Tournament of Champions II: Darnell Ferguson came to play

Competitor Darnell Ferguson, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network
Competitor Darnell Ferguson, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

With the play-in rounds over and the brackets and seeding set, Tournament of Champions II finally got underway on Sunday night as the first battles between the chefs began. And unlike last season, when upset followed upset, the first three battles played out pretty much according to the script with no real surprises.

First up was a battle from the West Coast side of the bracket as No. 2 seed Antonia Lofaso faced No. 7 seed Brian Malarkey. It went about as you would expect, with Lofaso’s laser focus squarely on winning that belt from Brooke Williamson and refusing to let anyone get in her way.

Speaking of Williamson, the No. 1 overall seed went up against the winner of the West play-in, No. 8 seed Nyesha Arrington and while it was close, Williamson barely broke a sweat while sending The Ninja packing.

The most interesting battle of the night was the lone battle from the East Coast. It saw No 4 seed Darnell Ferguson go up against No. 5 seed Marc Murphy. It was the only battle of the night where both chefs had been on the previous season of Tournament of Champions and so knew what to expect.

Darnell Ferguson shows he is called the giant-killer of Tournament of Champions for a reason.

Murphy went into last season as the No. 2 seed and lost in the first round to the No. 7 seed Christian Petroni, so everyone was expecting him to come out with guns metaphorically blazing looking for redemption.

On the other hand, Ferguson went into last season as the No. 8 seed and would go on to beat Alex Guarnaschelli, the No. 1 seed in the East in a massive upset. He then almost took down Amanda Freitag if not for forgetting to add the fry bread he had made to his offering to the judges.

Many foodies wondered if it was all a fluke and if Ferguson really had what it takes to possibly go all the way. Well, Sunday night he showed everyone that yes, indeed he does.

Ferguson not only figured out exactly how to show the judges he knew what to do with the elements chosen by the Randomizer, but he knew to make the kind of food they would enjoy. His Nashville Hot fried catfish was a big hit while Murphy, who decided to cook in more traditional style, underwhelmed the judges at every turn.

When talking about If there is a dark horse this season to win the belt, Darnell Ferguson has to be in the conversation. He has proven beyond a doubt he is much more than “that chef from Guy’s Grocery Games” and that he can cook with the best of them.

The semifinals could be very interesting.

Next. Two new versions of Chopped are headed to Discovery Plus. dark

What do you think Guilty Eats Nation? Can you see Darnell Ferguson going all the way and bringing the title to the East Coast? Leave a comment below or join the conversation on our Twitter page.