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Rank the Top Chef winners

I think I know who the popular favorite will be, but after that... how would you rank our top chefs? As a reminder, here are the winners so far:

Season 1: Howard Dieterle
Season 2: Ilan Hall
Season 3: Hung Huynh
Season 4: Stephanie Izard
Season 5: Hosea Rosenberg
Season 6: Michael Voltaggio
Season 7: Kevin Sbraga

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  1. in order of chef skill
    1) Michael
    3) Harold
    6) ilan

    In order of favorite personality wise:

    3) Hung
    4) Michael

    6 and 7 are pretty much neck & neck
    but I guess I would have to pick Hosea over Ilan

    Yeah Ilan Hall is : "Top Dick Top Chef"!!


    3 Replies
    1. re: NellyNel

      I agree exactly, every word you said!

      1. 1) Michael and Hung are a tie for me
        2) Harold
        3) Kevin
        4) Stephanie
        5) Ilan and Hosea are equally as awful

        1. Hung has the best knife skills. Michael is most creative. Harold is the most charismatic in an amusingly misanthropic way. Ilan is an aberration.

          1. Season 1: Howard Dieterle
            Season 2: Ilan Hall
            Season 3: Hung Huynh
            Season 4: Stephanie Izard
            Season 5: Hosea Rosenberg
            Season 6: Michael Voltaggio
            Season 7: Kevin Sbraga
            Without looking at anyone else's response yet, my rankings would be (ranking based on the FOOD I'd like to try):

            1. Season 6: Michael Voltaggio
            2. Season 4: Stephanie Izard
            3. Season 1: Harold Dieterle and Season 3: Hung Huynh (TIE)
            5. Season 7: Kevin Sbraga
            6. Season 2: Ilan Hall and Season 5: Hosea Rosenberg (TIE)

            Oh - and it's Harold Dieterle. :-)

            1. 1) Michael Voltaggio
              2) Stephanie Izard
              3) Hung Huynh
              4) Harold Dieterle
              5) Kevin Sbraga
              6) Ilan Hall
              7) Hosea Rosenberg

              2 Replies
              1. re: jeanmarieok

                Looks like we think alike, jeanmarie, except with me tieing two pair instead of breaking them out into their own rankings. :-)

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Funny - I noticed the same thing, after I posted! Ha - great minds and all that!

              2. Oh, sorry... LindaWhit point out that I wrote Howard instead of Harold. My mistake.... it should be HAROLD Dieterle.

                1. Based on food I would like to try:
                  1. Stephanie Izard
                  2. Michael Voltaggio
                  3. Hung Huynh
                  4. Harold Dieterle
                  5. Kevin Sbraga
                  6. Ilan Hall
                  7. Hosea Rosenberg

                  Stephanie first because my family lives in Chicago so that could be a real possibility. However if we can include non-winners, I would add Kevin Gillespie and Richard Blais after Stephanie and Michael V. on my list.

                  1. It's kind of a hard question because there's been a lot of time go by since Harold won that first season. I would probably say:

                    1. Michael
                    2. Hung
                    3. Harold
                    4. Stephanie
                    5. Kevin
                    6. Hosea
                    7. Ilan

                    But who knows really. I don't even think they're all working at restaurants right now so you couldn't even go out and try all their food.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: dmckean

                      Michael, Harold, Stephanie, and Ilan all have their own restaurants. Hung *might* have something going on in San Francisco?


                      Hosea seems to be traveling for his "next big thing" and doing something called "Streat Chefs" - street food in a tricked-out Airstream.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        Hung is the chef at the Buddha Bar in NYC.

                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                          Hung's last day at the Ajna Bar is today. See the last question/answer here:


                          But he did say he's staying in NYC.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Oh thanks, I didn't know that. Maybe he's planning on opening his own place? That would be cool and I would definitely go and try it out when it opened.

