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Top Chef Preppage: Sizing Up the Four Locals

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Oh yes, at long last, the new season of Top Chef finally arrives this week, as the Chicago edition kicks off this Wednesday night. Down in LA, our SoCal sis is all over the media frenzy, including a marathon of an interview with Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio; up here, a full quarter of the 16 cheftestants hail from San Francisco. Since the players were announced in January, each of our four locals have, for some reason, played prominent roles around the rumor mill. On that note, let's break down the buzz that has surrounded our fab four over the last two months or so:

· Erik Hopfinger, 38, Circa: Following a curious expression when asked about the show, Erik was the subject of the season's first rumor that had him doing well on the show; later, he perfectly fit the profile of Eater LA's conspiracy theory that Bravo always puts the successful contestants in the middle of the ads.

· Zoi Antonitsas, 30, Consultant: See below, please.

· Jennifer Biesty, 35, Coco500: For the most part, both female chefs have managed to avoid the rumor mill together, but have recently made some headlines, also together. Based on what we've heard around town, a lot of industry folk think Jennifer has the best shot among the four to take home the prize. Just don't ask her about gift certificates.

· Ryan Scott, 28, Myth Cafe: Of the quartet (maybe even the entire 16), no one seems to generate as much buzz—both good and bad—as Ryan Scott. In the past several weeks alone, we've seen Ryan take up a stint as a waiter at Pier 23 Cafe, star in an online video (technically made last year), and make some big career changes. We, for one, can't wait to see what he cooks up on the actual show; conspiracy theorists will wonder if his recent career moves indicate anything about his performance on the show.

And now, let's open up the floor. What are you excited about this season? Which local chef do think will last the longest? Your picks, predictions, rumors and more in the comments field!

COCO500

500 Brannan Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

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