The chefs that nailed it—namely, Susan and Marcus—did so by staying true to the fun, breezy, and downright delicious spirit of tailgate food. Susan’s taco, with its steak and salsa wrapped up in a warm, airy corn tortilla, was that perfect mix of spicy and tangy, cool and warm. It was killer outdoor food, just like Marcus’s juicy, slaw-topped burger.
Everyone else (seemingly) made the mistake of overthinking the challenge and serving food that didn’t fit the occasion. Rick’s charmoula chicken pita was tasty, but it was deconstructed and hard to eat. And Susur’s dish, with its marinated beef and weird and out-of-place semolina dumplings, seemed like something you might find at a Korean-Austrian fusion restaurant, not a sporting event. The judges were unanimously excited about the promise of Tony’s pizza, but he clearly hadn’t mastered the art of grilling pies. His pizza was as crisp as a saltine cracker and lacked all the cheesy, doughy goodness of a fine slice. Like Jonathan’s taco, it was a downer.