                    2. A lot of people ranking Harold pretty high and Kevin pretty low IMO. I like Harold, but half the people he beat out weren't professional cooks, and he seemed to stay mostly towards semi- basic classical preparations (that were tasty, Im sure, but not contest-winners by today's standards)

                      My list (based on who I think would win if they were to compete against each other):
                      1)Michael V. (not a hard choice)
                      2) Hung (only #2 because Michael V is such a badass)
                      3) Kevin (read his recipes. I know he's not popular but he pulled off some cool dishes, including what may have been the best finale meal of any season)
                      4) Stephanie (right up there with Kevin, hard to pick between them)
                      5) Hosea (I like Harold better, but I suspect in my heart of hearts that Hosea was the more skillful cook. Beating Stefan was no small accomplishment)
                      6) Harold (very close to Hosea, and I'd rather eat his cooking on a daily basis, but I don't think he'd win a head to head contest)
                      7) Ilan (I'm starting to feel bad for him... ok, I'm over it)

                      For the record, I don't think Top Chef actually reflects accurately on how well a contestant can run a restaurant. It's entirely possible, for example, that Ilan's restaurant is marvelous and better than that of other winners. I haven't been to any of their restaurants so I'm in no position to judge.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        i agree with you cowboyardee. read kevin's recipes and watched michael's video on the singapore sling desert kevin invented. Loved it and would make it at home. I picked kevin to win 4 weeks ago: I liked his presentation and his range, and it always had a bit of homeiness and a connection to something comfort-food like. So it would be michael, hung and kevin for me.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I think there are two reasons for people putting Harold up that high

                          1) His restaurant, from all signs, seem to be doing very well, putting out solid food, and generally getting very good reviews. Maybe it's not fair to others to also factor in how their careers have progressed after the show, but Harold seems to have taken full advantage of winning Top Chef.

                          2) He was a chill no-drama kind of guy during the show. He was always cool and laid back and it was refreshing to see someone like that on TV when most reality TV shows cast for maximum drama. So I think his personality also bumped him up the list.

                          1. re: gyc

                            I think you're right on both accounts. I was trying to deliberately avoid factoring in personality or the reputation of their restaurants when making my list, and focus on who's best at cooking competitions.

                            A lot of people are listing whose food they'd most like to eat. For me, that would bump Hosea to the bottom and bump Harold right up there into a three-way tie for third with Kevin and Stephanie.

                            1. re: gyc

                              Just like the first season of the Real World will always hold a special place in my heart (lord, even I haven't watched it for 4 or 5 years now), the first season of Top Chef (and Harold) will always be my favorite. At least at this stage of the game.

                              1. re: gyc

                                Has Harold been getting very good reviews from the critics? I know Harold's fans from the show have been saying how great the food is, but I wonder how much of that is being influenced by the fact that they're fans of his.

                                All I remember is the one restaurant review from the NY Times, and it wasn't that great- it didn't say the food was bad or anything, but it seemed, with the exception of the duck meatballs, a little bit underwhelming.

                                I liked Harold, but he definitively benefited in competing against lesser caliber chefs on his season.

                            2. 1) Michael V
                              2) Hung
                              3) Stephanie (wow, she's the only woman TC.. time for another one don't you think?)
                              4) Harold
                              5) Kevin
                              with Ilan and Hosea tied for last... actually forget these two, I'd rather try the cooking of runner ups Brian V, Kevin Gillespie or Richard Blais' over those two.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: SeoulQueen

                                "...actually forget these two, I'd rather try the cooking of runner ups Brian V, Kevin Gillespie or Richard Blais' over those two."
                                I'd rather try the cooking of Kevin Gillespie or Brian V. over any of em (except maybe Michael V.)

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  TC Season 6 was really good wasn't it? They should take the TC title away from Ilan and Hosea and give it to Brian V and Kevin Gillespie.

                              2. Michael Voltaggio
                                Hung Huynh
                                Stephanie Izard
                                Harold Dieterle
                                (note, I feel like my 2-4 are pretty close)
                                Kevin Sbraga
                                Hosea Rosenberg/Ilan Hall (I have a hard time with them. I dislike Ilan more, but I think they're both fairly equal in unimpressive as top chefs go.)

