Thursday, December 12, 2013
It was obvious within the first few minutes of "Top Chef Masters" Wednesday night that Maine chef Clark Frasier might be in some trouble.
He was getting an awful lot of air time.
That turned out to be the case as Frasier was kicked off the reality show just a week after his partner, Mark Gaier, was shown the kitchen door. Frasier and Gaier, who own three restaurants together, competed independently on the show for their charities, Outright Lewiston-Auburn and Equality Maine.
The episode opened with host Curtis Stone asking Frasier how he was doing without Gaier. Frasier said he was trying to separate the loss of Gaier from his need to go on with the show, "but it's hard."
"Is this going to settle a few arguments about who's a better cook?" Stone asked.
"Oh, I'm not going there, man," Frasier said, laughing.
The first challenge this week was to take ordinary salad bar ingredients and make them into something special.
"I'm seeing that we have hearts of palm, so I'm immediately thinking of something sort of Middle Eastern," Frasier said.
He made a salad of green olives and hearts of palm with a mustard vinaigrette.
"When time's up, I'm very happy with my dish," Frasier said. "It's something out of the ordinary. I think Mark would be very proud."
The judges were the B-52s. They liked Frasier's dish, but it didn't win him the $5,000 and immunity from elimination.
For the elimination challenge, the chefs flew by helicopter to the Grand Canyon, where they were asked to cook a course using traditional ingredients of the Hualapai tribe. The chefs paired off, and each chef drew an ingredient.
Frasier was paired with New York chef Kerry Heffernan. While the other teams drew interesting ingredients such as prickly pear, quail and banana yucca, Heffernan and Frasier got beef and corn. They made a spice-rubbed grilled filet with a sage pistou and a corn and chili ragout.
Frasier noted that the other chefs seemed to be having a lot of fun, but he and Heffernan were butting heads a little. "I don't really feel like we're clicking very well," he said.
When it came to plating their dish, Frasier said he saw the food as rustic and family-style, appropriate to be served on the edge of the Grand Canyon, "and not a fussy swoosh on the side, New York-style dish."
"Kerry's vision and mine are very different," he said, "but I can't have a fistfight over how we plate the food."
After dancing with the Hualapai, the chefs were called to the critics' table. Chicago chef Takashi Yagihashi and Seattle chef Thierry Rautureau won the $10,000 prize for best dish, to be split between their charities.
Food icon Ruth Reichl complained more than once that Heffernan's and Frasier's dish had a lot of soft textures. "I wanted something to bite into," she said.
"Clark, you're a brilliant chef, I know that," said judge James Oseland, the editor of Saveur. "But your dish was kind of like a bland succotash."
The judges said they knew what Frasier was trying to do -- balance the strong flavors of Heffernan's beef -- but it didn't work for them. They told him to pack his knives.
Frasier seemed melancholy as he said goodbye to the other chefs, but said he had learned a lot about himself on the show. "I just want to say it's been a great experience," he said.
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: