'Top Chef All-Stars': We rank the cheftestants
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”