Vail Valley: Master chefs go head-to-head |

Vail Valley: Master chefs go head-to-head

Caramie Schnell
Vail Valley, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily file photoVail Valley: Chefs Richard Sandoval of Zengo restaurant, right, and Marshall Blanchard, executive chef of D'Oro Ristorante Italiano in Beaver Creek, work together during last year's Master Chef Challenge at the Vilar Center. This year the Master Chef Challenge, hosted by Cat Cora, will take place at the Vilar Performing Arts Center Friday night.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –Chef Michael Psilakis has participated in two televised Iron Chef challenges so its not surprising that he’s pretty confident about the Master Chef Challenge he’s participating in Friday in the Vail Valley. He is however, interested to see how the time constraints – 20 minute per round – will play out at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.

“They’re doing it in 20 minutes, which is super speed. I’ll be interesting for sure. People always get a real kick watching us run around spur of the moment.”

The challenge, which is hosted by Bon Appetit executive chef Cat Cora, is similar to the show in many ways – including the unveiling of a secret ingredient – to the television show except eight chefs will compete (three Bon Appetit guest chefs, three local chefs) in three different rounds. Each team will be charged with making two different plates to be served to the judges.

Defending champion Joey Campanaro, from New York City’s The Little Owl, will team up with Jay McCarthy, from the Beaver Creek Chophouse, against Michael Psilakis from New York City’s Anthos, teamed up with David Root, from D’Oro Ristorante Itailiano. The second round of competition features Ming Tsai, from Boston’s Blue Ginger, teamed up with Michael Wilganowski, from The Osprey, against Alain Allegretti, from New York City’s Allegretti, teamed up with Marshall Blanchard, from D’Oro Ristorante Italiano in Beaver Creek. The winners of each round will face off in the grand finale.

Bon Appetit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild will judge along with Steve Olson, Bon Appetit’s wine and spirits consultant and Beaver Creek homeowner Marcy Balk. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., Friday, and the competition begins at 7 p.m.

In it to win it

For Psilakis, who is a Greek chef (and owner of acclaimed New York eatery Anthos), there’s a few secret ingredients that might be trickier for him than others.

“Once you start to get into the tropical, or Asian ingredients, that’s harder. Not that I don’t love to play with them, they just don’t blend great with Green food.”

And of course, whatever Psilakis makes will most likely have a Greek twist, at the very least.

“I’m here to represent,” he said.

Last year, the secret ingredient was chocolate.

“Chocolate wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I’d prefer a savory ingredient,” Psilakis said. “There’s a different part of the brain that works with sweet and my mind doesn’t work as well on that side – even though I did spend two years doing my own desserts.”

David Root, the relatively new head chef at Golden Eagle Inn in Beaver Creek, is the local chef paired with Psilakis. For him, the competition is much more than a good time.

“I’m a relatively competitive person and given the opportunity to participate in something like this, I focus very heavily on winning,” he said.

Though him and Psilakis were yet to sit down and come up with a solid game plan – they planned to meet 10 minutes after this interview took place –Root said each would create a plate for the challenge.

“He’ll focus his skills on one, I’ll focus on the other,” Root said.

And what if the two plates clash?

“It’s like pairing food with wine, sometimes you pair food to contrast with the wine, sometimes you pair wine with food to complement it. Within our conversations I’ll get an idea of the direction he wants to go and we’ll work them so they don’t clash with each other – they’ll either contrast or complement.”

Root said he was “fortunate” to have been paired with Psilakis.

“He’s just a hottie right now as far as chefs go,” Root said. “Everything he touches, goes very, very well. Besides that, he just has a really good grasp on food.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

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