Tournament of Champions III: Battle Recap – Week 8

Host Guy Fieri, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network
Host Guy Fieri, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Jet Tila. Brooke Williamson. Tobias Dorzon. Tiffani Faison. After eight weeks of intense battles and a vicious Randomizer, these are the four chefs that are left standing. The winners of each of their brackets and the Final Four of Tournament of Champions III.

Before everything was said and done those four would be cut in half and the winner of the East would face the winner of the West for the $100,000 prize, the belt and the all important bragging rights that comes with beating 31 of the best chefs on the planet.

For the semifinals, Guy Fieri enlisted three judges who have become very familiar to viewers. Scott Conant, Nancy Silverton and Cat Cora once again will be behind the judges’ table and will be the ones who decide which two chefs will fight it out in the finals.

West Coast Final
No. 1 seed Brooke Williamson vs No. 1 seed Jet Tila
Randomizer: Blowfish Tails/Salsify/Combi Oven/Quenelle/50 Minutes

The first battle sees a pair of No. 1 seeds facing each other in a repeat of last season’s West Coast final. Both Tila and Williamson have literally been here before but this year Tila is determined to make it past the Season 1 champion and win that belt for himself.

To do so he’ll have to get past a tricky Randomizer that has been taken up to 11 for the finale. While blowfish tails and salsify, which is a kind of root, could work well together and the combi oven is very manageable, it’s the quenelle that initially stumped both chefs.

So it was no surprise to see Tila stick to his strengths and decided to go Asian, especially with the stakes so high. He prepared a Blowfish Quenelle in Udon Noodles with Fried Salsify that looked amazing. He went way outside the box by making the quenelle from the blowfish and also making the noodles from scratch, which is never as easy as it sounds.

The judges were super pleased with the broth (or dashi) which they raved about but found that the quenelle made from the blowfish wasn’t as successful as Tila thought it would be.

By contrast Williamson went more traditional, making Marinated Grilled Blowfish Tails with a Saffron and Salsify Sofrito and a a Garlic Quenelle. Like Tila’s dish, the judges weren’t that impressed with the garlic quenelle with was barley holding its form. However, they did love the sofrito and how the blowfish was prepared.

Williamson got a slim, 84-82 victory and her third consecutive trip to the Tournament of Champions final.

Which chef won the championship on Tournament of Champions III?

East Coast Final
No. 3 seed Tiffani Faison vs No. 7 seed Tobias Dorzon
Randomizer: Goose/Bergamot/Liquid Nitrogen/Velvety/45 Minutes

For both Faison and Dorzon this is their first trip to the Final Four with No. 7 seed Dorzon hoping to create the perfect ending to his Cinderella story and take down Williamson. The only thing that could stop him is Faison, who is looking to finally win the big one.

The Randomizer was particularly cruel by landing on goose, which takes a certain skill set to cook right and then making the chefs combine velvety, which is something that is smooth and liquid nitrogen, which as every foodie knows makes things frozen and crunchy.

Dorzon went with making a very traditional, very simple dish that would highlight the ingredients. His Pan-Roasted Jerk Goose with a Bergamot Demi-Glace, Bergamot Pickled Carrots and Mashed Potatoes did hit all the right notes with the judges but they felt the use of the liquid nitrogen was phoned in and the jerk seasoning was too light.

Faison decided to go a bit more contemporary and made a Bergamot Pan-Fried Goose Breast with a Goose and Bergamot Jus and a Cauliflower Puree. Visually her dish was striking which the judges liked and her flavors were excellent. But again, they felt the liquid nitrogen wasn’t utilized the best way.

In what most would call a blowout, Faison earned a 91-84 win and a date with Brooke Williamson in the Tournament of Champions III final.

The Championship
No.1 seed Brooke Williamson vs No.3 seed Tiffani Faison
Randomizer: Rabbit/Natto/Anti-Griddle/One Ingredient Three Ways/60 Minutes

For the final Fieri decided to throw a couple curve balls at the last two chefs standing. Both were sent home and told to come back the next day and were also informed that a special fourth judge would be added to the panel to decide on the victor.

That fourth judge turned out to be the legendary Iron Chef and culinary icon Masaharu Morimoto, which neither chef was aware of when they faced the Randomizer and decided what they were going to prepare.

Speaking of the Randomizer, it went completely off the rails for the final. The category of Produce was replaced with a Mystery Ingredient which turned out to be Natto. Natto are Japanese fermented soy beans which neither chef was very happy about. Combine that with the anti-griddle and having to prepare three different meals and you had a ridiculously difficult final.

Williamson let the protein inspire her choices and made a Lentil and Natto Ragu with Braised Rabbit, a Rabbit Loin wrapped in Prosciutto with Melon and Crispy Sunchokes and Rabbit. All the judges thought the rabbit was prepared beautifully and were impressed with the amount of work was done in just an hour. However, Silverton thought the melon was out of place and Conant had some issues with seasoning.

Faison went with a trio of Asian preparations, which considering who the mystery fourth judge turned out to be was very ironic. She made Fried Rabbit Leg on a Natto and Sweet Potato Puree, a Skewered Rabbit Loin and Rabbit Saddle Krapow with Crispy Natto. Again the judges thought the rabbit was very well prepared and each thought the Asian influence worked well and was impressed with the techniques Faison put on display.

By a final score of 92-90, the winner of Tournament of Champions III is…

Tiffani Faison

It was a well deserved victory that should have foodies talking right up until Tournament of Champions IV arrives sometime next year. Let the countdown begin!

Next. MasterChef returns for Season 12 on May 25. dark

What did you think of this season of Tournament of Champions? Are you happy with the champion? 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.