For its eighth season, Bravo's hit show has rounded up a crew of its fiercest alums — no winners allowed! — for a second chance at the title. We've ranked all 18 of them

By Adam Markovitz
Updated November 26, 2010 at 12:00 PM EST

Top Chef

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For its eighth season (premiering Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT), Bravo’s hit show has rounded up a crew of its fiercest alums — no winners allowed! — for a second chance at the title. We’ve ranked all 18 of them, complete with inside scoop from judge Gail Simmons. ”There are no weak links this time,” she says. Let the flames begin!


1. Jennifer Carroll

Season 6, Final Four

Hometown: Philadelphia

Known For: A gifted chef and hard-nosed leader, Carroll cracked under the pressure in her first go-round.

Gail Says: ”When she’s in the kitchen, she is one of the most focused people I’ve ever met. When she’s out, she’s a party girl. She’s a force. I think the guys are afraid of her — as they should be.”

2. Angelo Sosa

Season 7, Finalist

Hometown: Durham, Conn.

Known For: Sosa’s healthy ego was backed up by his skills — but an illness kept him from scoring the title.

Gail Says: ”He’s looking for redemption. He’s got the drive. I think his obstacle is being diverse enough and not relying on certain flavors.”

3. Marcel Vigneron

Season 2, Finalist

Hometown: Los Angeles

Known For: Though Vigneron’s snotty attitude earned him enemies, his weird-science cooking often wowed the judges.

Gail Says: ”He is so talented and thinks so out of the box. He’s no joke. He never was. He’s come a long way in terms of his maturity, but he still has that great sense of wonder.”

4. Richard Blais

Season 4, Finalist

Hometown: Uniondale, N.Y.

Known For: Blais ”choked” (his own word) in the finals of season 4, but he always came off as a consummate professional with near-perfect technique — and an affinity for cooking (oddly successfully) with dry ice.

Gail Says: ”He was the one to beat in season 4. Everyone thought he was going to win, but he messed up one dish in the finale. I think that dish has haunted him.”

5. Tre Wilcox

Season 3, Top Eight

Hometown: Duncanville, Tex.

Known For: His out-of-the-blue elimination in season 3 shocked fans who thought this self-taught cook was set to school his competitors.

Gail Says: ”I’ve never heard more outrage than when we eliminated Tre — we’ll never live it down. I’m really happy to see him get another shot because we all know he can do better.”

6. Tiffani Faison

Season 1, Finalist

Hometown: Northern Germany

Known For: Season 1’s runner-up is one of the toughest competitors ever to wield a skillet.

Gail Says: ”Tiffani was our ultimate villain. But if you know her, you know that it’s because she’s so talented and such a good cook that a lot of the guys on the show were really scared of her.”

7. Casey Thompson

Season 3, Finalist

Hometown: Cedar Hill, Tex.

Known For: She’s more than just a pretty face: Thompson was voted Fan Favorite of her season and made it all the way to the finals.

Gail Says: ”She can be quite emotional about her work, but not in a whiny or hotheaded way. She is strong and she is serious, and she really knows her stuff.”

8. Jamie Lauren

Season 5, Top Seven

Hometown: New York City

Known For: Lauren came to the show armed with a top-flight culinary education — and she’s pretty funny, too.

Gail Says: ”She packs a punch. Physically she’s so much smaller than other contestants, but that does not deter her in any way.”

9. Dale Levitski

Season 3, Finalist

Hometown: Chicago

Known For: After flying under the radar for the first half of his season, Levitski landed in the finals, thanks to his well-honed technique.

Gail Says: ”He’s got a great sense of humor. He almost won last time. He came so close, and he’s eager to see if he can go all the way.”


10. Spike Mendelsohn

Season 4, Top Five

Hometown: Clearwater Beach, Fla.

Known For: Mendelsohn is one of the goofiest characters in the show’s history, but he’s no fool in the kitchen.

Gail Says: ”Spike comes in ready to make us laugh. When he was there the first time around, he was the joker. But he’s grown so much.”

11. Carla Hall

Season 5, Finalist

Hometown: Nashville

Known For: ”Hootie hoo!” Hall’s catch-phrase perfectly embodied the down-home charisma that made her a Top Chef favorite.

Gail Says: ”Thank God for Carla. She’s got so much positive energy, I wish it would spread to others. I think that’s her advantage.”

12. Antonia Lofaso

Season 4, Final Four

Hometown: Los Angeles

Known For: Thanks to her Italian background and French-style training, Lofaso was a force to be reckoned with.

Gail Says: ”Oh my God, she’s more bubbly than ever. She comes back with guns a-blazing. She is ready to prove that she was there for a reason, and she’s determined to get there again.”

13. Stephen Asprinio

Season 1, Top Five

Hometown: Palm Beach County, Fla.

Known For: More entrepreneur than chef, Asprinio always stood out for his flamboyant wardrobe and love of wine.

Gail Says: ”I was the most excited to have Stephen back. He comes at things from a front-of-house point of view, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his way around a kitchen.”

14. Dale Talde

Season 4, Top Six

Hometown: Chicago

Known For: Talde’s culinary skills were often overshadowed by his screaming, locker-punching outbursts.

Gail Says: ”He was really feisty — scrappy even — and had a lot of anger in the kitchen. But he came back [this time] and brought a lot of maturity and humbleness. I think he’s become more of a leader.”

15. Fabio Vivani

Season 5, Final Four

Hometown: Florence

Known For: With that Italian accent and infectious charm, it’s no surprise Viviani was voted Fan Favorite of his season.

Gail Says: ”Everyone always loves Fabio. He is one of the most beloved characters we’ve ever had on Top Chef. In food and in life, he lives it to the fullest.”

16. Elia Aboumrad

Season 2, Final Four

Hometown: Mexico City

Known For: While she’s no slouch as a chef, Aboumrad’s most memorable Top Chef moment came when she shaved her head on a dare.

Gail Says: ”She’s really eloquent in the way she talks about food and in her cooking. But I would not cross her, let me tell you. She is out for blood.”

17. Michael Isabella

Season 6, Top Seven

Hometown: Northern N.J.

Known For: He only got to the Top Seven of his season, but Isabella made a mark with his big personality — and big Italian flavors.

Gail Says: ”He’s got brute force — in a good way. He is so passionate. He really embraces the competition of it all, and that’s great, because after all it’s a game.”

18. Tiffany Derry

Season 7, Top Five

Hometown: Beaumont, Tex.

Known For: A seafood specialist, Derry has a likable, no-nonsense attitude and a penchant for Creole cuisine.

Gail Says: ”She’s so sweet and lovely. That’s her secret weapon, because she sneaks up and you let your guard down. She blindsides me every time.”

Episode Recaps

Top Chef

Tom, Padma, and Gail tell the cheftestants to pack their knives and go.
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