This week on Food Network's Tournament of Champions, the underdogs continue to kick some serious butt. Clearly just because they don't have as many wins under their belt doesn't mean they are not rockstars in the kitchen. With the exception of my pick to win the entire competition Antonia Laofaso the newer chefs are scoring way in the 90's, and produce dishes that are blowing the judges minds, and destroying the egos of the senior chefs. The Randomizer takes the competition up a notch by going around the world, and pairing ingredients that really just don't mesh well together… and don't forget that's there are MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! ahead…
Floor reporters Simon Majumdar and Justin Warner provide commentary on some exquisite plates this week; Moroccan spiced chicken, spicy lentil ragout, chicken tikka masala, and braised quail with risotto. The judges have the highest-regarded tasted buds of the cooking world, and are hard to impress, the fact that they literally are ready to lick the entire plate and hand out almost perfect scores, says a lot about the competitors in the arena. The competition is down to the final 8 this week, and the stakes are high.
Round 1: Chef Michael Voltaggio (Top Chef Season 6) vs Brooke Williamson (Top Chef Season 14)
- Must use chicken breast, radish, a pastry bag, make it spicy, and 30 min to cook
- Michael cooked up "Moroccan spiced chicken with cauliflower couscous and pickled radish and cauliflower puree"
- Visually, the plate was very appealing, the judges loved it, the only criticism was that the chicken needed a smidge more salt
- Brooke created a work of art, truly "fried chicken with spicy lentil ragout and pine nut cream sauce with fried radish"
- If no one knew who Brooke was before this tournament, they do now. An exceptional chef, to make fried chicken delicate, the dish immaculate stunning, and the judges going insane for it, she put her self on the map to compete with All Stars like Lofoso.
- An intense and close competition with the win going to Brooke (96/90)
Round 2: Chef Rocco Dispirito (GGG superstar tournament) vs Mareet Chauhan (James Beard award winner)
- Must use chicken thighs, kale, a panini press, smother it, and 35 min to cook
- Mareet, I'll be honest, I never really enjoyed as a judge on Chopped, and found myself not really rooting for, yet she won me over as a competitor in the stadium for her colorful personality, a very 180 from her usual featured demeanor.
- She delivered "Chicken Tikka Masala and kale pakora and raita"
- The judges enjoyed every bite
- Rocco made "chicken thighs with smothered kale and pomegranate glaze"
- A visually unappealing dish, lack of professional execution, and the kale was not cooked enough
- After the delivery of his dish, he really should not be considered a #3 chef – a necessary demotion
- The win went deserving to Mareet (91/81)
Round 3: Chef Beau Macmillan (Iron Chef America, beat Bobby Flay in Battle American Kobe Beef) vs Antonia Lofaso (judge, Cutthroat Kitchen)
- Down to the final 8, the competitors now must travel around the world when preparing their dishes
- Must use quail, buck choy, morta and pestle, travel to Europe, and cooking time 40 min.
- Beau cooked up "Quail under a brick and chorizo cream sauce and grits with seared buck choy".
- A bright and vibrant dish, yet a little too rustic for some of the judges, is rustic synonymous with crappy?
- Antonia braised her quail with brow butter risotto (a risk given the time) and pine nut gremolata and fried buck choy.
- The plate was so gorgeous, it made my mouth water, the quail was tender, the meal well balanced and executed to perfection, gee, I wonder who won?
- Antonia wiped the floor with Beau with a score of 96/85.
An awesome episode of Tournament of Champions, always rooting for the underdog, I'm selfishly pleased to see the narcissism be wiped of the faces of the more renowned chefs and given the newcomers an opportunity to shine. I expect that in the competition, the final two will come down to Antonia Lofaso and Brooke Williamson.
The competition continues to heat up, and Tournament of Champions host Guy Fieri is enjoying the competitors struggling to come up with unique ways to implement the Randomizers ingredients. The real difference between this show and other competitions is the fun the All-Star Chefs are having in the stadium, the comradery, and the enjoyment of knocking out their friends.