Tournament of Champions II: A new champ wins the belt

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

After weeks of furious cooking, an unprecedented tie, a suspicious acting Randomizer and lots of Guy Fieri, Tournament of Champions II has a winner, and her name in Chef Maneet Chauhan.

Chauhan defeated Brooke Williamson, winner of the West Coast bracket, in an epic final, where the two had to figure out what to do with langoustines in three different preparations, fresh wasabi and liquid nitrogen. Chauhan won by three points, 93 to 90, by making a trio of excellent dishes including a langoustine bisque that the judges couldn’t stop raving about.

It also didn’t hurt that Williamson made a huge error. One of her dishes was a six-minute egg with langoustine hollandaise and while it looked fine, the hollandaise broke. That could have been enough to ensure Chauhan got the win.

Chauhan won $25,000 (thanks to Fieri giving the Randomizer a slight nudge) and ended up giving a total of $40,000 to restaurants affected by the pandemic. But most important, she won the Tournament of Champions belt and bragging rights for an entire year.

Chef Jet Tila could be the real winner of Tournament of Champions II

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While the final was everything foodies could’ve asked for and more, the battle everyone will be talking about is probably the quarterfinal rematch between Antonia Lofaso and Jet Tila. While we can argue about whether the tie was authentic or a piece of television trickery, it made for some great cooking.

The two chefs got Hamachi collar, white asparagus, the injector, and spherical (Seriously? That’s a style?) from the Randomizer. Both smartly played to their strengths, with Tila going for more subtle Asian flavors while Lofaso went for something a bit more classical.

In the end, the judges gave a final score of 92 to 91 with Tila getting the win, much to the shock of just about everyone, including Antonia Lofaso. To say she appeared angry at the result would be an understatement, not even wanting to talk after the loss.

While Tila would go on to lose to Williamson in the semifinal, beating a chef the caliber of Lofaso and making it to the Final Four of Tournament of Champions is a huge accomplishment. I think it’s safe to say that a Lofaso/Tila rivalry is going to make any other look pedestrian by comparison, since she will have her sights set firmly on Tila going into next season and will be out for blood.

In the end, the winner of the West Coast bracket would be irrelevant as Chef Chauhan would go on to win, bringing the belt and title to the East Coast for the first time. If it was going to be any of the chefs from the East, I’m glad it was Chauhan who won. She is an amazing chef and deserves the title.

Now the question becomes can she be the first two-time champion? We’re all going to have to wait until Tournament of Champions III to find out.

Next. Hell’s Kitchen: The job is Kori’s to lose. dark

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