She has been “Chopped.” She has wowed judges on “Rewrapped” with a Chef Boyardee-inspired crumble cake. Now, Shanna O’Hea of Academe in Kennebunk takes her talents a step further as she tries to beat Bobby Flay on another Food Network show.
On Thursday, May 7, the owner of The Kennebunk Inn squares spatulas with Kathy Cary — a James Beard-nominated chef from Kentucky — on the popular Food Network show “Beat Bobby Flay.” The Mother’s Day episode, “ Any Given Sunday,” has the chefs whipping up a dish on the spot with a mystery ingredient. This round determines who takes on Flay.
“I had a lot to do in a short amount of time. You push yourself as hard as you can,” O’Hea, who is under a gag order to keep the ingredient and her status a secret, said. If she bested Cary, O’Hea would take on the top toque herself.
Regulars who have inhaled her succulent lobster pot pie in her casual tavern know the answer. Still, the seasoned chef discovered that cooking under fire in front of a live audience is no cake walk.
“I was flipped out thinking the crowd would heckle me,” O’Hea said. “But they were shouting and rooting me on.”
The show was taped in January in New York City. Chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Chris Santos of “Chopped” judged the dueling first round.
Though these high-wattage appearances take time, planning, money and distance from her restaurant, she tends to go for them when contacted.
“I have a competitive side. I was an athlete growing up. This lets you do something with food in a whole different way. It challenges you.”
O’Hea is not the first Greater Portland female chef to appear on “Beat Bobby Flay.” Last April, Shannon Bard of Zapoteca went on the show. Sadly, Bard lost to Flay. Will O’Hea fare better?
“I made some mistakes for sure. The timing was 20 minutes, and I didn’t factor in the plating. It’s intimidating. You are always editing yourself. I did learn something. … I wish I could tell you.”
We will be glued to the set next week to find out. “I made Maine proud,” O’Hea said.
Tune in to “ Beat Bobby Flay” 10 p.m. May 7 for O’Hea’s appearance.