I find that the quality of the contestants on the Bravo series Top Chef has been getting better and better with each season. In season one the quality of the Top Chef contestants was comparable to the ones on Hell's Kitchen. Now the Top Chef contestants are clearly of a much higher quality.
I am disappointed how season 5 finished. This is not to say that I thought the quality of the chefs are the end was not high enough, but how it played out was a denouement for me.
Stefan Richter was clearly the strongest person there. As of the 11th episode, he had won four elimination challenges and four quickfires. This was stronger even than Richard Blais in season four. He did do badly in in the elimination in week 10, his first weak week, but then seemed to have lost his fire and passion at the end.
The winner Hosea Rosenberg did well enough, but I could not get any sense in the series what his core passion in food was. He was generally good at what he did, but he felt middle of the pack and not Top Chef. He reminds me of Harold Dieterle (season 1 winner), Ilan Hall (season 2 winner) and Stephanie Izard(season 4 winner) - they are good but they are not great. Hosea does not feel like a visionary to me, I did not get a sense that he was destined to something greater. He wants to open his own restaurant, what the winners in seasons 1 and 3 have done.
Carla Hall impressed me, but it was clear that she lacks the confidence to trust herself when pushing for the top. She started the season middle of the pack but built up to a very strong finish. This is a woman I can see really melding classic French techniques with southern comfort foods. There is an inspiration there. She let herself be lead astray by Casey Thompson, the season 3 finalist she had as her sous chef in the finale.
The chefs that did not make the finale that impressed me were Fabio Vivani, Jamie Lauren and Ariane Duarte. Fabio probably should have gone to the final three instead of Stefan. Ariane looks to have suffered from the stress of the competition and let herself get derailed.