Saturday, May 18, 2013
Maine chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier got their first taste of fierce TV cooking show competition and narrowly escaped the chopping block on the season premiere of "Top Chef Masters" Wednesday night.
The owners of Arrows and MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit faced off against other top chefs from around the country, all playing for charity. The Maine chefs are appearing together on the show, but playing independently.
"I hope I'm strong enough to compete on my own," Gaier said at the beginning of the episode.
Host Curtis Stone told the chefs to pair off and then immediately gave them their first Quickfire challenge, one that he said "will require two things: talent, and a little bit of luck."
Top Chef Masters is filmed in Las Vegas and the first episode of Season Four, which aired Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on Bravo, was filled with culinary gambling games. The chefs were told they had 15 minutes to create a dish from two randomly drawn ingredients.
Frasier and his partner, Debbie Gold of The American Restaurant in Kansas City, drew quinoa and langoustines. Gaier and his partner, Seattle chef Thierry Rautureau, drew flank steak and black garlic.
"Quinoa doesn't go with langoustine," Frasier said, "but Debbie has an idea to do a grilled langoustine with parsley pistou."
The judges, professionals from the Las Vegas gambling world, weren't impressed. One said Frasier's dish "reminded me of wheatgrass."
The winners of the challenge were Boston chef Patricia Yeo and her partner Chris Cosentino, who prepared beef and catfish.
Next came the elimination challenge. The chefs were divided into two teams and told to create a buffet. They raced to Whole Foods, where they had 45 minutes and $2,000 to get all the ingredients they needed.
"I cook for millionaires," joked Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. "I don't have a budget. I just buy."
Upon their return to the kitchen, they learned there would be more twists. Each chef was given a Lotto card to scratch. Two chefs won immunity, others had to switch teams.
Frasier won $1,000 for his charity, Outright Lewiston Auburn. Gaier lost 30 minutes of kitchen time.
Frasier and Gaier, both on the blue team, learned they would be making an Indian buffet for 200 Las Vegas performers, including showgirls in skimpy costumes. "It's such a fun crowd," Gaier said.
The red team had to create a Mexican buffet.
In the end, the red team lost a chef -- Missy Robbins of New York -- to a knife injury, but they won big with the challenge.
The judges didn't care for Gaier's dish of curried corn soup with curried flatbread. Informed that Gaier had to sit out 30 minutes, judge James Oseland, editor of Saveur, replied "Maybe Mark in those 30 minutes he sat out, maybe he left out the spice."
"In hindsight we should have gone toward a more classic Indian interpretation," said Frasier, who made an heirloom tomato compote with fried green beans.
But the Maine chefs are still in the game. The judges sent home New York City chef Sue Torres.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: