Tournament of Champions Season 5 qualifiers round 4: Smart game play earns a win

Tournament of Champions Season 5 qualifiers round 4
Tournament of Champions Season 5 qualifiers round 4 / Food Network

With reigning TOC champion Mei Lin waiting in the West bracket, the Tournament of Champions Season 5 qualifiers round 4 believe that they have saved the best for last. Even if the Randomizer is the great equalizer, these chefs better play the game well in order to win.  

Competing to take on Mei Lin are Pyet Despain, Ray Garcia, Michael Reed, and Claudia Sandoval. This group contains opposite ends of the culinary competition spectrum. Ray has never competed previously and the other three chefs have won other food television competitions. Still, experience does not necessarily guarantee a win.  

For the first challenge, the Randomizer offered eggs, Russet potatoes, aluminum foil, smothered and 30 minutes. It seemed that breakfast was going to be served.  

Michael’s dish clearly captured the brunch vibe. The perfectly cooked potato wedges felt both comforting and elevated at the same time. While the flavor was bold, the dish should not have been served in the foil. It brought the dish down.  

Claudia stayed true to her Mexican roots. Her chorizo hash with two sauces was good, but it was more chorizo centric than potato forward. While the judges appreciated her two sauces, it did not feel smothered.  

Ray made a version of tortilla Español. This dish played the game the best. From the aji verde smothering the plate to the smart use of the potatoes, it was clearly a win.  

Lastly, Pyet had a few mis-steps. While her breakfast chili relleno was good, it did not capture the Randomizer’s required ingredients well.  

The two chefs moving into the final round were Ray and Michael. Unfortunately, it was not a good day in the kitchen for the ladies.  

For the final Randomizer, the chefs had to use pork tenderloin, peas, meat mallet, blackened and 35 minutes. The key to this battle was using the requirements in unexpected ways.  

Michael’s dish was beautifully seasoned and celebrated the sweetness of the peas. While the blackened pork was slightly overcooked, the dish was vibrant and exciting. Still, it could have used a little editing since the spätzle was unnecessary.  

Ray’s dish used the peas in unique ways. The pea salsa verde had a lot of flavor and was described as tiny but mighty. But, the dish needed some additional brightness to lift all the ingredients just a touch more.  

In the end, the decision came down to a one point differential in flavor. Michael prevailed and moves on to face Mei Lin in Tournament of Champions Season 5.  

Could the returning champion fall in the first round? Be sure to watch new episodes of Tournament of Champions Season 5 on Food Network Sunday nights. Episodes can be streamed the next day on MAX.