Top Chef: Alumni Predictions—Episode 2

Throughout the season, we’re asking local Top Chef alumni for their predictions on upcoming episodes.
“You’re only as good as your last dish,” says season five’s Carla Hall. Photograph courtesy of Bravo TV.

This week, Carla Hall (season five) gives us her thoughts on the premiere, which contestants to watch, and who she thinks will suffer early. 

What’d you think of the judges booting a guy (John Somerville) with two James Beard nominations right off the bat? Harsh or no?
“You’re only as good as your last dish. Unfortunately, John’s dish was not of James Beard quality. So no, I don’t think it was harsh.”

Based on last week, which contestants do you have high hopes for? Why? Which contestants have potential to go home early?
“Kenny and Angelo are the obvious contestants who have shown some chops, but it’s still early. I think the ones that haven’t been focused on yet are the ones to watch: Tamesha, Lynne, Ed, and Kelly. Everyone seems talented and they’re there for a reason, but it’s their personal constitution (no pun intended) and inner strength that will get them through. That being said, I think Tracey, Amanda, and Stephen may be the ones who suffer. It may be hard for Steve not to get distracted by leaving his new twins and his wife. Amanda doesn’t have as much experience as many of the other chefs, so her challenge will be to believe she belongs there. I added Tracy to the list because she’s been a bit mouthy. That’s never a good sign.”

Kenny and Angelo were in the top tier for both the Quickfire and the Elimination challenges. Should we consider that foreshadowing for the rest of the season?

“I’d like to think so, but the fact that they’re focused on so early in the game, I’m guessing that there’s a very dark horse in that race. I’d also venture to guess that one of those guys falls big and hard at least once. Perhaps there’ll be a recovery, but one can only hope. Angelo is clearly the arrogant, bad guy—the one we would love to hate. I found myself cheering against him.”

What does it feel like to be in the winner’s circle? Or in the bottom tier and getting reamed out by the judges?
“It obviously feels good to be in the winner’s circle because it’s confirmation that your dish was well received and executed properly. That being said, there’s a lot to learn by being on the bottom. You get constructive feedback from judges whom you may have never crossed paths with. It’s an opportunity to grow, so the chefs shouldn’t get so defensive. Now, I’m not saying that getting reamed feels good, because it doesn’t. I’m just saying get over it quickly, so you can learn from it.”

Next week, the chefs will have to prepare a healthy school meal for $2.68 per student. What’s the key to creating a delicious meal for such a cheap price? From what you saw last week, any predictions on who’ll be able to meet this challenge?
“The key is to start with fresh vegetables and let them sing with simple preparation and flavor. Then possibly add in a small amount of protein, which is generally more expensive. I don’t think we have to worry about the chefs starting with expensive processed foods. Perhaps the ones who’ll be most successful with this challenge are the ones with kids or those who have their own businesses and/or know how to stretch a dollar. Then again, we’ve all had to get creative and think outside of the box in the last couple of years just to make ends meet. I’m looking forward to Ed’s dish.”

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