HOLLYWOOD—It has been a thrill-a-minute to watch the Food Network culinary competition “Tournament of Champions III.” The first season was incredible and something not seen before, a bracket where chefs compete based on seeding. If you win you move on, if you lose you’re out it is that simple. This third season enhanced the bracket with 32 culinary titans and there were upsets throughout the competition. Last year’s winner, Maneet Chauhan was defeated by #3 seed Tiffani Faison. I will admit Maneet had NOT been delivering her top tier culinary dishes this go around compared to season 2 where she was on fire.
I like to see chefs under pressure, and when the dust settled we had our final four, Faison, “TOC” season one winner Brooke Williamson, Tobias Dorzon and Jet Tila. I was looking forward to the matchup between Brooke and Jet, and I was really hoping to see Jet take Brooke out. Look, I have mad respect for Brooke Williamson as a chef; the girl can cook her ass off and the technique she delivers at times is damn scary. However, I don’t want to watch a culinary competition, where I know the end result before we get the result. It felt that way watching Brooke this entire season. Would Michael Voltaggio take her out? Nope. Jet Tila? Nope. It was by mere points Jet lost out again, and if I’m looking at both dishes they were pretty damn even. I mean puffer fish tails? How do you even make that tasty!
Brooke got the edge and Jet was that close to victory yet again, but this season NO one scored to the levels of 90 plus as in season two. A lot of the dishes presented by the chefs were subpar I’m sorry, yes I said it. In my opinion, the final two should have been Dorzon and Faison. What they both did with that goose, velvety technique and liquid nitrogen was fantastic. Those dishes looked superb people; I mean fine dining at its best. Watch out for both of these chefs because they are forces to be reckoned with, however, Faison managed to defat Dorzon by two points and we have our final matchup.
Faison vs. Williamson and based on the editing I had an idea who might be victorious, which is something I don’t want to see when I’m watching a culinary series or any TV show people. With that said, rabbit, natto (if you don’t know what it is look it up people), the anti-griddle and 1 ingredient three ways with 60 minutes. This was about to be interesting. Now I think I’ve had rabbit before, but it’s NOT an ingredient I’m clamoring to taste people, but what Brooke did with that prosciutto-wrapped rabbit with cantaloupe; pure genius people. Then Tiffani deep friend that rabbit leg with a sweet potato-natto puree. I wanted to taste the food from my TV screen people that is how excited I was.
Three dishes and a surprise twist of a fourth judge, the iconic Masaharu Morimoto. The iron chef, the legend actually judging, oh, I was all in on this people I loved it. However, let’s talk about the judges a minute. I LOVE the fact that the competition utilizes blind tasting with each dish, it makes things fair in my opinion. What I don’t like: seeing the same judges do the judging. Nope. Let’s NOT have the same judges return each round, let’s have a new slate because I think it diversifies the judging. Food is hard to judge because people have different palates. As a chef, it is almost as if you are catering the dish to fit the judge’s taste profile, but you don’t know the judges until the dishes are about to be judged people.
Look, I respect restauranteurs and those who critique food for a living. You know who I respect a bit more, the actual cooks in the kitchen. I would have loved to see Bobby Flay, but I recalled his partnership with Food Network recently came to an end. So that was out the window, however, what about some iron chefs, like hello, Michael Symon people, even Geoffrey Zakarian, who is so prim and proper, but the guy earned my respect on season four of “The Next Iron Chef.” The technique he delivers is unlike anyone I’ve seen, um, using blackberries and ponzu and panko to make a soufflé people, a soufflé pure genius. The judges should constantly change, I hate to say it, but I did get tired of seeing Nancy Silverton, who didn’t seem to give Jet any credit for any of his dishes that she judged throughout the competition and that’s frustrating.
I’m sure we will see some changes in season four if the culinary competition returns which I hope it does, but in the final battle between Brooke and Tiffani, I thought it was a dead heat. There were issues with each of their dishes so I was literally telling myself either of them could win, but in my heart of hearts, I just wanted to see Tiffani take the crown, the cooking this woman delivered this season was epic and looked flawless and just tasty as hell. When host Guy Fieri revealed that name on the board, it was Faison who was victorious over Brooke Williamson who has ONLY lost 2 battles during the three seasons of the series.
That woman has fought valiantly, but it was time for a new champion. FYI for the third season in a row the final two chefs were women. No men people that should be a sign for those restauranteurs who think men are at the top: most learn their cooking prowess from women people. So another season has come and gone, I’m sure some tweaks are headed in our direction for 2023 if the series returns and I hope the producers take and listen to the feedback from fans, it can make the TV watching experience that much more fun.