[Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for Top Chef Season 20, Episode 13, "Champions in Paris."]
Sorry, Chef Ali Ghzawi. Despite the clever rhyme repeated through Top Chef: World All-Stars’ penultimate episode, there will in fact be a finale without Ali. That leaves three formidable chefs who in many ways couldn’t be more different: Top Chef Mexico winner Gabri Rodriguez, Top Chef Season 19 winner Buddha Lo, and Top Chef Season 16 runner-up Sara Bradley.
Rodriguez is a creative and charming chef who focuses on bringing Mexican flavors to the forefront, Lo is a classically trained chef with a passion for molds, and Bradley is a no-nonsense chef who infuses Southern and Jewish flavors into nearly every dish. Anyone of them could easily take home the top prize and the title of the first ever Top Chef World All-Star. But Rodriguez is the most fun to root for, and there’s a case for why he definitely should win.
On a storytelling level, Lo would be the least exciting winner of this season. He was an early frontrunner and is now entering the finals with the most quickfire and elimination challenge wins, so his odds of taking it all are high. But where’s the fun in seeing the consistently best and most talented chef win? Top Chef winners rarely win by a landslide. Even some of the most consistent chefs to emerge victorious in seasons past have some added air of drama, whether it be Stephanie Izard fighting to be the first female Top Chef, Michael Voltaggio facing off against his brother Bryan Voltaggio in the finals, or Melissa King coming back to win it all in an All-Stars season after placing fourth on her first outing. Lo has already won — the ink on his $250,000 check from last season is barely dry. There’s something anticlimactic about seeing him do it again so soon.
It would be slightly more fulfilling to see Bradley win, because she is the only one among them who hasn’t actually won a Top Chef title yet. She was eliminated for some unsatisfactory wellingtons in Episode 11 of World All-Stars, only to fight through Last Chance Kitchen to re-enter the main competition just in time for the very next challenge. It would be a satisfying end up to her entire Top Chef journey.
But everyone loves an upset, and Rodriguez is still the biggest underdog. He’s the only international contestant left standing on the American show (Lo is originally from Australia, but has worked in the States and in winning the U.S. version of the series already has notoriety among an American audience). Rodriguez came out of the gate rather sloppily, forgetting key components of his first dish while also unintentionally ruining a fellow competitor’s entry. He won zero quickfires and only one elimination challenge, and has been on the chopping block five times throughout the competition. But when he is on top, it’s with dishes that are compelling in their creativity and show that he sees the world and the ingredients he uses in a different way than his fellow chefs. And while Rodriguez shouldn’t win simply for being likable — this is not Top Best Friend World All-Stars — his affable personality and entertaining quips definitely make it easier to cheer him on.
Rodriguez taking the title also feels like a fulfillment of the promise of this season’s premise: Enough with the American chefs getting all the glory on American television. Rodriguez has been fighting all season to showcase the exciting, high-quality cuisine made by up-and-coming chefs in Mexico. He’s shed new light on the current culinary scene in his homeland and showed what’s possible for aspiring chefs who start out as dishwashers as he did — winning Top Chef: World All Stars would make his story even more inspirational.
One of the most exciting things about watching Rodriguez cook is that he takes a completely different approach to every challenge. While Lo and Bradley have specific details that they tend to include in everything they cook, Rodriguez has a broader goal — highlighting Mexican ingredients — that allows him to demonstrate more range. Trying to do too much in too little time has sometimes burned him, but taking big swings and adjusting from there is an admirable strategy that’s kept him in the game this long. And it’s one that could (and rightfully should) pay off in the finale. Long may World All-Star Gabri reign!
The Top Chef: World All-Stars finale airs June 8 at 9:00 PM ET on Bravo and streams on Peacock the next day. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.