Mark Gaier, one half of the partners-in-the-kitchen-and-in-life duo competing independently on Season 4 of Top Chef Masters, was sent to pack his knives last night, after judges found his scallop and bok choy dish too simple and bland. Gaier, who never seemed completely comfortable in the competition, fared well in the first challenge of the episode, the 20-minute Quickfire, in which the chefs had to each prepare a dish using one of several varieties of fish and seafood, without any heat. The guest judge for the round was Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano, (who actually has a show, What Would Brian Boitano Make?, on Food Network) and liked Gaier's lobster and heirloom tomato salad so much he said he would serve it at his next dinner party. Chef Clark Frasier, who owns three restaurants with Gaier, including Arrows and MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit, prepared oysters on the half shell with watermelon and lemon relish, which was also well received.
The chefs were then teamed up for the next challenge - cooking on a teppanyaki - a flat Japanese griddle featured at chains like Benihana. They were expected to flip and flame in showman-chef style, in front of the panel of judges that in addition to regulars Ruth Reichl, James Oseland, Krista Simmons and the intimidating Francis Lam, included Top Chef Masters winners Jonathan Waxman, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger and Rick Moonen. Gaier was teamed with Lorena Garcia and Kerry Heffernan, while Frasier admitted he had a clear advantage with Takhaski Yagihashi and Patricia Yeo.
In an interview last month with EM, Gaier said Frasier was initially far more interested in doing the show, and had to convince him. In response to the criticism of his dish, Gaier said: "I wanted it to have a very clean, sort of Zen-Japanese feeling to it." For being dismissed from the show, Gaier was awarded a donation of an unspecified amount for his charity, Equality Maine; the winner of Season 4 will net $100,000 for their charity.