Tournament of Champions recap: Season 1 déjà vu anyone?

Competitor Amanda Freitag, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. Photo Courtesy Food Network
Competitor Amanda Freitag, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. Photo Courtesy Food Network /

In Tournament of Champions Season 2 episode 4, Food Network fans weren’t watching a re-run but they might have that they were transported back to Season 1. If anyone thought that an upset wouldn’t happen in the first round battles, they haven’t watched enough Food Network show. As Michael Voltaggio said, chefs have to sink or swim. Which chef didn’t rise to the top?

Going into this episode, everyone seemed to have expected at least one upset. Even though the randomizer seems to be less random this season, the ingredient combinations have been brutal. In this episode, that element of the culinary competition was extremely harsh.

For the first battle, Michael Voltaggio took on Cat Cora. While Chef Cat is the first female Iron Chef, it has been a while since she has participated in a culinary competition.

At the same time, Michael Voltaggio did not fare well in Tournament of Champions Season 1. The reality is that the Top Chef can be sometimes too cerebral in his cooking.

The components for the first battle were halibut, eggplant, deli slicer, blackened and 35 minutes. In some ways, these items played into Chef Cat’s hands. She knows blackened spices from growing up in the South.

When the dishes were presented, both plates were very well received. While Chef Michael’s dish was fun and flirty, it was also esoteric. To say that this dish was impressive is an understatement.

At the same time, Chef Cat’s dish was equally as good. But, the judges felt that that dish had strong components although it never came together completely. It was a journey across the globe but it didn’t have a clear path.

In the end, Chef Michael beat Chef Cat Cora by the score of 95 to 90. In truth, this outcome was not a shock. The two chefs were equally matched and it was a toss-up.

Still, it brings up an interesting next round battle where Chef Michael gets a rematch with Brooke Williamson. This situation could set up a pattern for the remainder of Tournament of Champions. It will be interesting to see if the outcomes are different.

For the next battle, Jet Tila took on Aaron May. Out of the three battles in this Tournament of Champions episode, it was the one that just seemed bland. While the components of beef chuck, bell peppers, spice grinder, boozy and 45 minutes were not easy, it just didn’t seem to have any zest.

Maybe it was because the dish had to use bell peppers. Many chefs hate bell peppers. That ingredient is the throw away item that has no flavor, even if it does have color.

Overall both dishes were decent, but there wasn’t an intensity factor like in the first battle. In the end, Jet Tila moved onto the next round.

For the final battle, everyone saw the writing on the wall before the final scores were revealed. If this battle didn’t have an Alex Guarnaschelli déjà vu vibe from Season 1, you haven’t watch Food Network enough.

Tiffani Faison took on Amanda Freitag. Even from the opening commentary, it was expected that Chef Amanda was going down. In some ways, this scenario continues a theme from Tournament of Champions Season 2. Remember Elizabeth Faulkner and Chris Cosentino?

For this final battle, the chefs had to use mussels, cabbage, airfryer, grilled and 45 minutes. Giving chefs an airfyer is like making them use a microwave. Sure, an airfryer is really just a convection oven, but it isn’t a kitchen essential that you see in a professional kitchen.

Overall, both dishes were very well executed. In some ways, it came down to judges’ looking for something new versus a more traditional approach (sounds like Marc Murphy’s battle).

Even during the tasting, the comments were clear. Giada De Laurentiis preferred the more reserved flavors while Marcus Samuelsson preferred the boldness of the other dish. While Samuelsson appreciates food that makes you think, the statement led viewers to the ultimate conclusion.

Tiffani Faison beat Amanda Freitag. For the second time in Tournament of Champions, the number one seed was eliminated in the first round. But, was it shocking?

Actually, the most curious item from this Tournament of Champions episode was that Darnell Ferguson was able to watch the battle and comment. It is unclear if all the chefs get this privilege or just Darnell. Will this knowledge give him an advantage in the next round against Chef Tiffani?

light. Related Story. Jeff Mauro explains why Kitchen Crash is a must watch

What do you think of Tournament of Champions Season 2? Can you predict the winners in the next battle rounds?