Let's put a bow on this season of "Top Chef." Here's a look inside the numbers:
Before the season started we rolled out the "Top Chef" Power Index, a formula to evaluate how the cheftestants did within their season. When we apply it to Season 8, here's how they ranked, points-wise:
1. Richard Blais 255
2. Mike Isabella 165
3. Dale Talde 160
4. Antonia Lofaso 150
5. Carla Hall 130
6. Angelo Sosa 100
7. Tiffany Derry 75
8. Fabio Viviani 75
9. Tre Wilcox 70
10. Marcel Vigneron 45
11. Spike Mendelsohn 40
12. Jamie Lauren 30
13. Tiffani Faison 25
14. Stephen Asprinio 20
15. Casey Thompson 10
16. Dale Levitski 5
17. Jennifer Carroll -5
18. Elia Aboumrad -5
What does that tell us? A few things.
-- One chef, in particular, has a right to be disappointed: Dale Talde. His 160 points almost beat Mike Isabella's performance on the show in five fewer episodes. That's a direct reflection of how they approached the season. Isabella told the Stew after the finale that he kept his head down and tried to just make it to the finals while Talde's riskier strategy had him leading the game . . . right up to the point where he made that amberjack stew. The longer a reality competition show runs, the more it alters how the game is played as future contestants have the benefit of being able to watch years of footage. It will be interesting if any future "Top Chef" contestants alter their approaches after watching these two chefs.
-- Richard Blais' 255 points gives him the most by any competitor on any season of "Top Chef," but he had the benefit of two extra episodes. We can go back and look at the top performances by winners in terms of points per episode to try and level things out.
"Top Chef" winners by points per episode
1. Stephanie Izard (Season 4) 17.5 points/episode
2. Michael Voltaggio (6) 16.7
3. Richard (8) 15.9
4. Harold Dieterle (1) 15.4
5. Hung Huynh (3) 13.2
6. Ilan Hall (2) 12.9
7. Hosea Rosenberg (5) 10
8. Kevin Sbraga (7) 9.6
Izard was a powerhouse, beating Blais for the season as well as head-to-head in the finals. It is interesting to consider that Blais improved over that very good performance. It should be noted that Isabella, moving from 7.5 points/episode in Season 6 to 10.3 in Season 8, improved as well. (Cue a Hosea Rosenberg complaint about Internet "haters" now.)
-- Blais' four quickfire wins in a season puts him in an eight-way tie for second (with himself, interestingly) behind Sam Talbot (Season 2). His five elimination wins puts him in a tie for first with Izard and Kevin Gillespie (Season 6).
-- I was looking for someone to compare with Tiffany Derry, the Beaumont, Texas, native who hung on despite being on the bottom in 8 of 14 episodes. The best comparison is probably to Lisa Fernandes, the third finalist in Season 4 with Blais and Izard. Although it should be said that Fernandes actually won an elimination challenge.
-- How did Isabella do it? By staying off of the bottom. Of any runner-up, only Blais in Season 4 and Bryan Voltaggio (one apiece) had fewer episodes facing elimination.
-- The "Never Boring" award goes to Fabio Viviani. In nine episodes, he was in the top group five times and on the bottom four.
-- In the reunion show, there's a back and forth between Elia Aboumrad, the first chef eliminated, and Tom Colicchio over comments she made to the Tribune in December. Read the entire exit interview as well as Colicchio's response here.
-- Finally, a bunch of people asked us the same question: Where was Sprout's Dale Levitski during the finale? He tells The Stew that he did not make it to the Bahamas because of a "semi-serious health scare" and his doctor advised him not to make the trip. Everything is better now and he was in attendance for Bravo's finale party/viewing at Girl & the Goat on Wednesday night after finishing a packed dinner service at Sprout.