                                1. I find it amusing to see so many people ranking Hung second. Although I liked Hung's cooking during his season, at the time many fans didn't like him or his cooking. Regarding the cooking, they considered his food to be lacking soul and originality (save the Smurf village), though showing strong technical skills. And fans didn't seem to like him because of the edit of his personality on the show (and the fact that he was such close friends with Marcel). Now, perhaps thanks more recent appearances as a judge or sous chef, opinions seem to have changed, even though we haven't seen any of his cooking judged on its own since his season ended.

                                  At the time that Stephanie won, I thought most fans preferred her cooking over Hung's.

                                  FYI, both Hung and Kevin Sbraga competed in the Bocuse d'Or USA competition in Orlando in late 2008 (won by Tim Hollingsworth, who went on to finish sixth in the actual Bocuse d'Or). Hung won Best Fish plate and Kevin won Best Meat plate (those are awards that go to chefs who don't finish in the top 3). A description appears early in the book "Knives At Dawn".

                                  23 Replies
                                  1. re: abrocadabro

                                    I actually was thinking the same thing.
                                    At the time, I remember that Hung was not a fav with the fans.

                                    I think toward the end of that season, though, Hund showed his vulnerable side and I think people warmed up to him.
                                    I like both him, and his style of food..

                                    Thanks for the info about the Bocuse d'Or USA competition, I hadnt known that!

                                    1. re: abrocadabro

                                      I'm not sure what brought about the change in Hung's public opinion, but I'm glad. Possibly annoyance with Casey after the whole Carla thing season 5 caused some shifting loyalty. He also came off well as Angelo's sous in this season's finale. I do think most people understood, even at the time of TC3, that Hung deserved the win regardless of whether they liked him.

                                      Personally, I always admired Hung and rooted for him during season 3. I thought the accusations that his cooking was soulless were absolutely ridiculous (he wasn't born with technical skill; he worked his ass off for it, devoted his life to it - how can that be soulless?)

                                      Thanks for providing the info about the Bocuse d'Or USA. Kevin's looking better than many are giving him credit for.

                                      1. re: abrocadabro

                                        With Hung, personality really doesn't matter. He has to be the most exciting to watch contestant on Top Chef ever. There was never any doubt that he can cook and I would love to try his food. But yeah, there was at least 3 other contestants that season I like better personality wise but Hung had it in the bag.

                                        1. re: dmckean

                                          I guess I must be one of the few who liked Hung throughout his season. His whole thing about having literally grown up in a restaurant kitchen and his poorly concealed impatience with the folks who had never cut up a chicken before culinary school, struck some kind of nerve with me. I felt he was the rare reality show contestant who had every good reason to be arrogant - "it's not bragging if it's true." Love him.
                                          If we're just talking about winners, I would happily eat any of the winners' food in any order, as long as we were excluding Ilan and Hosea.

                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                            Hung received a harsh edit. Not that it altered my opinion of his cooking skills, his profficiency and technique always shine through. He is probably the most technically skilled chef the show has seen. The precision of his blade and his speed, his cooking technique are superlative.

                                            The only reason Ilan won his season was because Marcel was so "unlikeable". I thought Marcel appeared to be a superior chef in every way.

                                            Harold's cooking is wonderful, having eaten food cooked by him in a personal setting, I can say he is deservedly a top chef.

                                            Kevin is a mystery, his food never appealed to me throughout the show. He has been in the bottom more than any other top chef winner. At the same time, it fulfilled my suspicions on who Top Chef wanted to win this season.

                                            1. re: Pookipichu

                                              Not sure why everyone is so down on Kevin. He started out weak, but really took off in the second half of the season and certainly wasn't as arrogant as Angelo or Kenny. Rat's Restaurant is very highly regarded in the Philadelphia region and in this area Kevin has also worked with three of the most highly regarded restauranteurs\chefs in Philly: Perrier, Starr and Garces.

                                              Anyway, for the question at hand:
                                              5. Michael

                                              Leaving Ilan & Hosea off the list.

