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YMMV / Top Chef

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  • Creator's Pet: Mike Isabella from Season 8 was focused on throughout the whole season for being ungracious, a general jerk to all the other contestants, and being overconfident in nearly... no, every challenge.
  • Designated Villain: Marcel is usually framed in a very villainous light considering the subject matter, but while he is a Jerkass, that doesn't justify just how horribly everyone else he encounters treats him, down to straight up assaulting him, holding him down, and shaving his head. Even Tom mentioned that the incident made him angry and he was tempted to downright declare him the winner in retaliation against everyone involved.
  • Elimination Houdini:
    • From Season One was Andrea. Of the 6 episodes she lasted, she was on the bottom in 4 of them. In episode 2, she was actually eliminated, but was brought back halfway through next episode because Cynthia quit.
    • Season Two: Marcel. Despite underperforming in several challenges initially, Marcel made it all the way to the top 2. Though, He's only got the two Quickfire wins, but he's placed high in both quickfires and eliminations quite a few times. That indicates that his food has been rather consistently of good quality.
      • A better example would probably be Michael. He was on the bottom five times, and just didn't seem to be taking the competition seriously most of the time. Especially apparent when he made the infamous Cheeto Amuse Bouche during one of the quickfires.
    • Season Three (Miami): Howie was eliminated about halfway through the season, but by then he had been on the bottom 7 times. His stubborn personality made it nearly impossible to work with him as part of a team, he had no qualms about throwing other people under the bus, and he rarely ever cooked anything well besides pork.
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    • Season Four (Chicago): Lisa. She only won 1 challenge (compared to everyone else in the final 4, who had at least 5 wins), and was on the bottom in EVERY episode from the final 10 onwards. When she made it to the finale by a very slim margin, she complained that nobody seemed happy to see her in the final 3 (which was mostly true). Fellow cheftestant Richard said, "What do you want me to say? Congratulations, Lisa. You just won the bronze medal." To her credit, Lisa put on a surprisingly strong showing in the finale, managing to outshine Richard, which made his "you just won the bronze medal" comment to her sound quite karmic.
      • Incidentally, Season Four had two of these. The other after Lisa (whose Houdini status was not immediately obvious until much later in the season) was Nikki, who was consistently on the bottom and seemed incapable of making anything that wasn't pasta. In fact, more people complained about Nikki than Lisa, because although Lisa was personally very unlikable, Nikki was downright inept.
      • Spike could also count. He was on the bottom EIGHT times, only reaching the final 5 because other people kept making even worse mistakes than he did.
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    • Season Five (New York): Leah. She was in the bottom of several challenges (including one involving seafood, which is her specialty), and outlasted some of the stronger chefs like Jamie and Jeff. She managed to make it all the way to the final five, largely based on someone else screwing up worse every week.
    • Season Six (Vegas): Robin was frequently on the bottom, but saved by someone else screwing up worse. The other chefs considered her untalented and annoying. When she beat out Mattin, they wore his red scarf as a show of solidarity/disgust.
    • Amanda from Season Seven (D.C.) seems to be becoming one of these.
      • A case can also be made for Kevin, who's been on the bottom five times, and still made it into the final three. Maybe not so much now, since he won.
    • Season Eight (All Stars): Jamie. Cut herself so that she couldn't cook in one instance. Didn't cook ANYTHING in another. The latest had her mess up THREE dishes, and she still stayed.
      • Not so much now since she got out pretty early on. Tiffany, however, was on the bottom seven times before being eliminated. Tiffany kept getting saved by other chefs having horrible days; her food seemed to vary between being poorly executed and being merely "street food" (as Tom put it) rather than the high-end cuisine the judges were expecting.
    • In Season Nine (Texas), Ty-Lor has been on the bottom four times so far, and Restaurant Wars hasn't even started yet.
      • He made it to Restaurant Wars...and then, due to underseasoning dishes (a problem he's had all season), he was eliminated in eighth place.
