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Top Chef’s California season is just past the halfway mark and in the middle of a two-part Restaurant Wars challenge. As veteran watchers of the Bravo show, it’s a good time to set some odds on the current group of cheftestants’ chances of making the multi-part finals competition.
Marjorie Meek-Bradley: For those of us with a rooting interest in D.C. chefs, MM-B has been comforting. Even when she’s finished in the bottom (because of her team), judges have singled out her food as being excellent. The Ripple/Roofer’s Union chef already brought out her secret weapon–baking—a couple of times, and her ability to work across a couple of styles is handy. Plus, as a friend and former employee of Mike Isabella, she came into this with a good understanding of the game. She can win it. Odds: 3-1
Jeremy Ford: On paper, Ford is the ideal Top Chef contestant—great pedigree, works for a big-name chef (Jean-Georges Vongerichten), and has tremendous chops. The Miami chef has two wins already and a few high finishes and, maybe more importantly, has demonstrated some great fish cookery. He’s a force. Odds: 4-1
Amar Santana: Every season has an Amar, whose story arc goes like this: 1) Who is this guy? 2) Hey, I kind of like him. 3) Wow, this guy can really cook. We call this the Mike Isabella path—he might not win, but he can cook his ass off and he’s going to hang around for a while. Odds: 8-1
Phillip Frankland Lee: Every season also has a Phillip, the guy who may be able to really cook and who may be a nice person, but the producers have decided that this chef is getting the Asshole Edit and be the season’s villain. It doesn’t matter that he won the last challenge, he’s got three names and a man bun. He might as well be a member of ISIS. Odds: 8-1
Kwame Onwuachi: Watching the first five episodes, you might have thought Onuwachi—whose Shaw Bijou is slated to open soon—would run the table. He’s very technically gifted, creative about flavors, and seems to be able to work across multiple styles. Then again, so did Jen Carroll, the season six chef widely regarded as one of the biggest near-misses on the show. She kept getting inside her own head, and it ultimately cost her a shot at the finals. Have the last few episodes have foreshadowed a similar fate for Onwuachi, who won two early challenges, but has looked a little shaky since? Odds: 12-1
Karen Akunowicz: Akunowicz is the hardest player to get a read on. She’s gotten an edit that doesn’t make her seem overly confident, yet she’s also picked up wins in both quickfire and elimination challenges. Akunowicz also barely escaped the chop in the Art Smith wedding challenge. Odds: 12-1
Carl Dooley: Remember one thing about Dooley? Yup, neither do we. He’s been safely in the middle all season. Odds: 50-1
Isaac Toups: And finally, every season has an Isaac, the one chef who is very good within their style—in this case, cajun—and struggles outside of it. They usually have an outsized personality, too. Toups is someone who you would love to have a beer or ten with, but he’s going to be out of his element soon. He’s been in the bottom on two of the last three elimination challenges. Dead Chef Walking. Odds: 150-1
Photo via Top Chef