12. Michael Voltaggio (season 6)
At the center of Top Chef‘s best season was the sibling rivalry between the immensely talented Voltaggios. Bryan was the stereotypical older sibling: straitlaced, patient, maybe a little boring. Michael was the cockier, sexier, backwards hat-wearing risk-taker. Virtuous Bryan would sometimes step out of the way to let his little bro shine, but hot-headed Michael wasn’t afraid to be cutthroat even if it meant taking Bryan down, which he managed to do in the finale.
11. Lindsay Autry (season 9)
With her Southern-fried accent and easy smile, Lindsay had all the appearances of a Fan Favorite, but she sure didn’t act like one in the Restaurant Wars episode. She seemed to spend more time battering Beverly Kim with expletives than fulfilling her front-of-house duties. But given the two spicier meanies of Top Chef Texas, Lindsay’s villainy is flavorless in comparison.
10. Stefan Richter (season 5)
The foulmouthed Finn was sometimes portrayed on the show as a European baddie straight out of a James Bond film (just give him a fluffy white cat already!). His rivals didn’t always appreciate his straight-shooting, and his ego knew no bounds. Luckily, neither did his skills as a chef, which justified his bravado (or at least some of it). After repeated victories in challenges and an excellent squab dish in the finale, Stefan barely lost out to Hosea Rosenberg in a much-contested decision.
9. Leah Cohen and Hosea Rosenberg (together) (season 5)
Stefan may have been the ordained villain of season 5, but Hosea and Leah’s significant others might feel otherwise. With little convincing, these two started up a sizzling romance on camera for their soon-to-be-exes back home to see. Normally we wouldn’t particularly care that these two made side dishes of each other, but their affair took too much attention away from the food.
8. Tiffany Faison (season 1)
The very first Top Chef villain, this fiery redhead saw herself as confident and driven, but the other cheftestants saw her as being as tough as overcooked chicken. After Restaurant Wars, she pushed her hyper-emotional teammate Dave Martin over the edge in front of the judges, leading him to snap, ”I’m not your bitch, bitch!” (Still one of the most quotable moments of the series — Bravo put it on a T-shirt). But Tiffani’s directness may have been the source of her culinary mojo. She got to the finals in her first season, but when a newly zen Tiffani came back for All-Stars, she finished in a disappointing 12th place.
7. Hung Huynh (season 3)
The season 3 winner embraced and even sought out the role of villain, proclaiming himself to be a ”CPA… Certified Professional Asshole.” Way to lose Fan Favorite in one swift move! Despite his vinegary personality — he once said a competitor’s dish was so easy a ”monkey could do it” — he handily out-cooked the foxy Casey Thompson and excessively humble Dale Levitski in the finals with his complex flavors and virtuosic knife skills.
6. Angelo Sosa (season 7)
Angelo was a tough one to read, and that made him all the more dangerous. Was he the kitchen’s charismatic spiritual guru or a manipulative charmer? Much of the season focused on his hilarious feud with Kenny Gilbert, and he memorably took young Tamesha Warren under his wing to ”mentor” her — only to give her dubious advice that seemed to lead to her elimination. For all that scheming, Angelo was undone by illness (and Kevin Sbraga’s excellent dishes) in the Singapore finals, but just two weeks later, a cuddlier Angelo showed up for the All-Star season — and didn’t make it nearly as far.
5. Mike Isabella (All-Stars)
Having learned their lesson from previous seasons, most of the All-Stars were on their best behavior. We were in the midst of our first villain-less season until a boisterous, flatulent Mike stepped up to the plate. He was accused of sabotaging his Restaurant Wars team, and by all appearances, he flat-out stole Richard Blais’ chicken-oyster concept late in the competition.
4. Lisa Fernandes (season 4)
Several of her fellow contestants described Lisa, whose tongue was as sharp as a knife, as having ”the worst attitude.” She sure looked it — it seemed every time the camera cut to her, she was either screaming at someone or giving majorly stanky stinkface. That could have been largely editing, but forget her hostile attitude. What really irked fans was that she didn’t seem to care all that much about her work — she defended her lazy, sloppy dishes and went on a four-week run in the bottom before, bafflingly, becoming runner-up along with eventual All-Star winner Richard Blais.
3. Marcel Vigneron (season 2)
It’s hard to say if the hair gel-loving molecular gastronomist was a villain or more of a super-annoying little brother type. He picked fights, talked endless smack, and seemed to think he was some kind of white rapper. Overall, the other chefs were justified in antagonizing him — until the villain became the victim. As a drunken practical joke, Cliff Crooks woke Marcel up and pinned him to the floor so one of the other chefs could shave his head. Cliff was sent home for getting too physical with Marcel, although some of the others deserved part of the blame (Ilan, cough cough). Even though Marcel’s personality was grating, at least his weird-science cooking was interesting to watch.
2. Sarah Grueneberg (season 9)
Where to begin? Not only did she accuse world-class chefs of having defective palates for daring to criticize her risotto, she belittled resident punching bag Beverly every chance she got, whether it was striking down her good ideas, blaming everything short of the Financial Crisis on her, or undermining her victories. You can’t blame all that on editing. It’s a shame Sarah had to be so nasty on her way to the final two — her grasp of flavors would have gotten her there on its own.
1. Heather Terhune (season 9)
Many Top Chef villains are bad in a fun, self-aware, or even gleeful way. But Heather cast an ugly shadow over Top Chef Texas when she strongly suggested Asian cooking is less worthy and creative than her own ”rustic American” style. She viciously attacked her teammate Beverly in front of the judges even though Beverly’s elimination would mean they’d both be eliminated, and she berated Beverly for repeatedly cooking Asian food even though she used someone else’s cake recipe twice in her short time in the competition. Sarah has taken heat for her bad behavior all season, but Heather’s briefer stint in the kitchen left the worst taste in our mouths.