Interview: chefs Clark Frasier + Mark Gaier

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Chefs Maine

Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier at Pebble Beach Food & Wine Battle of the Coasts: EAST


What was the last dish that you developed for any restaurant, and what was your inspiration?

Gaier: We’ve been doing a ton of work for the new restaurant. We’ve done almost two years of research into historical cooking. In the 1500s, the Renaissance, Italian food is very different, no tomatoes, very little polenta, risotto, a little bit, eggplants had just come in.

Frasier: things were very different from how we think of Italian cooking today, but also we wanted to translate fro the modern audience. That’s a real trick. If you read what Mateo Schiapi said in 1550 that you should cook, we say, “We love those ingredients. How can we make a great dish with it?” Similar, but for a modern audience, so people would be excited to eat now. We’ve been doing a lot of cooking with those dishes, and have a ton of guinea pigs. A lot of dinner parties with unwitting victims.

But no guinea pig on the menu?

Gaier: No. Guinea fowl maybe.

Frasier: A lot of people think of that era as Medieval and weird. What really was happening…

Gaier: …was breaking away from that.

Frasier: All of a sudden all these new ingredients were coming in from the new world. It wasn’t bad to eat and enjoy food anymore. It was really the ultimate culinary revolution.

What is your top selling dish at each restaurant, and why do you think that’s the case?

Gaier: At MC Perkins Cove, it’s on the water, and I’d say it’s probably a toss-up in the tourist season, the summertime, between a lobster mac and cheese – as pedestrian as it sounds – it’s fun. People like it. It’s a great combination of lobster and macaroni and cheese, and we put half a lobster on top, in the shell. It’s really pretty. People love it.

Then we have an Asian style dish that’s a whole fried rainbow trout. It’s something Clark came up with. We do the whole fish and it looks like it’s swimming on the plate. The sauce is with Chinese black beans, cilantro and garlic and scallions. It’s very unusual for me, and for a New England restaurant anywhere, so people are really fascinated by it. It’s something that’s always on our menu.

Frasier: For Arrows it’s really hard to say because the menu’s constantly changing. It’s always evolving.

Gaier: People love our house cured prosciutto. We make prosciutto. We’ve been making prosciutto for 20-something years, and they really like that at Arrows. When we have tomatoes in season, garden tomatoes, it sells like crazy.

Do you get a sense for how different the audience will be in Boston, versus Maine?

Gaier: I don’t think it’s that different. A lot of our clientele are from the Boston area, because we’re only an hour away. You’ll definitely have more people that dine out more frequently. In Maine, it’s a smaller population. There just aren’t as many people. People who come to Ogunquit are from outside of Maine, not necessarily from the area. You have local people that support you, but a lot of people are from outside.

What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody to work in one of your kitchens?

Frasier: It’s a very good question, because at this time of year, we are doing a lot of hiring. MC is a year-round restaurant, but it gets much busier. We are hiring a number of people, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding of what being a chef is about nowadays because of the excitement of TV, that you’re suddenly going to be a rock star. It’s important to understand that you’re not going to be a rock star. You might be, and that would be fabulous, but most likely, you’re going to have to work really, really, really hard to be a rock star. Maybe the Beatles worked a long time in Germany in little dumpy pubs before they became the Beatles. Even if you do achieve that, you’re going to have to work harder than anybody else. We really look for people that are going to put in the effort and not worry about how many hours they’re going to be involved. Really dedicated and really love food. We also like to have a good time, Mark and I, and want to go and enjoy our workplace. We love food and family and all that enjoyment of things. We look for people who have a similar outlook and we’re going to have a good time with.

Is there anything either of you don’t enjoy eating?

Gaier: I hate salmon and I hate goat cheese. Those are two things I really don’t like. Clark does not like scallops.

Frasier: I don’t like scallops. I like to cook them, and I will eat them if I have to, but it’s not my favorite.

What was the last meal that you cooked at home?

Frasier: An every-night dinner, last week we roasted a chicken. I did one on the smoker.

Gaier: One day I did a pasta dish. It was kind of a clean out the fridge pasta, but it was really good. We made a huge dinner a couple weeks ago. We had two other couples over and we did a lot of things from our menu for our new restaurant in Boston. So we did a pesto pizza and we had a platter of prosciutto with poached grapes and a really nice syrup, and mint. We had veal burgers.

Frasier: In one of his notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci actually scribbled in the corner a shopping list for a vinaigrette, made with herbs not unlike the one we had tonight, except it had mint and rosemary. We recreated that salad. So that was cool. Then lasagna, really old fashioned ragu from Emilia-Romagna, a meat sauce.

Gaier: No tomato or tomato product.

Frasier: Some cream and some cheese and Bechamel, because they used things like that.

Gaier: Then I did an orange sherbet.

Frasier: Supposedly a thing that Catherine de Medici liked, sorbet, and citrus and orange was very popular at the time. So Mark made this fabulous sherbet.

Gaier: I changed it a bit. We’re always reading things and looking at them, change them.

Would they bring the ice down from the mountains?

Frasier: Absolutely. They didn’t have any refrigerators. That’s for sure, or ice cream makers. It’s kind of amazing to think they couldn’t freeze things. It’s wild.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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The Whistling Oyster in Maine was the most outstanding restaurant….We would drive up from Boston to have Brunch or lunch. Miss the food, location and service!!!!

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