                                              My list is based more on what I prefer to eat--good ingredients simply prepared--than on actual chef skills. Hung & Michael both appear amazingly talented, but their food seems a little overwrought for my taste.

                                              Ate at Jen Carroll's (excellent) would also love to try Kevin's.

                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                In what way did Kevin "take off" during the 2nd half of the season?

                                                1. re: dach

                                                  Re: "taking off" - I agree with you, dach. I don't think I'd call it that by any stretch of the imagination. His last win was Ep. 6, his last "High" was Ep. 8. Otherwise, he was in the middle or Low.


                                                  Episode... 1.....2.....3.....4.....5.....6.....7.....8.....9.....10.....11.....12.....13.....14
                                                  Kevin..... H....IN.....L.....L....H....W.... L.....H.....L.....IN......L......IN..... .IN.....WIN

                                                  If you look at Tiffany's Highs and Wins - that's "taking off", with 4 Highs and 2 Wins, and Ed could be said to be "taking off" with 3 Wins and a High in the second half.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    Yes I agree Kevin never took off he just happened to win the final challenge..

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      Episode 9 where you list him as Low was restaurant wars where Kevin actually made one of the best dishes of the night but was on the losing team. That L is misleading.

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        Well, he was on the losing team, regardless. That's the way the cookie crumbles (and the scores get handed out).

                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                        I was really rooting for Tiffany and was disappointed she was eliminated before the finale. But she got some great prizes to kick start her marriage and career and I think we have not seen the last of this talented young chef.

                                                    2. re: gaffk

                                                      I watch, but don't really keep score like many of the posters here. I guess it was just my perception that in the first few weeks his food was criticized harshly and did not look very good. In the later weeks, his food seemed to be judged more positively, whether it was the best or not, and looked like food I would like to eat.

                                                      At least he didn't do the same cuisine every week (ala Ilan and his saffron or Angelo and his Asian).

                                                      1. re: gaffk

                                                        All of the scores for Top Chef are on charts a wikipedia page.

                                                        1. re: gaffk

                                                          I agree. I don't think a win/high/low count gives a completely accurate representation of how someone performed. In the late weeks, everyone picked their game up and cooked better food. Kevin may not have gotten a win those weeks, but he made very good food that was right up there with the winning dishes. And he didn't have a bad performance since episode 7, regardless of high/low count. He improved through the season, culminating in a fantastic finale meal.

                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                            Sometimes the high/low stuff doesn't tell the entire story. For instance, the last two seasons the first episode has 4 chefs that come away with highs, but those highs are only from competing against three other chefs. Mike Isabella hung on for dear life on the coat tails of both Brian and Mike V. on two of the episodes last season.

                                                          2. re: gaffk

                                                            comparing Asian cuisines, multitudinous nations, spices, techniques to the limitations of one spice is a little ridiculous.

                                                            1. re: Pookipichu

                                                              In agreement.

                                                              I further wonder if Sbraga's canards that everything Angelo did was "Asian" or "Chinese" [wow, did he show his lack of knowledge] and his weird contempt for "Asian/Chinese" food, as portrayed to the viewers in his asides, swayed the perceptions of viewers.

                                                            2. re: gaffk

                                                              "...or Angelo and his Asian..."
                                                              Not a correct characterization of his dishes. If his dishes are reviewed and the recipes consulted it can be seen that he prepared a fair number of definitely Western-oriented dishes.

                                                              How come Sbraga cooks only Frenchie-influenced American food? That can also be considered as one-note, especially if one were to call "Asian" the 'same' thing. ("Asian" can mean so many things, far more than even "Western". Even Anthony Bourdain pointed out once that "Asia is a big place".)

                                                    3. re: abrocadabro

                                                      Regarding Hung: "...they considered his food to be lacking soul and originality..."
                                                      Here's what the late, lamented, Fukui San had to say about Colicchio's riff on this meme (which doubtless led many viewers to conclude the same):

                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                        Did something happen to Fukui San? I haven't read the TC forum on TWOP for a few years, but I remember his posts there, and I also enjoyed his TWOP posts on Project Runway and his very occasional posts here.

