Tournament of Champions Season 2 winner: Women rule the kitchen

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

Only one chef can raise the Tournament of Champions Season 2 winner belt. With five chefs remaining at the beginning of this Food Network episode, only one chef would stand alone at the end of the event. Did the randomizer influence the final outcome, did Guy Fieri add another dubious twist, or did a cooking mistake make the difference?

Before the semifinals could begin, the tie from the Antonia LoFaso and Jet Tila battle needed to be broken. Although many people questioned the reality of two chefs having the exact same score, the sudden death battle had to be completed. Of course, the emotional roller coaster added to the Tournament of Champions drama.

In this tie breaker, the chefs had 30 minutes to take on a battle with Hamachi collar, white asparagus, injector, and spherical. With 30 minutes set, that portion of the randomizer was never spun. Maybe that part of the rules should have been explained, too.

Since the Hamachi collar is very fatty, it is interesting to see how both chefs took different approaches to this protein. In some ways, Jet Tila’s background in seafood might have given him an advantage. This ingredient seemed to play into his style of cooking. Maybe the playing field wasn’t quite as even as it could have been.

Chef Antonia made a roasted Hamachi with brown butter white asparagus and fennel spheres. The dish had a lot of textures, but the Hamachi was only roasted on one side, which might have been a mistake.

Chef Tila offered a salted and grilled collar. While the dish had subtle aspects, it showed a lot of ego. The nuanced elements proved that sometimes knowledge and familiarity can be a big advantage.

The oddest part of this challenge was the use of spherical as a cooking element. How are round elements on a plate showing cooking techniques or adding to the difficulty of this dish. Maybe if the chefs had to actually plate a sphere element, like an actual sphere, this challenge would have been a little different.

With a final score of 92 to 91, Jet Tila beat Antonia LoFaso. This outcome does add to the possibility that a man could be crowned Tournament of Champions Season 2 winner. But, many more battles stand between the chefs and the big prize.

Before the Tournament of Champions Season 2 winner is crowned, can the semifinals bring an upset?

For the semifinals, the randomizer became the trendy randomizer. What that label had to do with the elements was unclear. Whether the proteins were trendy or the cooking methods were different, these items might not be the next big thing in the home cook’s kitchen.

In the first semifinal round, Maneet Chauhan took on Darnell Ferguson. Some people were predicting and/or hoping that Chef Darnell would make the finale. As Guy Fieri brought up Chef Darnell’s Olympic connection, did anyone start to question the outcome of the battle?

For the first trendy randomizer selection, the chefs received sturgeon, persimmon, Raclette Melter, frozen and 50 minutes. Putting together melted and frozen is absurd. Too many temperatures on a plate doesn’t often work.

Also, is sturgeon a trendy fish? Sure, many people think of sturgeon and caviar, but the not normally the fish, itself. Maybe more people need to enjoy a meal out at a trendy restaurant.

Looking at this battle, the two chefs took very different approaches. Chef Darnell asked the judges to assemble their own sandwich. While this aspect helped to keep the frozen component cold, the judges had to figure out how to eat it. Even with a fun element, the reality is that this dish needed a guiding hand.

For Chef Maneet’s dish, it was a little more traditional and played to her strengths. The confit sturgeon highlighted the heartier fish and the use of the charred lemon was smart. While the rayita was served separately, it fulfilled the requirements.

With only one point score difference, Chef Maneet moved onto the finals. In some ways, this storyline seemed to play into the hands of this Food Network show. Wouldn’t it be nice for Chef Maneet who was featured in the Guy Fieri restaurant documentary Restaurant Hustle earn a big reward?

In the battle for supremacy in the West, Brooke Williamson took on Jet Tila. For Williamson, this Tournament of Champions season should have been labeled rematch season. She had to face many familiar faces.

For their randomizer, the chefs received alligator, lions mane mushrooms, ISI, smoke and 50 minutes. It would have been nice for everyone to just say foam, whip or cream for ISI. Sure, that brand got a great boost but it’s the canister that you see for whipped cream at Starbucks. Or, maybe referencing a type of foam isn’t trendy enough.

The hardest component of this Tournament of Champions battle is clearly the alligator. Getting the tough protein tender is not easy. While Chef Jet tried buttermilk, there wasn’t a lot of time to make everything work together.

The judges praised Brooke’s dish. The pan roasted alligator had a feminine approach. The dish wasn’t overwhelming but included all the ingredients well.

One item of note, it would have been nice for a better explanation of the lions mane mushrooms. This ingredient is quite tasty and deserved more commentary from the Food Network chefs. Many vegetarians and vegans love this ingredient.

Chef Tila’s dish went in a direction that no one expected. His alligator mole was nice but surprising. Although he didn’t smother his alligator in mole, it had good flavors. Unfortunately, his alligator was a little tough.

With a huge difference in score, Brooke Williamson beat Jet Tila 90 to 83. Unfortunately, that tough alligator chomped his chance at the finals.

Could Brooke Williamson repeat as Tournament of Champions Season 2 winner?

Since the semifinal round had a trendy randomizer, the finale randomizer featured extreme. While this label looked to add to the excitement, the over the top elements might not have been that extreme. In some ways, the chefs might have liked a few elements.

Maneet Chauhan and Brooke Williamson had to use langoustine, fresh wasabi and liquid nitrogen. Also, the langoustine had be used in three ways. The time component was set, but the prize money had an extra spin.

In an interesting comment, Guy Fieri mentioned that “everything has been above the board” when moving the prize money component to $25,000. While no one is begrudging giving the chefs more money, that comment was a little fishy.

Looking at the two finale dishes, there were some similarities. Both chefs made a ceviche, but the flavors were quite different. In truth, this battle came down to an unfortunate cooking mistake.

Chef Maneet made a lovely langoustine bisque that was quite flavorful. In addition, her ceviche was bright and bold. Although her blini was the least successful of the three dishes, it was still good.

Chef Brooke made a grilled langoustine, a ceviche with coconut wasabi snow and a six minute egg with langoustine hollandaise. While the grilled langoustine was smart, her hollandaise broke. That execution error would be her downfall.

With a final score of 93 to 90, Maneet Chauhan was crowned Tournament of Champions Season 2 winner. It came down to one element that had a cooking error.

Since it appears that there will be a Tournament of Champions Season 3, it begs the question will the two winners have a special bracket or will the wild card round have some element involving the two winners? Everyone will have to wait till next year and watch.

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What did you think of this season of the Food Network show? Did the right chef get crowned the Tournament of Champions Season 2 winner or was the outcome too predictable?