Tournament of Champions Season 4 episode 2: Cracking an upset no one saw coming

Host Guy Fieri spins the Randomizer for Battle 2, West B Matchup 1, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 4.
Host Guy Fieri spins the Randomizer for Battle 2, West B Matchup 1, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 4. /

Although the Tournament of Champions Season 4 premiere saw a new Randomizer twist, the first four battles may not have resulted in a busted bracket. Although everyone has a favorite chef, the randomizer can and will play havoc on these culinary greats. In Tournament of Champions Season 4 episode 2, one ingredient might be a home cook staple, but it caused one chef’s dream of becoming champion crack into a million pieces.

In Tournament of Championship Season 4 episode 2, some big names returned to the kitchen battle. Although the familiar faces fill Food Network programming, it was good to see a few other chefs, like Ilan Hall, in the mix. While he is a Top Chef winner and previously hosted a culinary competition, it was good to see him back on food TV.

For the first of four battles, Darnell Ferguson took on Ilan Hall. Given that Chef Ilan has not been competing in these food television shows, it seemed like a slam dunk for Chef Darnell. This pair received the first “total re-spin” from the randomizer. Although the first spin was not bad, the second go around seemed to be a little better.

Bringing pork blade steak, jimaca, steamed, and stuffed to the plate, the two dishes were totally different. Chef Ilan crushed the stuffed component with his spring roll wrapped peppers. The creativity in that ingredient is a nice homage to something that might have come from Knife Fight. But, the dish was lacking a unifying sauce which could have highlighted the well-cooked pork.

Chef Darnell’s fried, stuffed jicama made a good visual impression. Some judges felt that one component nailed several of the randomized categories. On the other hand, the pork was inconsistently cooked, and the dish was a little disjoined.

In the end, the modern stuffed jicama earned a better score. Chef Darnell beat Chef Ilan.

Tournament of Champions Season 4 episode 2
Host Guy Fieri spins the Randomizer for Battle 2, West B Matchup 1, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 4. /

For the second battle, Tiffany Derry took on Viet Pham. Although Chef Viet recently beat Chef Tiffany in another Food Network competition, that win did not guarantee that another notch in his belt. But, the randomizer ingredients might have given one chef a leg up. Given that this round had another re-spin, that chicken breast redemption battle was not on the plate.

Looking at the requirements, ground beef, Swiss chard, fried and grill basket, the chefs went in two different directions. Even Chef Tiffany looked at ground liver as the beef version Chef Viet’s traditional ground beef.

Overall, both dishes were quite well done. Chef Tiffany’s boudin highlighted all the components in a more balanced way. Unfortunately, Chef Viet’s approach to the Swiss chard did not stand up to the other ingredients on the plate. In the end, Chef Tiffany won this battle. It might not be redemption for that chicken contest, but she played to her strengths.

The third battle in Tournament of Champions Season 4 episode 2 might have been decided on the randomizer spin. Top Chef winner Mei Lin took on Triple G winner Crista Luedtke and the ingredients seemed to fall in Chef Mei’s favor.

With the first time that the stay wildcard came into play, the components of chicken breast, button mushrooms, nutty, and immersion blender were really a blank slate to take on bold flavors. It was clear that Chef Mei would take an Asian flavored approach to her dish. The Taiwanese three cup sauce received high praise, but there was debate over the chicken’s execution.

For Chef Crista, she was congratulated by evolving the approach to nutty. By using farro and brown butter to capture the butter notion, it brought the flavor without having to have nuts. Unfortunately, she needed a punch of salt and acid in her dish.

The higher seed, Chef Mei beat Chef Crista. Given that the ingredients were a blank slate, it played into Chef Mei’s bold flavor approach.

For the final battle of the night, Tournament of Champions Season 4 episode 2 saw reigning Tournament of Champions Tiffani Faison take on Britt Rescigno. The Randomizer offered two firsts, eggs and move one up. To decide which category moved up, the chefs did rock, paper, scissors. Chef Britt won. As the Randomizer gave Chef Britt the opportunity to move up to smothered, Chef Tiffani was not pleased with her choice. Sometimes the wheel of fortune favors the lucky.

The Randomizer offered eggs, lima beans, smothered, and spiralized. Chef Tiffani did not want eggs while Chef Britt was all about eggs. Since this battle comes down to technique, that slightly negative mindset might have set the tone for the battle.

Overall, the outcome might have been revealed before the judges take a bite because Chef Tiffani said, “I have to cook better if I want to stay here.” While the judges thought it was special and inviting, it was not perfect. A touch too much starch might be the difference between winning and losing.

The commentary for Chef Britt’s dish was extremely positive because it was egg on egg. The poached egg with hollandaise sauce was a big hit. It was all about technique with sweet, acid, fat and full flavor.

While the final battle was the best round of the day, the outcome caused a busted bracket for many people. In the first “real” upset of the season, Chef Britt knocked out Chef Tiffani. Whether or not Chef Britt can make a run through the competition remains to be seen.

Be sure to watch Tournament of Champions Season 4 episode 3 next Sunday on Food Network to see how the final first round battles play out.