                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                          Edited post: I went looking for where I had read about him and find that he posted as late as yesterday so I clearly confused him with someone else. (Sorry for the false alarm, Fukui San!)

                                                          On further reflection I was thinking of Sam Fujisaka. :-(

                                                    4. I read the first four posts and realized that for once I don't have an opinion on something. It's not that I don't care about Top Chef, I find it entertaining. It's just that I think the winners all have such different styles that comparing them from season 1 to season 7 seems a little too subjective. I respect some of them as chefs more than others however. If I had to rank them, I'd do it much like NellyNel did with the first response except that I would have the top two tied, the middle three tied and the bottom two tied. (Not literaly, that would be just plain weird and kinky).

                                                      1. 1)Michael.
                                                        3) Harold + Stephanie

                                                        578) Kevin.
                                                        infinity+1)Hosea (God I hated that season so much, just thinking about it makes me want to puke)

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Evilbanana11

                                                          I agree with Evilbanana11. Last two seasons have been pretty bad. Wish Stephan or Carla would have won last season.

                                                        2. I haven't tasted a speck of any of their food, so this ranking is completely based on personality:

                                                          1. Stephanie Izard
                                                          2. Howard Dieterle
                                                          3. Hung Huynh
                                                          4. Kevin Sbraga
                                                          5. Michael Voltaggio
                                                          6.Hosea Rosenberg
                                                          7. Ilan Hall

                                                          1. Once again..everyone seems to basing their choices on personality. But I betcha if you were to actually try Ilan's food, most of you would rather eat his food than Michael V's. Having Ilan's restaurant a block away has been a blessing.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: peppermonkey

                                                              Bet not. Ilan's food rarely really interested me. He's still in my bottom group.

                                                            2. Based on their overall performances.

                                                              1. Michael V.
                                                              2. Howard D.
                                                              3. Hung H.
                                                              4. Stephanie I.
                                                              5. Kevin S.
                                                              6. Ilan H.
                                                              7. Hosea R.

                                                              If I were to choose a chef for a special meal, I'd go with Kevin. Sure, he's not the most knowledgeable or refined of the bunch, but the guy knows his flavors and he stepped up when it mattered most.

                                                              1. Kind of tough as I've only tasted Harold Dieterle's food. But here goes ...

                                                                1. Michael Voltaggio -- this was an easy one for me. Food seemed to be full of finesse.
                                                                2. Hung Huynh -- also easy one, but will have to put him behind Michael V because Hung has stated that he used to work under Michael, and that Michael was super talented. I believe he also stated that he probably wouldn't have won if Michael V was in his season.
                                                                3. Kevin Sbraga -- I know, I know. Why so high? Probably because he won the meat portion of the Bocuse d'Or USA. He must have had the chops to win an award like that.
                                                                4. Stephanie Izard -- her food seems really approachable and something that I'd love to try one day. But I don't think her skills are in the Michael V range. I think she's closer to Harold. And it was also quite telling that she came in last in the quality tasting challenge.
                                                                5. Harold Dieterle -- Why so low? Because I've actually had his food a few times. It's good and but not destination good IMHO. I don't think his skills are up to the level of the Bocuse d'Or. But he's a solid chef. I think a lot of people are putting him up high because he had a good personality and competed against not-so-great chefs in his season.
                                                                6. Hosea Rosenberg -- I think this one's also easy.
                                                                7. Ilan Hall -- I don't think I need to say anymore.

                                                                So this is my list having not tasted the majority of their food. Had I tasted their food, it could go very differently. Though I still think I would keep my bottom 2 where they are.

                                                                1. I'm not sure I would rank them in an absolute way.

                                                                  I've eaten at Girl & the Goat (Stephanie Izard). Interesting flavor combinations, good quality ingredients. Good.

                                                                  Although not a 'winner', I've also eaten several times at Volt, including Table 21 (Bryan Voltaggio). I like his food very much.

