Fantasy Top Chef: The Draft!
The stakes? Dinner at a restaurant of the winner's choosing, with the two losers splitting the bill. It was decided that the combatants would high-card for draft position, the winner getting to choose their draft position. 3rd place was considered the prime position in the snake draft, as it would allow picking up two of the consensus "top 4" chefs.
Saunter kicked off proceedings, drawing the lowly 2 of clubs. Daddy moved forward and drew the 9 of hearts. Feeling good about my chances, I made the final draw, nabbing the Queen of clubs.
"I'll take 3rd position," I said, with no hesitation. Daddy quickly confirmed taking second position, which meant that Saunter had the first pick in the draft.
And with that, we were off!
To recap, here is the scoring system for Fantasy Top Chef:
Win Quick Fire: +3 points
Place in Quick Fire: +1 point
Bottom in Quick Fire: -0.5 points
Win Elimination Challenge: +6 points
Place in Elimination Challenge: +2 points
Bottom in Elimination Challenge: -1 point
4th place overall: 10 points
3rd place overall: 20 points
2nd place overall: 35 points
1st place overall: 50 points
Pick No. 1: Jennifer Carroll (Saunter)
Perhaps a surprise with the first pick of the draft, Saunter held true to her big board, selecting the talented Jennifer. Jen has displayed considerable talent during the entire competition, placing in the winner's circle in three of the six Elimination Challenges, though she has not yet won an EC. The Quick Fire challenges are where Jennifer has shown real promise, winning two QF challenges outright, while placing in two others. Interestingly, Saunter had not yet seen last week's episode, where despite Jennifer's uncertainty about the challenge and doubt about her dish she was able to garner a seat in the top four dishes. A breakout EC win could be around the corner. Saunter obviously feels that Jennifer's skills will continue to shine, and is a strong contender for the final three.
Pick No. 2: Bryan Voltaggio (Daddy)
With considerable glee, Daddy took Bryan with the second pick. A favourite chef of Saunter and Garthmeister J., Daddy was no doubt eager to obtain this particular chef based not only on his performance so far on Top Chef but also on Garthmeister's epic four-part blog entry about the visit to Bryan's restaurant, VOLT. Bryan has been a monster in the Elimination Challenges, picking up an outstanding 3 EC wins. Interestingly Bryan has not placed in ECs - if he's in the winner's circle, he takes home the Gold. The only knock on Bryan, and potential reason for him slipping to number two in the draft, is his performance in Quick Fire challenges. Bryan has placed in the bottom in three of the six Quick Fire challenges, which is somewhat confusing given his showing in ECs. Already this season we have seen a chef eliminated in a Quick Fire challenge - could this be Bryan's undoing?
Pick No. 3: Kevin Gillespie (Garthmeister J.)
After an important win in being able to choose his drafting position, Garthmeister J. knew that he would be able to sit back and scoop the two remaining chefs of what most consider the top four chefs in the field. As it played out, Garthmeister was able to select both Kevin and Michael Voltaggio, who were allegedly the top two chefs on Garth's board.
Kevin is another chef who has the distinction of not appearing in the bottom of any challenge, either Quick Fire or Elimination. He got off on the right foot, winning the first Elimination Challenge, winning one other, and placing in a third. This is all the more impressive, considering he has only competed in five of the six ECs, receiving a bye in one challenge after winning a Quick Fire. Besides that QF win, Kevin has also placed in another. It would be a surprise if he did not go deep this season.
Pick No. 4: Michael Voltaggio (Garthmeister J.)
To anyone looking at the field, it may not come as a surprise that Michael V came in fourth of the top tier of chefs. Michael has been relentless in the Elimination Challenges, being in the winner's circle in an amazing five of six ECs. The only knock in his EC performances is only winning outright in one of those. His performances in Quick Fire challenges has been a little more uneven, winning once, placing once, and finishing in the bottom once. Michael may be one of the most inventive chefs in the draft, but some may have concerns that not being as conventional as his competition may cost him in the end.
Pick No. 5: Ashley Merriman (Daddy)
The fifth pick was a key position in the draft, being the first selection outside of the top 4 chefs. Ashley was wide regarded by all the drafters as being a sleeper who has begun to find her legs, after an initially rocky start. Ashely has appeared in the bottom of two Elimination Challenges, before closing strongly and placing in the last two ECs. She has placed in one Quick Fire, while also appearing in the bottom of one QF - which was also the QF in which someone was eliminated. Given Ashley's recent growth, it would come as no surprise if she continued her strong showings.
Pick No. 6: Mike Isabella (Saunter)
Mike Isabella has been the most polarising chef of this season of Top Chef. Initially displaying a misogynistic streak, Mike has continued to ruffle feathers, but his performances in the kitchen were enough for Saunter to take him 6th. Saunter and Garthmeister J. have also eaten at Zaytinya, Mike I's restaurant, though they had a middling experience. On Top Chef, Mike has been most notable for making savvy choices when being paired up with another competitor. He has placed twice in Elimination Challenges, but has also appeared in the bottom of one when he seemed to coast too much on his partner. Mike has placed in one Quick Fire, and won another, though the win may have been due to his experience with the rare ingredient used, cactus. Due to his personality, Mike could end up self-destructing at judge's table if he is selected as one of the bottom dishes.
Pick No. 7: Eli Kershtein (Saunter)
A value pick at number seven, Eli Keshtein has been a steady competitor thus far, without really distinguishing himself. He is also considered more favourably to the other remaining chefs, and was a natural selection here. Eli has placed in two ECs, placing in one QF and also being bottom in one QF. As the field dwindles, Eli is going to either have to rise to match the performances of the top tier of chefs, or else he could start appearing consistently in the bottom dishes before being eliminated. Eli has shown some flashes, and Saunter is hoping for more upside out of the Atlanta native.
Pick No. 8: Laurine Wickett Hope (Daddy)
For his final selection, Daddy selected Laurine from the three remaining chefs. Laurine did not make much of an impact in early episodes, but as eliminations take their toll on the field, she is being forced more into the picture. Laurine did not place in the top or the bottom of any challenge until the 3rd episode, when she was selected as one of the poorest dishes in an Elimination Challenge. She has been in the bottom for one other EC, while placing in the EC held at the ranch - a setting which may have provided the best opportunity for her to do well. In Quickfire Challenges she has placed once, and been bottom once. Overall, the concern is that Laurine will continue to hang around week to week, appearing often in the bottom dishes, without being eliminated.
Pick No. 9: Robin Leventhal (Garthmeister J.)
The 9th pick was always going to be interesting, as there were only two chefs left. Despite the low opinion of her held by other chefs remaining in the competition, Robin has only appeared in the bottom four of one EC and one QF, while she won the last EC. Garth chose Robin over Ash, feeling that Robin may be a boom or bust candidate. There is a good chance she is the next chef eliminated, thus avoiding multiple weeks of appearing in the bottom dishes (which is a valid concern regarding Ash), while she could also pull out another surprise win in an EC or QF.
For reference, here are the three stables of chefs.
Saunter: Jen, Mike I., Eli
Daddy: Bryan, Ashley, Laurine
Garthmeister J.: Kevin, Michael V., Robin
The consensus is that Garth is the favourite, which would be expected no matter which two of the top four chefs fell into his lap. Saunter has a solid lineup, with Daddy's hopes perhaps hinging on whether Ashley can continue her improvement and make a real tilt at the title.
Stay tuned: tomorrow night Saunter, Daddy and Garth will be getting together to watch the first episode in the Top Chef Fantasy era. Taste the excitement!