      • From the same season, Chris Jones was one as well, mainly because he kept overusing gimmicks in his food, and landed on the bottom five times because of it.
    • Season Eleven (New Orleans) has a special case with Nicholas. He was in the bottom for six time. The one time he won a Quickfire challenge he uses the immunity to not be eliminated despite being the only one who perform poorly in his team (See Shocking Elimination). He suffered a case of being Overshadowed by Awesome as he was in the bottom six times in a row from episode 11 to 16 and has temper control issue. His victory over Nina (who won eight elimination challenge and never reached the bottom in any elimination challenge) is so problematic and angered the fans so much that even reach The Other Wiki page of season 11 and tainted Tom's reputation. You know he is a special case when Tom was forced to release the scores on Twitter to try to justify their decision.
    • Meanwhile in "Just Desserts", Season Two, there's Craig, who was obviously outmatched by just about everybody on the show, yet managed to hang on and even win $25,000 in a Quickfire before being eliminated. To his credit, though, he consistently owned up to his mistakes and actually tried to improve, which puts him ahead of several on this list.
    • In “Just Desserts”, Season One, there’s Danielle who was frequently on the bottom and disliked cooking things that didn’t appeal to her own palate.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: There's at least one in every season, which is why the title of Fan Favorite exists. Season 5, has two particularly notable ones: Fabio Viviani and Carla Hall. Fabio won the fan favorite prize in season 5, but Carla won it in All-Stars.
    • "Malibu" Chris in season Nine, who won the title Fan Favorite despite finishing 9th.
    • Kuniko Yagi of season 10 is a very interesting one. After a very strong showing in the beginning, she was eliminated in the second episode of the actual competition, and later lost the second round of Last Chance Kitchen. But the new twist, Save a Chef, has had her being saved by fans week after week until CJ lost the Last Chance Kitchen.
    • Judging from the reaction to the finale and the title Fan Favorite that she won, Runner-up Nina Compton from season Eleven also counts.
    • Bryan Voltaggio is one of the most popular people to ever compete on the show due to a combination of his relationship with his brother, his charming and humble personality, and the fact that as of Season 17 he has now made it to the finale three separate times and yet never won.
  • Entitled Bastard: Richard Blais in season 8, where he seemed completely incapable of going by five minutes without whining about how he "should have won season 4", or how the current season would not be successful if he didn't win.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • During the fairly disastrous Season One of "Just Desserts", a lot of jokes were made on blogs about how Morgan, who nearly won, was creepy and some fans said he came off like a child molester. Turns out that may actually be the case.
    • Mike Isabella's casual misogyny is really hard to rewatch when he was accused of sexual harassment in 2018.
  • Heartwarming Moments: Richard giving his prize to Stephanie when he won for Wedding Wars in Season 4, even before he knew what it was, and admitting the work she put into the wedding cake was something he didn't want nor could have done. This is then reciprocated by Stephanie when she offers to share the prize.
  • Ho Yay: Surprisingly, this is fairly common amongst this show. Famous examples include Dale/Richard (Season 4), Stefan/Fabio (Season 5), Andrew/Spike/Mark (Season 4),and Kevin/Eli (Season 6) from previous seasons.
    • Season 8's most obvious bromance was between Richard and Fabio; this continued on Twitter after Fabio's departure. There has also been a bit between Mike I./Angelo and Dale seems to have a bit of a fixation on Angelo calling him a "pretty pretty man" and comparing him to a mermaid ("siren of the sea" to be exact) on two separate occasions.
  • Never Live It Down: Casey during the mise en place relay was tortuously slow on her part of the race - chopping onions. This was made worse since she was up against Hung while he broke down chickens. She also was partially responsible (as her sous chef) for Carla's failure in the season 5 finale.
    • Something else that people have never let her live down were her comments towards Carla during interviews after season 5 ended. While Carla graciously and humbly accepted her mistakes, did not blame Casey and said people should not blame Casey either, Casey took the opposite approach, critizicing and speaking ill of Carla in the interviews.
