Monday, December 9, 2013
Chef Clark Frasier says he and his partner, Mark Gaier, were disappointed to be cut from "Top Chef Masters" after just a few episodes, but would be open to competing again if they were invited back to the reality show.
Maine chefs Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier
John Patriquin / Staff Photographer
The chefs, who own three restaurants together, competed independently on the popular show's fourth season. Gaier was chopped from the show last week, and on Wednesday night's show Frasier was next to go, after cooking a corn dish that underwhelmed the judges.
"Of course we were disappointed, but we're also big boys and it was a really great experience," Frasier said Thursday. "It was great to compete. I think if we were in a similar competition or were invited back -- a number of our competitors had done the show before -- we would definitely have a greater knowledge of what to do, how to do, what not to do.
"If you don't make the right dish on 'Top Chef Masters,' you're gone. But at a restaurant, you get a second try the next day."
Luck, however, is sometimes just as important as skill on the show.
On Wednesday night's show, for example, the chefs were flown to the Grand Canyon to prepare a special dinner for the Hualapai tribe. The chefs were paired up and given traditional ingredients used by the tribe in their dishes.
Frasier and his partner, New York chef Kerry Heffernan, randomly drew corn and beef, while other teams drew things like prickly pear and banana yucca. Frasier said he knew right away that he might be in trouble.
"Quail is a lot more sexy than beef tenderloin," he said. "Some of the grills worked that day, some of them went out. Ours went out. That's luck."
Frasier said the judges came to see him before he left, to wish him well and say they were sorry he was leaving.
He said he didn't agree with a lot of their criticisms during the show, but they were "very fair, very knowledgeable," and he thought it was important to listen.
"I see some of the people on the show, they don't want to hear the criticism from the critics," Frasier said. "I didn't agree with everything the critics said about my food, or other people's food for that matter, but you have to listen. Sometimes they're wrong, and a lot of times they're right."
The chefs were playing for charity. Gaier played for Equality Maine, and Frasier played for Outright Lewiston-Auburn. "Top Chef Masters" gives eliminated chefs $10,000 for their charities when they leave the show.
Frasier said he and Gaier have received much support from friends, and from strangers who have approached them in airports. They have also stayed in contact with other contestants.
Chicago chef Takashi Yagihashi was in Maine last week with his family, Frasier said, and ate at MC Perkins Cove and Arrows, the chefs' restaurants in Ogunquit. They are considering throwing a collaborative dinner together at some point.
Considering that the chefs were initially wary of appearing on the show, it's surprising they would go back for seconds. But Frasier said they would be open to it.
"It's a very difficult experience, but also I think it makes you a little tougher," he said. "It's a different skill set. People ask me, 'Was it fun or was it awful?' And I say, 'Hey, it's the best of times and the worst of times.'
"We worked nonstop day and night, under a lot of pressure that I don't think is even communicated in the show," he said. "For that 45 minutes the viewer sees, there's hundreds of hours of work behind it.
"So it's very intense, but it's also very gratifying."
Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: