HOLLYWOOD—This has seriously become my favorite new culinary series, I’m referring to the Food Network series “Tournament of Champions” hosted by Guy Fieri. I swear Fieri is GOLD for the network, the fact that this guy was discovered in the second season of Food Network Star and became such a staple, erase that, ICON at the network says it all. This guy is talented beyond talent; he’s not just a great culinary genius, but an exceptional host America.
So the series takes some of the best chefs in the country and puts them in a bracket style competition. You win you move on, you lose and you’re out. The chefs are ranked based on their competitive prowess and we’ve seen some titans fall already in season two. I mean Elizabeth Faulker; this woman was magnificent in seasons four and five of “The Next Iron Chef” competition. She didn’t make it past the first round people. Devastated beyond belief. We saw Tiffani Faison take out #1 ranked Chef Amanda Frietag from the East. Faison was a number eight seed people.
Then on the flip side we saw Iron Chef Cat Cora who I’ve been dying to see back on my TV taken out by Chef Michael Voltaggio. Another devastating blow, but it just lets you know how crazy, unpredictable and fun this culinary competition is. I’m not a fan of culinary competition series; when I watch a cooking show I want to see food being made I don’t want to see people competing, but this series reminds me of “Iron Chef America” back when it first started, and highlighted all the greatness of that series America.
With that said, last week was an epic episode that saw the first tie, I mean the first tie in the series history where both Antonia Lofaso and Jet Tila earned the highest scores in the competition with 96/100 each. It blew my mind, because I did not EXPECT the chefs to have to duel it out again. If anything, they both should have earned direct tickets to the finale off that performance alone people.
Nope, Antonio and Jet had to battle again, this time with hibachi, yes hibachi as the protein of choice. It was a close race with Jet triumphing over Antonia by 1 point. Yup, Jet defeated Antonia and was now battling the reigning champ Brooke Williamson. I will admit I underestimated Brooke; the girl can cook people and managed to defeat Jet in the semi-finals in a battle of alligator to manage to win her ticket back to the finals. Yes, they had to cook alligator people.
On the other side it was Chef Darnell Ferguson battling Chef Maneet Chauhan, the dancing spice queen as she has been coined. Maneet has indeed been underestimated America, and this woman can cook. She gets an edge because she REALLY knows how to utilize spices to her advantage and managed to craft unique, original and damn tasty looking dishes. I will argue that Darnell and Maneet had the toughest randomizer as they had to craft sturgeon into a hot and cold dish. Yeah, think about that people. In the end, Maneet edged out her competition earning her ticket to the finals people.
So it was Brooke versus Maneet and if I’m being honest I truly wanted to see Maneet win just because as a viewer you don’t want history to repeat itself. However, I did resign myself to the fact that if Brooke outcooked Maneet she deserved the win. This time around the protein of choice was Langoustine (a smaller version of Lobster people), with wasabi, liquid nitrogen and utilized in three ways. Yeah, three dishes had to be crafted and I sensed that Maneet might have had an edge with her creative dishes, but Brooke was no slouch either. However, when she noted her Langoustine hollandaise had broken she might be in trouble.
It was a close one, but by 3 points Maneet became our new champion people, taking that belt away from a very confident Brooke. With that said, she also won a new car, $10,000 to donate to a restaurant of her choice to help during this financial crisis and she also walked away with $25,000 as well. Congrats Maneet, it was well worth it people. Now if we could get a Tournament of Champions season three with Iron Chefs like Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Masaharu Morimoto, Jose Garces, Marc Forgione, Geoffrey Zakarian, Cat Cora and Alex Guarnaschelli, Mix those titans with some of the titans cooking now I am all in.
“Tournament of Champions’ you have thoroughly entertained me this season and the notion of blind judging, just absolute genius. I think that is a tactic that needs to be introduced into all judging competitions to prevent ‘friends’ from being influenced in their decision by their friends. Season two totally delivered so I can only imagine what we might get for season three people and I can’t wait.