ROCKLAND, Maine — The lobster club sandwich may never be the same again after celebrity chef Bobby Flay taped an episode of his TV show “Throwdown!” Thursday afternoon at Buoy Park.
Flay made a surprise stop at the park in order to challenge local chef Lynn Archer, owner of the Brass Compass Cafe, to one of his surprise cook-offs featuring her signature dish, the lobster club sandwich.
The folks who gathered under the cooking tent may have thought they were just going to watch Archer demonstrate her “King of Clubs” sandwich for a TV crew from the Food Network. But when Flay appeared about a half-hour into her demonstration, the crowd went wild.
“I am not washing this hand in my life,” said Colin McKeeman of Camden after he scored a handshake from Flay. “Chef Bobby Flay? That’s a big deal.”
The Rockland episode of “Throwdown!” should be broadcast later this summer, likely in conjunction with the city’s Maine Lobster Festival being held July 29 to Aug. 2, a Food Network official said. Each show follows the same pattern, with chef Bobby Flay on a “secret mission,” according to his Web site. He aims to “chal-lenge the absolute masters in different kinds of cooking — award-winning BBQers, bakers, pizza makers and more.”
In Rockland, Archer was told that the Food Network wanted to shoot her profile for a show — and then the red-haired Flay strolled in to see if he could one-up her.
Samantha Barrows of Appleton, and most of the hometown crowd, doubted that.
“She’s a really fabulous cook,” Barrows said of Archer. “Everything I’ve had from her is delicious. Bobby does steak. If he stuck with steak, he’d do OK.”
As Archer made her towering, triple-decker sandwich with homemade white bread, lobster meat, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and bacon, Flay took a different route.
“Because I just can’t leave well enough alone,” he said wryly.
His sandwich featured lobster, too — but there the similarities stopped. He made his own chili brioche bread and his own mayonnaise with red wine vinegar and saffron. He fried serrano ham and mixed the lobster with chopped celery, red onion and tarragon, and topped off the creation with hydroponically grown watercress.
When the watching crowd saw his bowl of celery, they booed.
Archer blew him a couple of kisses.
“Kiss of death,” she said.
One woman, Kori Chapa of Michigan, who came to Rockland on her honeymoon, preferred Flay’s version.
“I liked the complexity of the flavors,” she said. “You could really taste the saffron.”
As for everyone else, and the judge’s final verdict?
Tune in to the Food Network for the show.
But here’s a hint: Even Flay couldn’t seem to stop eating Archer’s sandwich.