where do I live…

After watching the video: I can’t get past that damn hat, and that blue-steel stare. At least he admits that he’s young and hasn’t figured out his style yet. Maybe this show will make a man out of him. I like that he wants to build relationships in the house. That’s a good sentiment.

Parting thought: Could he be the first true hipster on the show? I don’t count Ilan since I think he’s just a punk.


stephanie.jpgSnap judgement: This year’s Lia. That mean’s she’ll probably go home before we see her true potential.

After watching the video: She’s a sweetheart, and really seems to love food. She’s one to watch as I think she’s got potential.

Parting thought: Preserved lemons, good show sister!


valerie.jpgSnap judgement: Personal chef spells “diaster”. You need at least one ball to win.

After watching the video: Another boring contestant. How did these people make it on the show? She doesn’t seem to even care if she gets kicked off.

Parting thought: Another Asian influenced chef. That’s trouble for her, it’ll be hard to stand out from the others.


zoi.jpgSnap judgement: What’s with these people and the goddamn lamb in the spring? You un-creative assholes. My, a lot of the women this year seem boring.

After watching the video: Ok, now it’s gotten to the point where all these Italian-loving, seasonal ingredient using white women have meshed together and I can’t tell them apart.

Parting thought: I won’t be sure Zoi and Valerie are different people until I see them together at the same time on camera. Beat haters.

Parting thoughts for the season:

  • what’s with the sudden love for mandolins? They’re cool tools, but I don’t get it. Is there some sponsorship?
  • it’s good to see a new generation of chefs who grew up loving food and were encouraged to explore it as a career.
  • many of the contestants this year have obviously watched the show and have learned some “dos” and “don’ts”.
  • all the “Asian influenced” contestants are going to blur together and the people who use stand out, bold flavors will rise to the top
  • the “heart” of the contestants will come out again this season. many of these people seem to lack a certain NEED to create food.

This has been long enough. Here are my predictions for eliminations for season 4.

Justin Dickinson



4 Responses to “Top Chef: Let the Flames Begin Indeed”

  1. Anticiplate Says:

    I love top chef too. However, I feel like they “cast type” the show a bit. All the people look like they are the same people from last year:) I am still going to watch it, though!

  2. Justin Dickinson Says:

    @Anticiplate I know what you mean! It really makes you wonder if the producers are just looking for these common personality types.

    Then again, I think the restaurant world attracts similar kinds of people. It could just be the nature of the beast.

    We’ll see! I just hope it’s a good season.

  3. Lee Says:

    Thanks for doing all the work and recapping all the new contestants! I started watching Andrew’s video and decided I didn’t have the patience to watch all of them. He seems really cool though, in a goofball kind of way.

    Interesting that you think Lisa’s hot. I would have pegged Antonia for you just by her picture.

  4. Elizabeth Says:

    Great post! Didn’t watch the videos, but your snap-judgments are hilariously spot on.

Leave a Reply

Random Photo


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Recent Photos

  • dan-and-jenny
  • ezra
  • cupcake-sandwich
  • justin-and-jenny-2
  • justin-and-jenny-1
  • justin-and-laura
  • New Hat
  • IMG_0500
  • IMG_0493
  • IMG_0492
  • IMG_0491
  • IMG_0490


  • Amateur Gourmet - A NYC blog about food, restaurants, and culinary culture where I am a contributor.
  • Have You Met Ted? - The blog for all things How I Met Your Mother. Written by yours truly.
  • Maniacal Rage Podcast - The podcast that treads the line between precocious creativity and crippling cynicism.
  • Nobody Likes Onions - Not for the faint of heart.
  • - dinosaur comics - Funniest. Comic. Ever.