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TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS: Guy Fieri brings a fantastic show back for Season 2

The Food Network’s version of March Madness has expanded and added some nice tweaks.

This thing is evil...

Last year, just when March Madness bit the dust due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Guy Fieri and The Food Network struck gold.

He’s had plenty of cooking shows, but right when so many (ie: the author of this post) were yearning for single-elimination playoff action and getting none, he unveiled a new cooking competition that saved the day...

The “Tournament of Champions.”

Sixteen chefs chosen from lists of the best chefs in the country, generally from other cooking shows or competitions. Eight from the West Coast, eight from the East Coast, seeded 1-8 in each bracket, facing single-elimination “cook-offs” facing unknown judges who are judging blind, meaning they don’t know who the chefs are that prepared the meals. Two bystanders (also chefs) document and present each contestant’s meal to the judges, who will rate the meal on taste, execution, and presentation.

And while that sounds like plenty of setup, one last ingredient pushes this over the top...

The “Randomizer.”

Five wheels represent different requirements for each match-up:

  • Protein
  • Produce
  • Equipment
  • Style
  • Time

This is essentially what makes the show really work. It’s the absolute equivalent of the random-ass seeding and matchups the NCAA provides in the first round of March Madness. One bad spin of one wheel can derail a really good chef.

For this second season a few things were added:

  • An additional eight chefs
  • Two wild card rounds for those eight chefs
  • All wild card contests would be 30 minutes
  • A $10,000 prize each match that goes to the winning chef’s choice of restaurant.

So the wife loves this as much as I do, so we settled in tonight to check out Episode 1 of Season 2.

This first session of cook-offs would feature the wild card matchups for the West Coast. Four chefs vying to be the #8 seed in the West Coast bracket.

The opening contest featured Chris Cosentino vs Nyesha “Ninja” Arrington, and the “Randomizer” gave them:

My apologies for the photo quality, they don’t always stop nicely on the Randomizer results. That first ingredient, the protein, is ground beef.

Chris went with some kind of “hot mess” open-faced sandwich, while Nyesha put together some nachos. The highlight of this round was Guy Fieri asking if “he could be buried in that” in reference to a “sauce” Chris prepared for his dish. The result here was a bit of an upset for me, as the judges weren’t completely sure what to do with Chris’ sandwich.

Next up would be Chris Oh vs Phillip Frankland Lee. This was interesting as Oh is a “street food” guy and Lee is more classic, high-end dining. Here is where the “bad matchup” part came in with the “Randomizer.”

Despite Chris Oh’s comment, it was the style that made the difference here as Lee was not able to satisfactorily capture the “Go-To Take-out” requirement for the judges which seemed to overshadow Chris’ overdone chicken.

The final matchup of the West Coast wild card rounds pitted Chris Oh vs Nyesha Arrington, and while both dishes were great, one would be the clear winner. The Randomizer delt up this:

I found it interesting that in the matchup review following the competition, the chefs indicated the “Sunday Brunch” might be the most hated of meal preps.

Nyesha went with a traditional Eggs Benedict and Chris Oh put together breakfast tacos. The judges liked both dishes, but despite Arrington’s shrimp being a bit overcooked they preferred the more traditional and robust “breakfast” style of the Eggs Benedict.

Arrington advances to be the #8 seed in the West Coast bracket. Next up will be the Wild Card rounds for the East Coast bracket, plus the reveal of the main seeds in the tournament. Stay tuned!!