Tournament of Champions review: And then there were four

Host Guy Fieri with competitors Maneet Chauhan and Christian Petroni, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network
Host Guy Fieri with competitors Maneet Chauhan and Christian Petroni, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

As the randomizer continues to create havoc, Tournament of Champions has finalized the top four chefs and the outcome is quite exciting.

Tournament of Champions has proven to be must watch food TV for the Food Network. As the celebrity chefs have battled each other and the randomizer, this cooking competition is completely entertaining. While everyone thought that they had the competition predicted prior to the first battle, the top four chefs could have been the best outcome. Does anyone have an edge in this competition?

In last week’s episode, one of the top four chefs was determine. Antonia LoFaso took down Beau MacMallin. So far, Antonia has been a force in this competition. It will be interesting to see if she can continue that cooking domination.

Before the remaining battles began, there is an interesting outcome that could happen. Based on the brackets, an all-female top four was a possibility. That scenario would be a huge statement for Tournament of Champions and the Food Network.

In the first battle, Darnell Ferguson took on Amanda Freitag. After his crushing defeat of Alex Guarnaschelli, Darnell had some confidence going into this battle. Tournament of Champions has been a huge opportunity for him.

For this battle, the randomizer gave an uncommon ingredient to the chefs, nopales. The randomizer included rack of lamb, nopales, tortilla press and Mediterranean and 50 minutes. The nopales were definitely a curve ball. Not too many people use cactus in their cooking.

Tournament of Champions
Competitor Amanda Freitag with host Guy Fieri, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Looking at the two dishes, the approaches were very, very different. Amanda included an abundance of dishes. As the judges commented, it was almost the kitchen sink approach. This idea might have backfired.

In her dish, there was a Tahini pomegranate rack of lamb with hummus. While Amanda used all the required elements, the judges commented that the dish was muddled. Even more discouraging, the dish was called ugly. No one, especially an accomplished chef wants to hear that her dish is ugly.

Darnell had a more restrained approach. His Morrocan rubbed lamb with a nopales salsa was lovely. Although, the judges felt that the dish was too lamb-centric. It needed more sauce to balance the big lamb chop.

Unfortunately, Darnell made a huge mistake. His dish left out the fry bread, which used the required tortilla press. That mistake was a game changer.

In the end, Amanda beat Darnell, thanks to the missing fry bread. Even with the missing element, the battle was close. If Darnell hadn’t forgotten the fry bread, he would have won.

For the next battle, Maneet Chauhan took on Christian Petroni. In many ways, Maneet’s style of cooking is suited for Tournament of Champions. Her flavorful, layered, fusion dishes can work with a variety of ingredients and cooking styles. Could she be the ultimate champion?

The Tournament of Champions randomizer gave the chefs Flanken short ribs, pomegranate, tagine pot, Carribbean and 45 minutes. This combination was definitely a cruel joke. Luckily the chefs took the challenge in stride.

In a way, this challenge was Maneet’s to win. Given the flavors, style and ingredients, she just needed to execute. Too bad that Food Network doesn’t offer smell-o-vision. It would have been wonderful to smell cooking and ultimately taste her dish.

Maneet made a ropa vieja with a saffron biryana. The judges commented that there was great acid that carried through the dish. Not only was this dish fun, but it was engaging. Those little pomegranate seeds were like hidden jewels throughout the dish.

Christian chose to make jerk Flanken short ribs. The best part of his dish was the hard sear on the short ribs. While the dish was very balanced, there was a question about his plantains. The texture was not right, which brought the dish down some.

The winning chef was Maneet. With her win, a female chef is guaranteed to be in the final. Could a female chef be crowned Tournament of Champions winner?

For the final battle, there is a last man standing, literally. Jet Tila is the only male chef left in the competition, a situation that doesn’t happen often on Food Network competitions.

Jet took on Brooke Williamson. In her last battle, Brooke took down Michael Voltaggio. Her food is quite impressive.

Tournament of Champions
Competitor Brooke Williamson, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Again, the randomizer created a complicated task. Who puts salmon, bitter melon, meat grinder and Middle Eastern into a dish? This set of ingredients is far more difficult than any Chopped Challenge.

Jet looked to impress the judges with a difficult technique. His stuffed salmon had a perfectly executed pocket, which showed amazing technique. The dish was good, but the judges felt that it was under seasoned. That statement is never a good sign for a chef.

After taking a while to determine her direction, Brooke pulled out an amazing dish. Her roasted salmon with a near perfect sear was placed atop a flavorful ragu. The use of herbs with the bitter melon was highly praised.

In another convincing win, Brooke took down Jet. No matter who wins in the semi-finals, a female chef will be the Tournament of Champions winner.

Looking ahead to next week, the battle to watch will be Antonia versus Brooke. The battle of the Top Chefs could predict the final champion.

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Who do you predict will be the Tournament of Champions winner? Did anyone predict an all female chef top four?