How fair is the “blind” judging on Tournament of Champions?

Chefs Justin Warner and Simon Majumdar with host Guy Fieri, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network
Chefs Justin Warner and Simon Majumdar with host Guy Fieri, as seen on Tournament of Champions, Season 1. photo provided by Food Network /

Episode 2 of Tournament of Champions IV has come and gone and with it, a former champion has been sent home. Season 3 winner Tiffani Faison was defeated by Guy’s Grocery Games play-in winner and underdog to watch Britt Rescigno.

A No. 1 seed being sent home in the first round has become a tradition (or a curse) for Tournament of Champions over the last four years. Faison joins some illustrious company with her loss, including Alex Guarnaschelli.

However, that isn’t what foodie nation is talking about. Instead everyone is discussing what happened when No. 3 seed, Tournament newcomer and Top Chef winner Mei Lin defeated No. 6 seed Crista Luedtke.

Luedtke, who has competed on Tournament of Champions before, had a mini-meltdown after her loss. She felt she was robbed of the victory and even went so far as to ask to speak to a producer about what happened.

Is the blind judging on Tournament of Champions the best way to find a winner?

While there is no doubt that Chef Lin deserved the win, it once again brings up the subject of the blind judging that Tournament of Champions uses and if it is entirely fair. Because over the last four seasons, this isn’t the first, or even second time it has been called into question.

Part of the problem lies with who the producers pick to judge and how often they are used. Almost every judge, especially in the first round, are in some way associated with Food Network. They have judged on numerous other shows, including Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay and the aformentioned Guy’s Grocery Games.

Since most of the chefs in Tournament of Champions has also competed on those series, that breeds a certain level of familiarity. You can’t tell me that a chef who knows Tiffani Faison and has eaten her food numerous times wouldn’t be able to tell if they were served something prepared by the chef.

All chefs use certain styles, particular spices and have a flavor profile they lean on more than others. That means when someone like Scott Conant is judging, even if it is supposedly blind he would likely be able to guess with some certainty who prepared the dish.

And then there is the fact the same judges are used for numerous episodes. Conant in particular judged so much last season I thought he was part of the bracket. The same could be said for Nancy Silverton. If you want the judging to be beyond reproach, you need to open up the judge pool.

You need to have judges who have never worked for Food Network and make sure that if a judge was used in Round 1, they aren’t used in Round 2 or 3. Again, you don’t want any kind of familiarity to begin to take hold.

Of course, if Food Network and Guy Fieri are content with Tournament of Champions being thought of as a poor man’s Chopped or Iron Chef, leave the judging the way it is. But if they want the series to be taken seriously and avoid situations like what happened with Luedtke, they may want to think about overhauling the “blind” judging for Tournament of Champions V.

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What do you think Guilty Eaters? Do you think the judging on Tournament of Champions needs to be improved? Leave a comment below and let us know or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.