Who will win Top Chef: Portland?

Who will win Top Chef: Portland?

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Clockwise from top left: Jamie Tran, Chris Viaud, Brittanny Anderson, Byron Gomez, Sasha Grumman, Nelson German, Maria Mazon, Shota Nakajima
Clockwise from top left: Jamie Tran, Chris Viaud, Brittanny Anderson, Byron Gomez, Sasha Grumman, Nelson German, Maria Mazon, Shota Nakajima
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Last year, we here at The A.V. Club took on the task of placing odds on which Top Chef all-star would win season 17 of the Bravo reality culinary competition. We accurately predicted that one of the runner-ups (Bryan Voltaggio) would be successful, but weren’t as prophetic when it came to winner Melissa King (we placed her directly in the middle of the pack). For season 18, Top Chef: Portland, we’re taking another stab at the prediction game—this time ranking the chefs from least likely to most likely to win the title of Top Chef.

For what host and judge Padma Lakshmi believes is the first time, there are no sous chefs among the crop of 15 cheftestants. That means all the chefs are the leaders in their respective kitchens, so past experience isn’t much help in narrowing the field. Instead, we only have the season 18 premiere, which aired March 31, to guide our thoughts. It may mean we’re eating our under-cooked gnocchi by the end of the second episode, but here are our best guesses of who won’t be asked to pack their knives and go.

Advertisement

2 / 17

15. Roscoe Hall

15. Roscoe Hall

Roscoe Hall
Roscoe Hall
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

I have to admit that when first presented with the opportunity to predict the performance of these cheftestants, I was wary of how my superfan knowledge would translate into accurate insights. But within Roscoe’s first 45 seconds on screen I was muttering to myself that “he’ll be the first eliminated,” so that foresight made me feel a little more confident in my ranking capabilities. You don’t have to be high-energy to win Top Chef, but you do have to have a fire in you that I just didn’t see in Roscoe—at least in the first episode. He seemed overwhelmed, and those emotions played out in his food. The judges called his duck adobo “a little sad,” and Tom Colicchio took it a step further, calling it “a bowl of fear.” That’s not something you want to hear from the man who will determine your success in Last Chance Kitchen. We’ve seen major redemption arcs where the LCK winner went on to win the title of Top Chef, but I unfortunately don’t see that happening with Roscoe.

Advertisement

3 / 17

14. Jamie Tran

14. Jamie Tran

Jamie Tran
Jamie Tran
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Early on in the premiere, we heard Jamie say that she’s “the boss” at work, but she was quick to be a good soldier in the first Quickfire Challenge—or at least a soldier who glazes the skin side of the fish. It was promising to see her bring fellow contestants Nelson and Avishar to tears with the amount of spice in her first Elimination Challenge dish, but ultimately she ended up in the bottom. Tom felt her turkey got “lost,” which is unfortunately what I feel Jamie will be among the sea of seemingly more confident chefs this season.

Advertisement

4 / 17

13. Brittanny Anderson

13. Brittanny Anderson

Brittanny Anderson
Brittanny Anderson
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Brittanny may be a fantastic chef, but she’ll have to get into the groove of the competition if she wants to succeed. In the first Quickfire Challenge, she wasn’t much of a team player—often offering hurdles rather than suggesting answers to problems presented by her trio’s dissonant ingredients. Her team ended up in the top, but she later revealed she’d completely forgotten pumpkin seeds in the oven. As her teammate Gabriel pointed out, that could have been the element to give them the win over the Green Team. Brittanny’s first Elimination Challenge dish kept her safe, but I could see future mistakes landing her in the bottom.

Advertisement

5 / 17

12. Avishar Barua

12. Avishar Barua

Avishar Barua
Avishar Barua
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Gotta love a guy whose can’t-do-without ingredient is his mom’s apple chutney, though Avishar’s repeated desire to please his mom may not translate to pleasing the judges. In the negative column, Avishar says letting his fellow cheftestants know how much time was left in the Quickfire was “the loudest I’ve ever spoken in my entire life,” and his first Elimination Challenge dish was under-seasoned with under-cooked rice. But despite ending up in the bottom week one, Avishar isn’t without promise: His “chukar fried chukar” got raves from Padma, and he is self-aware enough to know his rice wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, which means he knows where he needs to improve.

Advertisement

6 / 17

11. Kiki Louya

11. Kiki Louya

Kiki Louya
Kiki Louya
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Kiki is a chef that most cooks would probably love to work for and with—she seems to always be smiling, supportive, and great at what she does. That amenable attitude could mean she’ll roll with the Top Chef punches (riding it to victory, as in the first Quickfire Challenge), or that she’ll get lost in the shuffle over time or get sent home for sacrificing her own dish to help another contestant (anyone got extra lemons?). The judges felt her first Elimination Challenge dish needed more sauce and quail, but overall she got decent feedback and was ultimately deemed safe—which is where I think she’ll remain for a while, though it might not take her all the way to the end.

Advertisement

7 / 17

10. Byron Gomez

10. Byron Gomez

Byron Gomez
Byron Gomez
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

To be honest, I feel like there’s not a lot to go on when considering Byron’s likelihood of winning Top Chef. He didn’t really stand out in the first Quickfire and he was deemed safe for his first Elimination dish, which the judges felt wasn’t “cohesive.” Byron seemed to acknowledge that the dish was lacking as he was plating, so perhaps his early shortcomings will be easily fixable moving forward. Basically, who knows with Byron.

Advertisement

8 / 17

9. Chris Viaud

9. Chris Viaud

Chris Viaud
Chris Viaud
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Chris chose butter as his must-have ingredient from home. As Padma pointed out, butter is something the Top Chef kitchen has in ample supply, which could indicate Chris isn’t thinking as strategically as a winner needs to on this show. He displayed confidence and tempered leadership skills during the first Quickfire Challenge, but that didn’t lead to team success. And the Elimination Challenge judges felt his sous vide turkey with corn puree had “too much going on.” Chris will need to bring that calm leadership mentality into his cooking if he’s to go all the way.

