Top chefs Mark and Clark check out of the Press Hotel

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Mark and Clark in the Press Hotel last winter

Stop the presses!!

Why did chefs Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier suddenly pull out of the Press Hotel? News broke Friday that the James Beard winning duo, days away from opening their second restaurant in less than two years, are no longer part of M.C. Union, the anchor restaurant in the soon-to-open downtown Portland boutique hotel.

When Urban Eye caught up with the pair in February at the Boston Wine Expo they were bursting with enthusiasm for the venture and were still working on their menu. Two months later their initials have been yanked from the project, it’s now called Union (or should we say disUnion?). The hotel is promoting executive chef Joshua Berry as the one in charge.

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Chef Joshua Berry. Photo by Union Restaurant/Kari Herer

Michael Strejcek, general manager of The Press Hotel released this statement.

“For the past year Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier have worked with the Press Hotel to create Union, a restaurant that will set a new standard in Portland, Maine. The Press Hotel is proud to feature Union as one of its key amenities and it is confident that Union will attract guests from around the country and around the world. The Press Hotel is grateful for the tireless work and inspired vision provided by Mark and Clark and wishes them well as they move on to their next restaurant venture.”

Mark and Clark were employed for a lot of the consulting work, said Strejcek, adding that the decision to part ways was “amicable.”

The 65-seater with a bar and entrance directly across from City Hall would’ve been a high visibility spot for this pair who also run MC Perkins Cove in Ogunquit and MC Spiedo in Boston’s Seaport.

When Urban Eye visited the top chefs in November for a tour, it was clear this was no consulting gig. They were aglow with being part of the Portland dining scene, which they had been assessing for years.

The trendsetting partners, who were some of the first chefs to raise their own vegetables and herbs at a hotspot called Arrow’s Restaurant, seem to be keeping a low profile on this. Calls to Frasier and emails sent to their restaurant company Monday were not returned.

The hotel’s PR agency has released the new menu at Union loaded with tasty Mark and Clark-y sounding dishes: salt cod croquettes with stewed apricots, farm fresh duck egg on white corn polenta, Maine trout and an epic New England shellfish dish with an yellow pepper emulsion, for example.

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Photo by Union Restaurant/Kari Herer

Not to take anything away from Berry, a Maine native who certainly earned his chops, apprenticing for the Balsams Grand Resort in New Hampshire, the Hotel Astoria in Luzern, and most recently as executive chef at Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont, we were excited to see what the farm to table pioneers had prepared for Portland. Anyone else bummed by this?

Look for both Union and the hotel to open later this week.

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.