Those who have been starving for some hot cooking competition action, your wish has been granted. Bravo’s “Top Chef” returns for a 17th season on Thursday March 19 with a supersized premiere that airs 10-11:15 p.m. ET/PT. If that doesn’t whet your whistle, maybe the thought of 15 finalists, front runners and fan favorite cheftestants plucked from seasons past to compete in the kitchen together will do the trick. The winner gets $250,000, the largest cash prize ever awarded on the reality cooking show. This All-Stars edition, which will take place in Los Angeles, will once again feature host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio and judge Gail Simmons, who mostly sat out last season after having a baby.
The line-up of familiar culinary faces begins with the first season’s Lee Anne Wong to last year’s Season 16 third-place finisher Eric Adjepong, who is the chef I am most excited to see compete again. He was clearly in the lead for much of the Kentucky-based season with his fresh take on Ghanaian cuisine. But he lost his cooking mojo when it counted most and had to settle for second runner-up.
It has been nearly a year since Alabama native Kelsey Barnard Clark beat out Kentuckian Sara Bradley on the Season 16 finale last March, so I am guessing some fans of the show are hungry already. Given that this is just the second time that “Top Chef” has gathered a batch of stand-outs who didn’t make it to the finish line previously is kind of a big deal. The first edition of All-Stars premiered in December 2010 with Richard Blais taking the title, Mike Isabella coming in second and Carla Hall winning fan favorite. Not bad.
While all of the returnees are accomplished in their field, not all are created equal, however. Here is the list of 15 chefs ranked from worst to best in terms of talent, fan appeal and how well they did on their previous appearances.