Advertisement

9 / 17

9. Nelson German

9. Nelson German

Nelson German
Nelson German
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Unfortunately, the premiere episode didn’t provide a lot of clues into how well Nelson is suited for Top Chef. Had he gotten a little more screentime, he might have placed much higher or much lower on this list. For now, the pertinent observations are that he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do in the first Quickfire Challenge and, while the judges weren’t wowed by his chukar, his first Elimination Challenge dish was generally well received. Nelson is passionate about sharing his Dominican heritage through his cooking; if he leans into that while remaining adaptable, that could take him far.

Advertisement

10 / 17

7. Gabe Erales

7. Gabe Erales

Gabe Erales
Gabe Erales
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Gabe is another chef who wasn’t given much airtime in the premiere episode, though he gets points for rising to be the leader of his group in the first Quickfire Challenge—and his glazed duck got great feedback from the judges, landing him in the top four in the premiere. If he can continue that reliable and steady performance, we may see him in the finale. He just has to make sure he can provide the occasional surprise or flashy moment to hold the judges’ attention.

Advertisement

11 / 17

6. Shota Nakajima

6. Shota Nakajima

Shota Nakajima
Shota Nakajima
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Shota got a little lost in the first Quickfire Challenge—and overwhelmed by the heat of Jamie’s dish while cooking for the Elimination Challenge—but he ultimately ended up in the top four at the end of Week One. Could flying a little under the radar be Shota’s strategy? He was not shown as one of the four cheftestants who raised their hand when Padma asked which of them had been nominated for James Beard Awards, but his official Top Chef bio states that he’s been a semi-finalist for the prestigious honor three years running. The omission could have been nerves or editing, but Shota may be playing a mental game already while most chefs are just trying to survive to the next challenge.

Advertisement

12 / 17

5. Maria Mazon

5. Maria Mazon

Maria Mazon
Maria Mazon
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

Maria is ranked in the top five because she’s the type of cheftestant who often makes it quite far on Top Chef. In reality, she’s likely to either win or go out in a blaze of hubris on any given week during the competition. Like her Quickfire Challenge teammate Brittanny, Maria knows how she likes to cook and what she likes to cook, and she won’t be convinced to cook otherwise. That kind of headstrong temperament and confidence in who she is as a chef has gotten her a James Beard nomination, but will she be able to pivot when forced to cook in a certain style or a recipe goes awry? She was safe in the first Elimination Challenge, but I wonder how she will react to the judges’ negative feedback when the time comes. Being told her squab was “too spicy” could have led to a tense interaction in the premiere, and Padma and Tom don’t stand for that.

Advertisement

13 / 17

4. Sara Hauman

4. Sara Hauman

Sara Hauman
Sara Hauman
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

I don’t think anyone was more shocked that Sara won the first Elimination Challenge than Sara herself. The Portland-based chef started the episode looking to Sasha to lead her through their group Quickfire Challenge. And even though she had immunity, Sara feared her Elimination Challenge dish was going to land her in the bottom. “I don’t feel like maybe I belong here,” she said to camera at one point. But Sara has “growth arc” written all over here, and is the type of chef we love to see gain their confidence over the season. Judge Gail Simmons called Sara’s glazed quail dish “unexpected,” and that’s exactly what we might be able to say about Sara by the end of this season.

Advertisement

14 / 17

3. Gabriel Pascuzzi

3. Gabriel Pascuzzi

Gabriel  Pascuzzi
Gabriel Pascuzzi
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

In retrospect, it’s shocking that Gabriel, Maria, and Brittanny managed to come in second in the first Quickfire Challenge. All three have strong personalities, but no one seems cockier this season than Gabriel. He was the only one we saw offer up an extra accolade when Padma asked who had awards, and he proudly decreed that he wants the other chefs to think “we gotta look out for this guy.” Basically, he has the opposite strategy of Shota. Gabriel would be a bit insufferable if he didn’t appear to have the goods to back up his confidence. His Elimination Challenge dish was well received by the judges, who called his roasted squab “clear and focused”—the result of a conscious display of restraint Gabriel articulated during his cook in the kitchen. If he can keep the attitude in the confessional room and out of the kitchen, he could ultimately win the title of Top Chef.

Advertisement

15 / 17

2. Dawn Burrell

2. Dawn Burrell

Dawn Burrell
Dawn Burrell
Photo: Stephanie Diani/Bravo

James Beard nominee. Olympian. Peanut-sauce forgetter. Yes, that last one could have gotten Dawn in the bottom after running out of time plating her first Elimination Challenge dish, but her turkey peanut stew was so good it didn’t need the peanut sauce component to keep her safe. Dawn was convinced her mistake would send her home, and I predict she won’t squander her second chance to keep her head in the game. If she can channel her inner athlete, she could long-jump all the way to the finale.

Advertisement

16 / 17

1. Sasha Grumman

1. Sasha Grumman

Sasha Grumman
Sasha Grumman

I know Sasha ended up in the bottom four after the Elimination Challenge, but hear me out: She led her team to victory in the Quickfire Challenge and appears to have the right balance of skill, confidence, and self-awareness necessary to succeed in the competition. Her polenta may have been too thick, but she knew it. She won a challenge, got immunity, and was humbled by a misfire. She’s lived out an entire Top Chef journey in one episode. If she can take that experience and let it fuel her for the coming weeks, she could even end up in Last Chance Kitchen and still ultimately leave with the $250,000.

Advertisement

17 / 17