‘Top Chef’ Kentucky is down to 10: Our ranking of the chefs so far

Is the winner of “Top Chef” Kentucky in this picture? Maaayyybe ... except for Pablo, he’s gone for good. From left: chefs Eric Adjepong, Pablo Lamon, David Viana, Adrienne Wright, Eddie Konrad, Brandon Rosen, Sara Bradley, Brian Young, Michelle Minori, and Justin Sutherland.
Is the winner of “Top Chef” Kentucky in this picture? Maaayyybe ... except for Pablo, he’s gone for good. From left: chefs Eric Adjepong, Pablo Lamon, David Viana, Adrienne Wright, Eddie Konrad, Brandon Rosen, Sara Bradley, Brian Young, Michelle Minori, and Justin Sutherland. Michael Hickey/Bravo

And then there were 10.

After the brutal Restaurant Wars episodes of “Top Chef” Kentucky, which sent both Nini and Pablo to pack their knives, there are 10 contestants left.

Here’s where I think they stand after four elimination challenges and heading into Thursday’s episode.

Big winner of Restaurant Wars? Chef Brian Young, who kept the front of the house running relatively smoothly for North East and had the best dish of the competition with his complex chicken ballotine. Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

Number 10: Brian. Yeah, I know he won best dish with his tricky chicken ballotine appetizers AND smoothly guided North East’s front-of-house work (no mean feat) to a win on Restaurant Wars in the last episode. But otherwise, he’s bombed. He’s been in the bottom three twice and his dumpling at the Maker’s Mark challenge was called “a deformed beignet.” He’s a meat guy who can’t do anything else. It just won’t be enough.

top chef brandon.JPG
Chef Brandon Rosen, with guest judge Caroline Styne and head judge Tom Colicchio in the kitchen at Restaurant Wars, said he doesn’t want to be known as “the cocky one.” Really? Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 9: Brandon. His bad chicken and dumplings landed him in the bottom three at Maker’s Mark. He hasn’t won any challenges although he was second to David for immunity in the second episode. His desserts on the Christmas episode and at Restaurant Wars were lame or weird. And he comes off smirky and superior without any clear reason why.

top chef rw justin.JPG
Can chef Justin Sutherland overcome his Restaurant Wars temper tantrum to become more than the guy who threw Nini under the bus? Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 8: Justin. His southern/soul food style gets good marks from the judges but he has only cracked the top three with a team win for immunity in the first challenge with Sara and Pablo. In the Christmas episode, neither his kimchi meatloaf nor his fruit and cheese dessert went over well. He hasn’t landed in the bottom either but his Restaurant Wars temper tantrum left a sour taste in the mouths of many. He’s going to need to do something special to be more than the guy who threw Nini under the bus.

top chef adrienne.JPG
Chef Adrienne Wright, with Caroline Styne and Tom Colicchio, is riding a big win with her performance in Restaurant Wars. Can she capitalize on that? Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 7: Adrienne. I think she deserves better than this but she’s also been in the bottom three on a challenge. However, her slaw won raves in the Maker’s Mark challenge and she ran the North East kitchen like a total pro. She could move way up with a good showing in the next challenge. But it’s going to take more than slaw.

top chef eric.JPG
Chef Eric Adjepong hasn’t really done much to stand out but he hasn’t messed up either. But his West African flavors have captured the judges attention several times. He’s my choice for a sleeper who could come out of nowhere to win it all. Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 6: Eric. I actually think he’s a bit of a sleeper who could pop a big win. His West African-flavored dishes have been getting attention but he’s still middle of the pack with little to distinguish himself so far, either good or bad. He was on the winning North East team but his dish (the scallops/pork couscous) was the one the judges liked the least.

top chef kelsey.JPG
Chef Kelsey Barnard wowed with her beautiful buttermilk panna cotta at Restaurant Wars but can she do more than desserts? Or fancy deviled eggs? Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 5: Kelsey. She was in the top five in the first challenge, with fancy deviled eggs. Her asparagus with ham cubes was one of the last favorite dishes on the present swap but that wasn’t entirely her fault since she ended up a terrible box thanks to Brian (see above.) She had one of the top three desserts at the Christmas dinner and her dessert for Restaurant Wars was beautiful. But she doesn’t seem to do well with much BUT desserts. That won’t take her to the top.