    • Personality aside, Marcel seems to be forever haunted by the head-shaving incident, and he wasn't even a willing participant. Understandably, he's grown tired of constantly being reminded of it.
    • Jamie will be forever known for getting a tiny cut during Season 8 and going to the hospital to avoid cooking, especially after Carla later almost cut off an entire part of her finger and not only kept competing but ended up winning the challenge.
  • The Scrappy: Toby Young is disliked by quite a few fans, because he cares more about semi-witty quips than any actual thoughtful commentary.
  • Shocking Elimination: Season 3, Tre. He'd won more competitions than anyone else at that point, and yet a bad dessert sent him packing.
    • It wasn't just the bad dessert, it was Restaurant Wars week and he was the executive chef of the losing team. Ergo, he got eliminated.
    • Also Dale from Season 4. He had been consistently in the top. On that day, he had one bad dish, another chef made two. Most people thought Lisa would be sent packing, but team leader Dale had to take one for the team. This was the only decision that executive producer/head judge/voice of reason Tom wasn't around for.
      • Anthony Bourdain has a blog about this episode in which he explains that, yeah, Dale messed up one dish, but oh, what a mess-up that was. Not that Bourdain was a big fan of Lisa or Spike.
    • Ashley in Season 6. The dish wasn't necessarily bad, but she refused to throw Eli under the bus for his mistakes with the dish and got burned for it.
      • Jennifer from the finale. Based solely on the judges' comments, they seemed to genuinely like both of Jennifer's dishes, even if one was a little too salty. Michael seemed to be in line for elimination, as he had clear problems with both his dishes.
    • Tiffany from season 7. She had never been on the bottom of any elimination challenge prior to being eliminated, and in two previous episodes, she'd managed to win both the quickfire and elimination challenges.
    • In Season 8, Angelo. He was a clear favorite for the title in his first season, and notched several wins and top group appearances. He went home in the Target sponsored episode for putting out an oversalted baked potato soup. To his credit, he only had two weeks' rest between his finale and the next season, and he was likely even more exhausted by that time.
    • The eleventh episode of Season 8 had a shocking bottom 3: Dale, who was eliminated, had won 4 Quickfires and 3 Elimination Challenges by that point. Carla & Tiffany both screwed up Southern cooking, which they each consider a specialty.
    • In Season 8 again, Carla was the unlucky person to go home even though most people did not consider her to have the worst dish.
    • Season 8 example, surprise: many fans were baffled when Antonia was sent home over Mike - who had admittedly stepped up his game for the finale - when the footage showed that the judges seemingly favored Antonia's amuse 4 to 3. A revelation that Tom had talked to Wolfgang Puck during a filming break before Puck changed his vote didn't help things much.
    • In Season 9, Nyesha had been doing pretty well, but was sent home in a double elimination because her teammate screwed up an ingredient. She then proceeded to outlast 5 other chefs in Last Chance Kitchen.
    • Curtis in the deconstruction episode of Top Chef: Canada Season 2. Jimmy, who was also in the bottom, had been making the same mistakes with modernist cooking techniques throughout the competition, and his deconstructed dish failed so badly that guest judge Richard Blaise called it an embarrassment to modernist cuisine. Curtis had been doing quite well previously, and based on the judge's comments that appeared in the episode, his problem was a lack of familiarity with the original dish rather than any major failure of execution.
    • Season 10 in Seattle's elimination of Kristen (who won many challenges and was favored to make it to the finale) over Josie (who was consistently on the bottom and ignored all of Kristen's instructions in Restaurant Wars).
