'Top Chef Duels' Predictiction: Who Will Survive Week 1?
'Top Chef Duels' Predictiction: Who Will Survive Week 1?
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Top Chef Duels, Bravo's latest incarnation has memorable-for reasons both good and bad-former Top Chef and Top Chef Masters contestants going head-to-head in three rounds of "extreme culinary challenges." Each episode is sure to be packed full of surprises, especially since the cheftestants can call each other out to prove their chops. That should be irresistible to some of these culinary egomaniacs.

The winner of each round on Top Chef Duels will move on to the finals and the chance to become $100,000 richer and receive a spread in "Food and Wine" Magazine.

Yummy Curtis Stone will act as both a host and judge. Joining him at the judges' table will be Gail Simmons while Wolfgang Puck, Hugh Acheson and assorted surprise guests from culinary superstars to celebrities who will fill the remaining seats throughout the season.

Eighteen chefs will face off, some winners, some losers, all eager for bragging rights.

The premiere episode pits Top Chef All-Stars champ and all-around nice guy Richard Blais against Top Chef Season 1 Runner-Up and perennial pain-in-the-ass Marcel Vigneron. Who has the best shot at winning? Let's take a closer look.

Richard Blais

Since his All-Stars victory, Blais wrote his first cookbook, hosted Cook Your Ass Off on the HLN network and opened a new restaurant called Juniper & Ivy in San Diego.

Why He'll Win: Blais views molecular gastronomy as a science; a way to make food taste better. It's not just about the bells and whistles. He's dedicated his career to putting new twists on old favorites but keeping dishes accessible to home cooks. Blais is bound to wow the judges with his creativity and deliver great food.

Why He'll Lose: Aspects of the competition remain a question mark which could mean all of the competitors could find themselves out of their comfort zones. Blais has cracked under pressure in the past, and some of his concoctions have worked in theory but not in practice.

Marcel Vigneron

Vigneron has spent the last few years honing his skills, even taking classes in Barcelona, Spain. He scored his own show, Marcel's Quantum Kitchen, on Syfy which lasted six episodes.

Why He'll Win: His arrogance can only work in his favor. There are no team challenges, so his personality flaws aren't likely to affect the outcome. He's continued to compete on shows such as the Food Network's Iron Chef, so he's still got his competitive edge. He's definitely about showmanship and keeping up with the latest cutting-edge techniques, so depending on what rabbits he pulls out of his hat, he could outshine his competitor.

Why He'll Lose: Unlike Blais, Vigneron has yet to open his own restaurant. Although he does have a catering company. He's more style than substance and seems more interested in a television career than making a significant mark in the culinary world. He can soon be seen on Food Fighters, America's Best Cook and Cutthroat Kitchen Superstar Sabotage.

My Prediction

With the exact format still a little fuzzy, I'm flying a bit blind on this one. But, I still have to go with Blais for the win. It could be a risky choice if he's become too complacent. I'm counting on the fact that Vigneron will forget flavor profiles in favor of flash.

Even if he gets the boot, Vigneron will get a chance to participate in the finals. Eliminated chefs will compete in The Knockout, a digital video series hosted by Wolfgang Puck. Losers will battle it out until there's one standing whose reward will be a coveted slot in the championship finale.

Top Chef Duels airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on Bravo.

(Image courtesy of Bravo)