top chef michelle.JPG
Chef Michelle Minori broke out of the middle of the pack when she won immunity for Restaurant Wars. But she has yet to capitalize on that. Going to take more than one win to win. Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 4: Michelle. Middle-of-the-pack non-entity until winning the immunity challenge for Restaurant Wars. That should have been a breakout moment, but she was far too quiet to guide the Thistle team in the kitchen. Still, she could still distinguish herself in the next challenge.

top chef sara rw.JPG
Chef Sara Bradley is the Kentucky contestant but she’s also been a team player. Yes, her green tomato gazpacho got knocked for too much ginger, but can get agree that Brandon had a hand in that and move on? Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 3: Sara. I know you’re going to think I’m favoring the Kentucky chef. But hear me out: her team won the first immunity challenge and her team won at Maker’s Mark, where her take on country ham and chow chow nearly stole the show, the judges said. She’s been good but a bit uneven; her gift swap dish drew praise from Padma but her Christmas dessert of biscuits fell short when it really shouldn’t have. She was a bit long-winded as working front-of-house for Thistle in Restaurant Wars but so what? Her green tomato gazpacho was tasty but too gingery. Still, she’s stalking the top and has the inside edge.

top chef eddie meat.JPG
Chef Eddie Konrad has earned the nickname “Eddie Money” for blowing his team’s budget at Whole Foods on lamb. But. He can seriously cook, and was in the top three for a dessert too. So I think he has a legitimate shot. Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 2: Eddie. That’s right, “Eddie Money,” the chef who keeps messing up but comes up smelling like a rose. He blew his team’s budget at Whole Foods during the Maker’s Mark challenge but his lamb was delish. His gift box swap dish of weird carrot curry was too muddled but he made up for it big time. And, unlike some, he can do meat and sweets: In the Christmas dessert challenge, his shortcake with strawberries and fennel was in the top three. Eddie was on the winning team at Restaurant Wars, where his New York strip drew praise even if his bass crudo appetizer didn’t. Just one more big screw up and Eddie might take the lead.

top chef david leeks.JPG
Chef David Viana turned those beautiful leeks into an immunity-winning dish. And he just keeps turning up trumps. He’s my pick at this point for the lead but he’s had a stumble or two and there’s room for someone to move ahead. Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

No. 1: David. He has consistently done well, beginning with his “umami bomb” soup save in the first challenge; winning two immunity challenges in a row, including with leek “noodles” in the present swap on the Christmas episode; and Padma praised his “little shot glass of fun” dessert for the Christmas dessert challenge. However, he was on the disastrous Third Coast team for Restaurant Wars and his snapper was bland, so there is room for someone to leap ahead.

top chef restaurant wars nini.JPG
Will “Last Chance Kitchen” be the chef Nini Nguyen’s big comeback? Or will she lose to Brother Luck. Watch this Thursday at 8 p.m. to find out. Bravo Michael Hickey/Bravo

And here comes the “Top Chef” twist. In this Thursday’s episode, the chefs will find themselves either helping Nini find redemption or bringing in a nightmare, Brother Luck from season 15.

If you’ve been watching “Last Chance Kitchen” on, then you know it is down to these two and whoever wins the “mini Restaurant Wars” challenge will be back on “Top Chef.”

And either one could take it all. Before her fall from grace in Restaurant Wars, Nini won best dish twice, once with a dessert and once with a spoonbread with a “haunting” shrimp etouffee. Brother Luck nearly won last season and looks like a ringer.

And there are still so many great challenges coming, including at Rupp Arena, Lake Cumberland, Nashville and the Muhammad Ali Center.

Read Next

Tune in at 8 p.m. Thursday on Bravo to find out who will join the other 10 as they whip together party food for a Prohibition-era Flappers and Dapper Dans party at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville.