It may be a dish best served cold, but for the contenders of Top Chef All-Stars to have their revenge, they’re going to have to turn up the heat. After seven seasons of Top Chef, beginning Dec. 1, Bravo is dragging 18 of the best contestants never to win the coveted title back onto the show for Season 8, where they’ll don their aprons and do battle over the burners to see who can redeem themselves.
As the series heads back to New York, there will be a new — and appropriate — face on the other side of the competition: Celebrated chef, best-selling author and roving gustatorial expert Anthony Bourdain joins the judging panel, helping Gail Simmons and head judge Tom Colicchio to put the 18 through their paces. Take a look at who’s returning:
Elia Aboumrad (Season 2, Final Four) With 34 separate cooking certifications, Elia definitely has the chops to show more than a few of her fellow contestants who’s boss. This season, she — and her hair — are back, and she’s looking to redeem herself after not going quite Hawaiian enough the first time out.
Stephen Asprinio (Season 1, Top Five) Stephen impressed the judges and viewers as a whole with his one-handed win of an all-star Quickfire Challenge, producing a perfect omelet, but he lost out during a tricky wedding catering challenge.
Richard Blais (Season 4, Finalist) Rapping Marcel wasn’t the only cheftestant trumpeting the trend of molecular gastronomy. (Although Marcel did it first …) Richard’s cutely titled dishes weren’t enough to give him a victory at the Season 4 finals in Puerto Rico, losing out to Stephanie Izard, the series’ first female winner. He’s back — but will the fauxhawk be, too?
Jennifer Carroll (Season 6, Final Four) When she was on, she was really on, but an off day could really hit her, and she didn’t clear the bar at the Napa finals in Season 6, losing out to Bryan Voltaggio, whose brother, Michael, took the title the following week.
Tiffany Derry (Season 7, Top Five) She was eliminated in a space-food challenge, but she’ll have her feet on the ground as she always does, keeping it positive and focused on the food. Like Fabio, she’s a fan favorite whom many will be glad to see back onscreen.
Tiffani Faison (Season 1, Finalist) Judge Colicchio has since credited her artichoke risotto as being one of the best dishes he’s ever tasted on the show, but the forceful Faison bit off more than she could chew with her duo dishes for every course in the finals, and it cost her the title.
Carla Hall (Season 5, Finalist) She and her classical chef skills made it all the way to the finals of her season, but the pressure snared her and she lost to Hosea Rosenberg. She has the discipline, but has she better mastered handling the stress of culinary combat in her time away?
Mike Isabella (Season 6, Top Seven) Let’s face it — there has to be a stinker in the bunch, or there wouldn’t be enough of a show. Top Chef fans had enough of Mike and his Robin-directed criticisms, but it took a vegetarian challenge to oust him from their screens, and that wasn’t until Episode 10. Yep — he’s back for more.
Jamie Lauren (Season 5, Top Seven) One of the more colorful members of “Team Rainbow,” Jamie’s sauteed black bass didn’t endear her to the judges, the guest judge being Eric Ripert of celebrated seafood restaurant Le Bernardin. But she proved herself well enough to maintain All-Star status, and in all likelihood, she won’t be undone by a bass again.
Dale Levitski (Season 3, Finalist) Dale’s a fighter, as he showed going toe-to-toe with Casey Thompson and Hung Huynh in Aspen, but we’ll have to wait to see if he’s retained the stamina to win it all this time round.
Antonia Lofaso (Season 4, Final Four) Sometimes it’s the simple stuff that can cause the most trouble. Antonia coasted under the radar through much of Season 4, but she met her Waterloo with a batch of ill-prepared pigeon peas, of all things.
Spike Mendelsohn (Season 4, Top Five) The guy’s got style and knows how to schmooze — his velvet tongue seemed to help him as much as his cooking did in getting him as far as he did in Season 4. But he’ll need more than a jazzy line to make it all the way against a field of all-stars.
Angelo Sosa (Season 7, Finalist) Confidence is one of the most essential ingredients in cooking, but when you overdo it, it shows. Angelo’s skills got him all the way to Singapore for the finale, where illness forced him to yield to Kevin Sbraga, hopefully teaching him a lesson in humility.
Dale Talde (Season 4, Top Six) His reputation for getting hot under fire might not have helped, but it was being the weakest link on his Restaurant Wars team that got him the ax. He’s not the only one who may have to show himself a new breed to make headway in Season 8.
Casey Thompson (Season 3, Finalist) She was a fan favorite, and she returns in spite of the buzz that says she helped Carla lose the finale in Season 5. In Season 3, she was matched with Michelle Bernstein to take on the Aspen challenge — read: high altitude — but they didn’t quite pull it off.
Marcel Vigneron (Season 2, Finalist) After allegedly being hit in the face with a bottle by an irate fan of the show, getting eliminated at the end of Season 2 just added insult to injury for the rapping cheftestant. He may have been bloodied, but expect him back unbowed.
Fabio Viviani (Season 5, Final Four) He’s a charmer, that Fabio. He endeared himself to everyone in the kitchen during Season 5 and became a fan favorite to boot. We’re betting that fans, judges and at least some of the contestants will be glad to see his return.
Tre Wilcox (Season 3, Top Eight) Restaurant Wars is a brutal challenge, but not as brutal as the beating Tre received, being eliminated in one of the biggest Top Chef upsets in the series’ history.