Top Chef: Episode 4.2 Predictions
As it's been noted – and as promised by Tom Colicchio in pre-season interviews – Top Chef 4 has a group of cheftestants with some fairly strong experience, which could lend itself to a high-level of legitimate food-focused competition.

This season also includes, though, one pair of chefs who are in a couple, one chef who has apparently decided to adopt a schticky smack-talking persona, and two faux hawks. So there's still some potential for cheesy reality show gimmicks. Which will it be this week? And which chefs are looking likely to be packing their knives and going home?

Since we haven't seen a whole lot of each individual chef yet, my bias is still the same that it was when I did my pre-season predictions. In the absence of more information about how they actually perform in the kitchen, I'm still going mainly on experience and exposure to the kind of cooking that seems likely to most impress the judges. So I think those chefs like Richard, Antonia, Dale, and Spike could probably be safe this week.

I did originally think that Manuel had the potential to go far in Top Chef 4 due to his professional experience, but he's one that I'm now not so sure about. He was in the bottom group of the Quickfire, and lost his head-to-head with Dale. It could have been a misstep, but doesn't bode well.

Ryan did well enough in the Quickfire, but his lack of familiarity with the classic Chicken Piccata dish could be a bad sign. Was it just nerves or one forgotten dish? Or something more? Tom is a big proponent of knowing the classics, and having respect for the traditions even if you might take that knowledge to do something new and modern. Dana Cree, our local professional chef who's giving BuddyTV her perspective on the show, said much the same thing when I spoke with her about the first episode. If Ryan doesn't have that base of knowledge, he might be in trouble.

Valerie did win her match up against Ryan, but just barely, and she lost the Quickfire too. Although it's hard to be on the radar in the first episode, she was barely a blip and editing can be a big clue as to who might be considered expendable.

Mark's deconstructed duck dish seemed impressive, but his match up against Stephanie's straightforward traditional version showed that flavor beats fanciness with the judges. If he has a tendency to overthink his creations, he could also be vulnerable.

The other chefs all seem to have either the talent or the presence to stick around for a while. Oh sure, Tom and Padma Lakshmi said the eliminations are based on food only, and that the producers have not ever actually intervened to keep a chef who made for good television. But that doesn't mean the editors don't help build a story after the fact, and so I think any chef who gets a lot of screen time in early episodes is someone who is sticking around for at least a little while in order to gain the pay off from the editing investment. But we'll see how it plays out on this week's episode of Top Chef 4.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)