Season four of Bravo's Top Chef Masters brings together 12 award-winning chefs (three of whom are gay) to Las Vegas to compete for $100,000 for the charity of their choice. Along with chef Art Smith, a bevy of queer guest judges (Indigo Girls, The B-52's), and judge James Oseland, the gay editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine, the ones to watch are gay power couple, Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier, owners of Arrows, a sustainable dining experience set in a restored eighteenth century Maine farmhouse. Both men are competing for LGBT charities as well: for Frasier it's Outright Lewiston/Auburn, which creates safe and affirming environments for LGBT and questioning youth, while Gaier is competing for Equality Maine Foundation. We caught up with the couple -- married for 27 years -- to find out what life on Top Chef Masters (which premiers July 25) was really like.
The Advocate: The first episode you two set out that you're partners in life but on the show you'll be competitors. How did that play out while filming?
Clark: Well, being competitors was difficult for us both. We did manage to help each other at times even though we were competing, but frankly all the chefs helped each other from time to time. It was difficult for us because for 27 years we've operated as a cohesive team each offering strengths to the other. Having said this, I think it was rewarding for both of us to see that we were both still strong competitors without relying on the other.
Mark: Being life partners and competing on set was not a problem for me. I still had Clark there with me and that alone gave me a feeling that things were OK. There were many others competing also so it did not feel like one-on-one with Clark.
With Arrows, you and Mark were sort of ahead of your time with the farm-to-table food. What's next in food?
Clark:What's next in food? I hate this question! Molecular gastronomy, Danish farm-to-table, lobster rolls, and on and on. Good food that is well prepared, that satisfies us in many ways, is eternal. Why does the press always insist on finding a new trend? We started farming and doing things the old way in 1988 and we are still doing it. Now the press is starting to pooh pooh farm-to-table, which is quite frankly absurd. Of course it's being over played but, eating good food, raised sustainably, should never be a food trend; it should be what we all practice.
What's your best food memory?
Mark: Being guests of honor at a family's riverside home on stilts for an elaborate dinner in Battambong, Cambodia. We were served many courses of fish from the river nearby. We ate fruits, greens, and vegetables from the area around the house. We drank coconut milk fresh from the coconut. We had just picked watermelon. We had Johnnie Walker Black, which we brought as a host gift. It was an unforgettable evening with three generations of one family. Rarely have I felt so honored and in the simplest of surroundings by the kindness and generosity of our friends' family.
I love that Arrows has topped all these "best of" lists and you're in Maine. Ever have doubts about opening a restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine?
Mark: I knew it could be a struggle but we were determined, although a bit afraid, to make it work here. The culinary scene in Maine in 1988 was ready for an infusion of creativity and updating. Now Maine has gone through a real culinary revolution and has become one of the hot places to visit for new and interesting takes on Americana.
You own what Gourmet called the 14th top restaurant in the country. Do you feel pressure to stay at the top of these lists or does it come naturally?
Clark: And Arrow is one of the top 40 restaurants in the Gayot survey as well. Mark and I have always just worked hard to make Arrows the best restaurant it could possibly be. Every day we work to make it a better restaurant.
Are foodies gay friendly? We see a lot more gay chefs on TV than other occupations but is that because there are more gay cooks in the kitchen or because of the visibility afforded to chefs on TV?
Mark: In my experience I feel that there are really few gay chefs. Some of us are very high profile but overall it is a very small percentage of chefs that are gay.
When did you start cooking?
Clark: I started cooking at the age of 7. I was a bit of a latch key kid as my parents both worked. When I got home I started baking cookies. We sure had a lot of cookies!
What's the biggest surprise about doing the show?
Clark: The biggest surprise was the terrific camaraderie amongst all the chefs as well as the crew.
Mark: That it was so much fun.
Watch videos of the duo on the show below.