Thursday, December 12, 2013
When renowned Maine chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier were approached about being on the reality TV show "Top Chef Masters," their first response was, basically, "No way."
Chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, wearing the James Beard medals they won in 2010 for best chefs in the Northeast, grow produce and herbs in Ogunquit for their restaurants.
2010 File Photo/John Patriquin
THE OTHER COMPETITORS
HERE ARE the other chefs who will compete on "Top Chef Masters," and the charities they are playing for:
Chris Cosentino, chef/partner at Incanto Restaurant in San Francisco; Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
Lorena Garcia, owner of Lorena Garcia Cocina Restaurant in Miami; Alliance for a Healthier Generation Inc.
Debbie Gold, executive chef of The American Restaurant in Kansas City; Children's TLC
Kerry Heffernan, New York City chef; City Harvest
Thierry Rautureau, chef/owner of the Rover's and Luc restaurants in Seattle; Food Lifeline
Missy Robbins, executive chef at A Voce Madison and A Voce Columbus in New York City; Grow to Learn NYC
Art Smith, executive chef and co-owner of LYFE Kitchen and Southern Art restaurants; Common Threads
Sue Torres, chef/owner of Suenosin New York City; Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Takashi Yagihashi, owner of Takashi Restaurant and Slurping Turtle in Chicago; American Red Cross, benefiting the Japanese tsunami disaster relief
Patricia Yeo, chef/owner of Om Restaurant & Lounge and Moksa in Cambridge, Mass; Heifer Project International
Frasier says they were "blissfully ignorant" about the show. Sure, they had heard of it, but since they have to work in one of their restaurants every night, they don't get in a lot of television time. And when they do watch, it's generally not reality shows.
"Neither one of us are big reality TV fans," Frasier said. "There's just a lot of unreality in reality TV."
But then word got out in their kitchens at Arrows and MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit.
"All of the young people in our kitchens and in the front of house were like, 'Oh my God, you've got to do this. I watch it all the time,' " Frasier said. "It was really quite amazing how many people reacted to it, saying how important it was for us to do it.
"So I was a little reticent at first, but Mark was really not very gung ho on the idea. Once they convinced me that we should do it, and said that tons of people all across the country watch it and it's important to do, then we started talking Mark into it. He really didn't want to do it at all at first."
But after meeting the other chefs and going through a few challenges on the show, Gaier changed his mind about the whole experience.
"It was a little bit like boot camp," Gaier said, laughing, "but it was a lot of fun because of the camaraderie of the chefs. We all kind of got to know each other so quickly because we were spending so many hours together.
"You would just be having fun together and then you'd start cooking, and then it was, like, 'Oh wait, this is a challenge,' " Gaier said. "That was kind of interesting because it was almost easy to forget why you were really there at times. But it was a lot of fun, and I have to say that I was surprised, because I didn't expect to have fun."
Frasier and Gaier appear on Season 4 of the show, which starts at 10 p.m. July 25 on Bravo. A spokeswoman for Bravo confirmed that this is the first time two chefs from the same restaurant have competed on the same season.
"Top Chef Masters" hand-picks a dozen master chefs from around the country to compete against each other for charity.
They are subjected to cooking challenges that test their skills and patience, and then are judged by an esteemed panel that includes former Gourmet editor and New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl and James Oseland, the editor of Saveur. The host of the show is celebrity chef Curtis Stone.
In each episode, there's a Quickfire Challenge, in which the judges throw demanding tasks at the contestants, such as asking them to create a delicious dish out of crickets and worms.
The winner of each Quickfire Challenge is awarded $5,000 for their favorite charity. ("I didn't know a Quickfire from the O.K. Corral before this," Frasier says.)
The show also has elimination challenges, and the winners of those get $10,000 for their charities.
The goal, of course, is to be the last chef standing. The lone chef named top chef master in the end wins $100,000 for charity.
Mark Gaier is playing for Equality Maine, an equal rights group currently fighting for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine. Frasier is playing for Outright Lewiston/Auburn, which works with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths age 22 and younger, as well as young people questioning their sexuality.
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