Tournament of Champions III: Battle Recap – Week 5

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 /

The first round of Tournament of Champions III was definitely not short on surprises. The upsets came fast and furious as several favorites, including Antonia Lofaso and No. 1 seed Darnell Ferguson, were shown the door and got to go home early.

Now the sixteen remaining chefs go into Round 2 well aware that anything can and likely will happen. Chefs that have been on Tournament of Champions before have gotten a look at the newcomers, while the new kids on the block have shown no fear in the face of Tournament favorites.

This week will see four chefs punch their ticket to the Great Eight as a pair of No. 1 seeds, including the Tournament of Champions II winner, do battle in their respective brackets. Meanwhile two rookies go at it while a bitter Season 2 rivalry is renewed.

For Week 5, Guy Fieri added some fresh names to the judges panel, a trio of chefs who are making their first appearance on Tournament of Champions III. First up was New York legend Rocco DiSpirito, who competed on Season 1, followed by culinary royalty Nancy Silverton. Finally there was master of Asian fusion cuisine Ming Tsai.

Battle 1
No. 2 seed Amanda Freitag vs No. 3 seed Tiffani Faison
Randomizer: Whole Branzino/Pineapple/Tortilla Press/Destination Dinner/45 Minutes

The night opened with a rematch many had been looking forward to ever since Tournament of Champions II ended.

Freitag got all the way to the Championship Round in Season 1 before losing by one point to Brooke Williamson. Many (myself included) figured a return to at least the Final Four in Season 2 was a given. That was until Freitag ran into Faison, winner of the East Coast play-in tournament. In an upset heard around the foodie world, Freitag went home in Round 1.

The Randomizer was unusually generous to start the evening with a combination that wasn’t totally off the rails. Even the tortilla press didn’t seem to phase either chef as both seemed like they knew exactly what they wanted to make from the second the match began.

Unfortunately for Freitag, the Asian-inspired Crispy Branzino and Pineapple Curry the Faison prepared amazed the judges. Nancy Silverton in particular had nothing but glowing comments about the dish. And while they enjoyed the Pan-seared Branzino and Roasted Pineapple Salsa Freitag served up, it wasn’t enough to sway the scoring.

Faison earned a two point 87-85 victory and is now undefeated against Freitag.

Which chefs went home during Week 4 of Tournament of Champions III?

Battle 2
No. 1 seed Jet Tila vs No. 5 seed Elizabeth Falkner
Randomizer: Mahi Mahi/Escarole/Blow Torch/Sunday Supper/40 Minutes

Tila seems determined to win it all this season and there is every reason to think he could pull it off. But first he has to stop Falkner who really wants to prove that she belongs on Tournament of Champions by taking down a No. 1 seed. Luckily for both of them, once again the Randomizer was very nice to the chefs.

Like in the first round, Tila once again stuck to his Asian roots and used a wide variety of skills to make Mahi Mahi Khao Soi with Pickled Escarole. The judges were very impressed with the many ways Tila prepared the Mahi Mahi, smoking it as well as grinding it.

Falkner stuck with a more traditional interpretation of a Sunday Supper, making Grilled Mahi Mahi with Bruleed Sweet Potatoes and Escarole cooked with the blowtorch. And while they loved her dish, in particular Rocco DiSpirito, and thought she better utilized the blowtorch, it came up short.

Jet Tila got a one point 89-88 win and one step closer to stealing the belt from Maneet Chauhan.

Battle 3
No. 3 seed Shirley Chung vs No. 7 seed Joe Sasto
Randomizer: Scallops/Lemongrass/Fish Poacher/Decadent Dish/40 Minutes

Everyone seemed to still be reeling from the fact Antonia Lofaso was sent packing in the first round at the hands of Sasto. It immediately made the rookie one to watch and had some thinking he could possibly make it all the way to the Final Four.

But first he would have to get past No. 3 seed Chung. She was seeded that high despite this being her first time on Tournament of Champions for a reason and her convincing Round 1 victory put those reasons on display for everyone to see.

In an act of uncharacteristic kindness, the Randomizer gave the chefs what could only be called the easiest, most chef-friendly combination ever seen on the series in three seasons.

Sasto made Seared Scallops with a Lemongrass Vin Jaune Cream Sauce as well as a Scallop Roulade. The judges were blown away by both the flavors and the skills on display. While the plating didn’t excite anyone it was going to be a tough act to follow.

Like Tila, Chung called on her Asian culinary skills and prepared Seared Scallops and a Scallop Lemongrass XO Sauce that she made from scratch as well as a Black Vinegar Nage. The XO Sauce was all anyone could talk about as the judges raved and Ming Tsai almost cleared off his plate.

The two chefs turned in the highest scores of the season so far with Chung edging out Sasto by a final score of 93-90. If I was Jet Tila, I’d be a bit worried about facing Chung in the next round.

Main Event
No. 1 seed Maneet Chauhan vs No. 5 seed Eric Adjepong
Randomizer: Oysters/Parsnips/Carbonator/Soup and Sandwich/40 Minutes

After a shaky start in Round 1, Chauhan enters the second round feeling like she has to have a strong showing and put the fear back into the rest of the field. She will have to accomplish that against Tournament rookie Adjepong who had a very solid first round.

Unfortunately, the Randomizer had apparently used up all of it’s generosity and handed out a ridiculously difficult and off the wall combination. Both chefs had some serious issues trying to figure out how to make the five elements work together to create a winning dish, especially the Carbonator.

Using grilled cheese and tomato soup as a starting point, Chauhan prepared a Oyster Aioli Grilled Cheese Sandwich with a Oyster and Tomato Parsnip Soup. While they thought it tasted fine and the use of the oysters was great, the flavors didn’t really come through as much as they expected.

Adjepong used New Orleans as inspiration and made a Freid Oyster Po’boy with a Parsnip and Corn Soup. Luckily for Chauhan his dish didn’t really work on any level with the bread he chose a huge misstep and the carbonation missing from his soup.

Chauhan got a 78-72 win but is clearly in trouble. She needs to go into the Great Eight with a take no prisoners attitude and earn a convincing win.

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What did you think of Week 5 of Tournament of Champions III? Did it live up to the hype? Leave a comment below and let us know or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.