    • Season 11 had Stephanie (who, coincidentally is Kristen from Season 10's best friend) being eliminated in the most unfair way possible. With six cheftestants left, not only did Top Chef still have immunity on the table, but also issued a 3-on-3 team challenge. In her team, Stephanie and Shirley cooked fantastic food and could've easily have been in the top. Unfortunately, their teammate Nick had let them down with two very poorly done dishes. The only thing was that Nick couldn't be eliminated because he had won the Quickfire Challenge. Nick did have a shot to fall on his sword but refused to do so. Thus, the judges decided that Stephanie was just a smidgen weaker than Shirley and got eliminated.
    • Season 17 then had Angelo again go home much earlier than anyone expected, this time going home second overall.
  • Sophomore Slump: Season 2 was...not good. Between the cheftestants arguing at the Judges' Table over whether others had violated nutritional standards in one competition, two cheftestants attempting to avoid anyone going home by claiming joint responsibility for a bad dish (and both getting eliminated), Mia quitting due to Cliff's attitude towards her, Marcel melting down over when to start service, and the little incident where the remaining cheftestants attempting to forcibly shave Marcel's head, it's a wonder that the show survived for another season, much less another seven (and counting)! Just about the only good thing from this season was the introduction of Padma Lakshmi as host.
  • What an Idiot!: One chef decided to make beignets to serve to a crowd, however she had to make them hours in advance since she didn't have the time make them fresh at the site. When given a mediocre review of her beignets by the judges, she says outright she wishes she could have made them to order, but couldn't because of the challenge. The judges call her out in that if she was already aware of the glaring flaw in being unable to make beignets fresh, then she should have just done something else.
  • The Woobie:
    • Marcel from season 2. Many other chefs didn't like him from the get go, and Marcel is a bit of a jerkass but he started to become sympathetic when all the other contestants start bullying him, sometimes without justification. Most notable was the incident where Ilan (the eventual winner) and other contestants conspire to tackle him and forcibly shave his head during downtime, in front of the camera. Tom almost went ballistic and blogged that he wanted to disqualify everyone and declare Marcel the winner but Bravo nixed the idea. Eventually the guy holding Marcel down was sent home. In the finale, one of the other contestants accused him of "cheating" but could offer no evidence that he had done so.
      • Especially apparent in the reunion show hosted by Fabio, where Marcel responded negatively to a request that he talk about the head shaving incident. Apparently not wanting to talk with a smiling face about the time people assaulted you is a good enough reason for everyone to dislike you.
      • The production team could not even understand why Marcel was so hated. They searched but yet, they could not find anything that made him so hated among the other contestants.
    • Robin from season 6. Though she was indeed not as strong as others and she managed to avoid elimination various times due to others making worse dishes than her during Elimination Challenges, this somehow made most, if not all the other contestants take that as an insult, and treated her badly all throughout. True, she was a bit of a chatterbox, which annoyed the others, but of course, no one ever talked to her about it and instead just complained about her in confessional or to one another. They were harsh, hostile, nasty, and never had a kind word or gesture towards her, like when she won a Quickfire Challenge and everybody looked angry and did not congratulate her, also including Eli's infamous cancer comment. They even tried screwing her over more than once, such as when Mike Isabella tried taking all the credit for the team challenge in which he was paired with her and needed her knowledge in Asian cuisine to do well, and in the Restaurant Wars challenge, where Michael Voltaggio tried taking over her dessert (and she awesomely went off on him and made him back away) and then still tried taking credit for it after the judges loved it.
    • Generally, each season of the show and its spin-offs will have at least one.
    • From Season 9, Beverly. In a big, bad way. Though she was a pretty talented chef, she was kind of an oddball, which several other chefs seemed to HATE for some reason. During several team challenges, Sarah, Lindsay, and Heather would shoot down every suggestion she had, at one point going so far as to say that her suggestions were "too Asian". When she was on a team with Heather, during Judges Table, Heather immediately started ranting about how she had a bad "work ethic" and brought up previous challenges just to convince the judges that she wasn't carrying her weight in team challenges. Sarah and Lindsay also accused her of this during Restaurant Wars despite the fact that she had cooked some of the best food of the night.

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