Maine Chef Challenge pits EMCC grad against EMCC grad

Posted March 20, 2012, at 11:08 a.m.

The three local professional chefs competing in the Maine Chef Challenge are (from left to right) Laurie Turner, Jason Payne, and Meghan Woodbury. Each chef will compete with a team of three sous chefs in a test of skill and creativity to benefit the Eastern Maine Community College’s Maine Hospitality Institute. This is the first year that Eastern Maine Community College has held the Maine Chef’s Challenge.

BANGOR – The title of Maine’s top chef is on the line in Bangor this March. Vying for the honor are three Eastern Maine Community College alumni chefs: Laurie Turner, Jason Payne, and Meghan Woodbury. Each chef has carved a reputation for excellence in the kitchen.

On Friday, March 23, Johnston Gym on the EMCC campus will serve as the arena for a battle of culinary skill with the winner walking away with bragging rights. The battle will begin at 6:30 p.m.

According to CarolAnn Dube, director of development and marketing at EMCC, the spark to host an “Iron Chef”-style competition came from the start of the Maine Hospitality Institute’s new Hospitality and Tourism Management program.

“We wanted to do something to highlight the hospitality-and-tourism degree program that will have its first class in the fall,” Dube said. “All of the proceeds will go to the Maine Hospitality Institute.” Proceeds will come from ticket sales and the silent and live auctions.

Each chef participating in the challenge is a graduate of EMCC’s culinary arts program. Turner, a 2006 graduate, is the resident chef at the Pairing’s Food and Wine Education Center at Winterport Winery.

Payne, a 1996 graduate, is an in-flight chef for private and corporate flights using Bangor International Airport. Woodbury, a 2011 graduate, is the executive chef for Ipanema Bar & Grill and the Reverend Noble Pub in Bangor.

The Maine Chef Challenge is structured similar to an episode of Food Network’s “Iron Chef”, which pits chefs in a competition against each other and against time. According to Dube, each chef will work with a team of three other chefs to create a three-course meal using a common, Maine-themed ingredient.

Each team will have five minutes to pull ingredients from a common pantry and then will have 25 minutes per course to prepare and plate a dish for the judges.

Judges for the Maine Chef Challenge will be WABI-TV5’s Todd Simcox, Bangor Daily News lifestyle writer Emily Burnham, and Bar Harbor Inn Executive Chef Lou Keefer. The challenge will be emceed by Ric Tyler, and EMCC Educator and Chef Mark Janicki will do team interviews during the competition.

“People love food, and they love competition, so we decided on a culinary competition with a theater-in-the-round feel,” Dube said. “This will be a very interactive event as Chef Janicki will talk with the teams about why they chose certain ingredients and what they’re doing. Large screens will show all the action.”

The gym can accommodate 350 people, and to date 100 tickets have been sold. To purchase premium seating, which affords the guest higher quality chairs and a table close to the action, tickets cost $35 each. All other tickets are $25 each, or $22 each for multiple ticket purchases. Hors d’oeurves will be served from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit