Top Chef: Episode 4.3 Predictions
So far, I think Top Chef 4 is off to a good start. At this stage of the game, it's too soon to really be invested too strongly in most of the individual personalities, but at least the challenges themselves have been interesting enough to make them compelling without a lot personal drama.

Where will this week take us?

Previews have Andrew at judges table saying he would have to be forcibly removed before he would leave. This actually probably means he wins again or something; he's just too much reality goodness – neatly polarizing viewers (and our own BuddyTV writers) between loving and loathing – and he demonstrated last episode consistent skillz. (Andrew: that “z” is for you, brah.)

I'm still kind of pulling for Richard based on his strong background, but his performance is a little worrying. It seemed like the issues the judges had with his dish in the Quickfire last episode (oily chicken) were execution issues that a chef at his level shouldn't have. I'm hoping it's just nerves and that he gets it together.

Erik is starting to look like a potential weak link as well. In the first episode of Top Chef 4, he turned a soufflé into a version of “nachos” (his own word), and his Quickfire challenge last challenge looked pretty unimaginative. His team was neither the top nor the bottom in the Elimination Challenge, but his actually dish – a chicken satay – seemed also underwhelming from a presentation perspective. Satay is, essentially, a meat lollipop, so it's not completely off base that that's all his was, but if you just have one bite to wow the judges…wow them.

Nikki won her match-up in Elimination Challenge in the first episode, but she demonstrated seriously poor judgment when she served the judges her turd mushrooms – turdshrooms, if you will. (Aside: I'm going to be so sad when I can no longer legitimately reference this episode any longer because I've gotten to write the word "turd" more times in the past week than I could have ever imagined back when I was a kid hoping to grow up to be a writer.)

She also was so focused on setting a pretty table for the catering challenge, which makes me wonder – as I did in my pre-season predictions – if she might fall victim to the Steven Aspirino Split Personality Disorder: “Am I front of the house or am I a chef?” I was disappointed that this little incident didn't turn into a brand new Tom Colicchio saying (a Colicchio-ism, if you will again): “What does your jacket say? Top Event Planner?  No, it's Top Chef.

If the promo pictures for this episode give any clue, it's that this might be a challenge for Manuel to excel in.   He's one of the few chefs who has a background in Mexican cooking and the setting above for the ingredients table certainly looks Southwestern.

As for the other chefs, they are still a pack of dark horses. Stephanie, Spike and Mark have all done very well and very poorly, while the other chefs seem like they have the potential to break out or break down. We'll see what happens, indeed, on this week's episode of Top Chef 4.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)