                                                                  Based on what I would like to eat/try from the rest, I would say:
                                                                  1) Michael Voltaggio
                                                                  2) Hung Huynh
                                                                  3) Howard Dieterle

                                                                  No particular hankering for the others.

                                                                  I'd like to try Kevin Gillespie's place (expect it to be good); and, in a way, also Jennifer Carroll's place (10 Arts) to see if she is greatly overrated as some have murmured.

                                                                  1. And to confirm my original ranking with Kevin being bottom - I tried to remember who had won Season 7 a few weeks ago. For the life of me, I could not remember his name. I could picutre his face and I quickly remembered Angelo and Ed,other cheftestants that didn't even make it into the final, like Tiffany and the names of the past winners. But Season 7's winner? Absolute blank.

                                                                    Finally remembered it was KEVIN when I saw a Top Chef promo ad which mentioned his name.

                                                                    1. Michael Voltaggio
                                                                      Harold Dieterle
                                                                      Hung Huynh
                                                                      Stephanie Izard
                                                                      Kevin Sbraga
                                                                      Ilan Hall
                                                                      Hosea Rosenberg

                                                                      A combination of what I thought would be intriguing and/or good to eat and who I thought performed best in the Top Chef format.

                                                                      1. Let's update this and add Richard Blais and Paul Qui to this list.

                                                                        And with that addition, my order is:

                                                                        1. Paul Qui
                                                                        2. Richard Blais
                                                                        3. Michael Voltaggio
                                                                        4. Hung Huynh
                                                                        5. Stephanie Izard
                                                                        6. Harold Dieterle
                                                                        7. Ilan Hall
                                                                        8. Kevin Sbraga
                                                                        9. Hosea Rosenberg

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: chefhound

                                                                          Ranked by their prowess at cooking competitions, not their skill as chefs or how much their food appeals to me personally:

                                                                          1 M voltaggio - beat the strongest competition, scarcely made a mistake, perhaps the most potential of anyone ever on the show to take a huge risk, whip up something you've never seen before, AND hit a home run with it

                                                                          2 Paul Qui - best in-season record, super consistent, great judgement

                                                                          3 Richard Blais - improved 7th season version whose considerable technical skill was put more at the service of flavor

                                                                          4 Hung - fantastic technical skill. His dishes don't match up well to those I ranked above him, but he may well have stepped up his game if he had better competition. He seemed to punt a few challenges his season just because he could get away with it

                                                                          5/6 Kevin and stephanie - toss up. Kevin is underrated

                                                                          7 Hosea - big step down from the top 6. Still, had much tougher competition than the bottom two

                                                                          8 Harold - good chef. Likeable guy. Overrated as a competitor though.

                                                                          9 Ilan - decent cook, but would have been an also-ran in any other season except the first.

                                                                        2. What I find fascinating about thread is that so many think Hosea is the worst TC winner in the history of the program. It seems that many think that Stefan should have won TC 5 and yet Hosea clearly won the finale of TC 5. I happen to think the bad feelings for Hosea are based more on personality than on food. I did not like Ilan's personality or actions on TC 2, but he still put out better food than Marcel in that finale. .

                                                                          Until the finale, I thought Kevin Sbraga was the weakest chef in the finale of any season of Top Chef. Kevin clearly practiced and learned the cuisine of Malaysia while Ed Cotten seemed to think he could get by on the talent he already had. Because of illness, I think Angelo was not much of a factor in that finale.

                                                                          Here are my Top Chef chef rankings:

                                                                          1. Paul Qui, Richard Blais, Michael Voltaggio tied for first;

                                                                          4. Hung Huynh, Stephanie Izard, Harold Dieterle tied for fourth;

                                                                          7. Hosea Rosenberg, Kevin Sbraga, Ilan Hall tied for seventh.

                                                                          1. As an indication of how little Kevin Sbraga made an impression on me...I spent the entire time I was reading this thread picturing Ed Cotten's face at any mention of Kevin. The only faces I remembered from the season 7 finale were Angelo's and Ed's.