Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4: One more first round upset

Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4, Host Guy Fieri with judges Nancy Silverton, Marcus Samuelsson and Scott Connant
Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4, Host Guy Fieri with judges Nancy Silverton, Marcus Samuelsson and Scott Connant / Food Network

The final first round battles put the male chefs in the spotlight. In Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4, another upset may have busted more brackets, but a new trend seems to be emerging in this Food Network show.

Over the past four seasons, one aspect has been consistent with this Food Network show. Women chefs have found the secret to success. From creativity to a well-played Randomizer approach, the past four Tournament of Champions winners have been women. This year, it might be time for a male chef to hoist the belt in victory.

In the first battle, Michael Voltaggio took on Crista Luedtke. Although some people might have thought this cook-off would be a walkover for Voltaggio, his approach had some people wondering how he came up with his concept. But, the creativity proved to impress the judges.

The Randomizer offered lamb shoulder chops, spaghetti squash, spice grinder, breaded and tempeh (a meat substitute). Cooking lamb shoulder chops in the short amount of time was not easy. Also, tempeh is not necessarily the most common ingredient.

Luedtke created a Moroccan breaded meatball, which seemed to check all the boxes. She used the squash in two ways, pureed and pickled. The judges appreciated the dish and thought that it used the Randomizer well.

In turn, Voltaggio went totally out of the box. He made an open faced lamb pastrami with spaghetti squash sauerkraut and tempeh rye bread (using the tempeh as bread). This dish was probably one of the most out of the box, creative takes on a Randomizer. It was swinging for the fences.

Luckily, the judges appreciated the creativity. Voltaggio earned the win and moves onto the next round.

For the second battle on Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4, Karen Akunowicz took on Dale Talde. While it is Talde’s first season on Tournament of Champions, he has had success on other food television shows. The seed numbers might have been far apart, but this battle was definitely close.

The Randomizer offered tilapia, sweet potato, waffle iron, cheesy and canned green beans. While no one really wanted green bean casserole, this dish sounded more like a typical at home dinner than a chef-curated ingredient list. This group of food items might have been one of the easier combinations of the first round.

Talde’s dish captured the idea of soulful, comfort food. While there was a smartness to the retro dish, the judges mentioned that the plating needed a more elevated presentation. It is not often that these dishes have a rustic plating.

For Akunowicz’s dish, the judges appreciated her crispy fish with sweet potato cheese waffle. While the light, crisp flavor was like a fish and chips, the sauce received the highest praise. If it was a sauce battle, she would have won. But, the judges did not appreciate the tempura green beans. They believed that the vegetables might have been better served by being hidden.

Talde beat Akunowica 84 to 81. Another first round win for not only a male chef but also a first time Tournament of Champions chef.

Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4 Shota Nakajima
Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4, Shota Nakajima / Food Network

In the third battle on Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4, Carlos Anthony took on Shota Nakajima. While Nakajima had success last year, Anthony has never won a battle in Tournament of Champions.

The Randomizer offered tri tip, green chard, French fry press, steaming and sauerkraut. It almost sounded like the Randomizer was inspired by Voltaggio’s dish. For this battle, the two dishes were very different.

Nakajima made tri tip in several ways. While that idea was ambitious, the judges questioned if the concept was too much. From the steamed chard wrapped around the tri tip to the pickled chard salad, it was a lot.

Anthony took a simpler approach. The nod to Santa Maria barbecue was well-received. The char on the meat contrasted with the freshness of the green sauce received high praise.

With just one point separating the two dishes, Anthony squeaked out the win over Nakajima. It was an upset that few people saw coming.

In the final battle of Tournament of Champions Season 5 episode 4, TOC 3 Champion, Tiffani Faison, took on TOC qualifier Chris Scott. While one qualifier has beaten a previous champion, the final cook set up the possibility of an all-male chef sweep for this episode.

The two chefs received a gift from the Randomizer. The ingredients were top round steak, corn, rice cooker, sauteed, and black garlic. Even if top round steak is a tough meat to get tender in such a short amount of time, the chefs did well with the ingredients.

Scott made a beautiful dish with a black garlic and jerk steak. With corn featured in both a pudding and popcorn, it was a smart use of the Randomizer. From the vibrant gooseberry chow chow to the bold flavors, it was a good dish.

Faison chose to make corn in multiple ways, too. The spiced top round with corn polenta and black garlic vinaigrette was a very cohesive dish. It was a well-played application of the Randomizer.

In a big win, Faison took down Scott 93-85. Unlike last season, Faison survives the first round.

What will happen in the Sweet Sixteen battles and what will the Randomizer offer as a new twist? Watch new episodes of Tournament of Champions Season 5 on Food Network Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET. Episodes can be streamed the next day on MAX.