Monday, December 9, 2013
Maine chef Mark Gaier was chopped from "Top Chef Masters" Wednesday night, done in by a dish of scallops, mushrooms and bok choy cooked on a Japanese teppanyaki table.
The nine remaining chefs on the Bravo network's show were divided into three teams for the elimination challenge. Each chef had 10 minutes to cook on the flat grill, and was expected to display showmanship as well as culinary skills.
The show's regular judges, who were joined by winning chefs from previous seasons serving as guest judges, questioned whether Gaier's dish was too simple, and felt it was underseasoned.
"I wanted it to have a very clean, sort of Zen Japanese feeling to it," Gaier explained.
Judge Francis Lam, features editor for "Gilt Taste," said that although there were elements he liked, he thought the dish as a whole fell flat.
"I really liked the reach for the simplicity, but I didn't see any creativity there," said judge Ruth Reichl, a former New York Times food critic and editor of Gourmet magazine.
Then, host Curtis Stone pronounced the words that no chef on the show wants to hear: "Mark, please return to the kitchen and pack your knives."
Gaier, who finished in the bottom three on last week's show, had been given a little taste of victory early in Wednesday's show. He was awarded a culinary "bronze medal" by Olympic figure skater and guest judge Brian Boitano, for a Maine lobster and heirloom tomato salad that Gaier made for the episode's Quickfire Challenge.
"I think I'm going to serve this at my next dinner party," Boitano said as he tried the dish.
The Quickfire Challenge is a fast-paced task that earns the chefs who compete on the show money for their favorite charities. Gaier had 20 minutes to prepare his lobster dish, which ended up in the top three.
Ultimately, however, the $5,000 in prize money, and immunity from the show's elimination challenge, went to Chicago chef Takashi Yagihashi and his charity, the American Red Cross.
The winner of the elimination challenge gets $10,000 for charity.
Wednesday night's winner was chef Art Smith, who prepared shrimp with grits cakes on the teppanyaki table and added the flair of a flame using a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey.
The last chef standing on the show will earn $100,000 for charity.
Gaier did earn some money for his charity, Equality Maine, but it was for being voted off the show. Every chef who is sent home is given a donation, but the show does not say how much it is.
Gaier and his partner, Clark Frasier, have been competing on this season of "Top Chef Masters," playing independently. They co-own the Arrows and MC Perkins Cove restaurants in Ogunquit.
When Gaier came back into the kitchen after being eliminated, he pointed his finger to his head and made a noise like a gun going off, his way of telling the other chefs he was gone. Frasier immediately went up to him and gave him a big hug.
"I'm leaving Clark behind, which is really particularly hard," Gaier said to the camera.
In the kitchen, Gaier immediately started joking about his elimination. "I can sleep in," he said, laughing.
As he left, he turned and said to the remaining chefs: "Have fun, and kick ass."
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: