"When I was seven years old, growing up in Mobile, Alabama, I would always cook with my grandmother," said Frazier, a resident of Weehawken for the last seven years. "I would play restaurant with my family. I would put a towel over my arm and take everyone's orders. It was natural for me. I just loved to cook."
So it was natural that Frazier would pursue cooking as a career, although she soon found out that it wasn't as glamorous as she once thought.
"I was living in St. Augustine, Florida in 1979," Frazier recalled. "I had never been to a French restaurant before in my life, but I fell in love with French food that night."
So Frazier approached the owner of the restaurant, the famed chef Guy LeRoy, who eventually became a partner of the nationally renowned chef Wolfgang Puck, and asked LeRoy if she could learn how to cook at his restaurant. LeRoy didn't hesitate to hire Frazier.
"He handed me a mop," Frazier said. "He said, 'This is where you start.' So I mopped and cleaned and washed dishes. I worked my way up the ladder to sous chef, but it took a while."
After two years, Frazier moved to New York and had all the intentions of studying at the School of Culinary Arts. But she got sidetracked.
"Motherhood prevented that," Frazier said. "Plus, I got a job at Miss Ruby's Café in Chelsea and worked there for a while."
For the next seven years, Frazier worked in the world of food styling, preparing dishes that were photographed for famed culinary magazines such as Food & Wine, In Style, Gourmet and Self.
Soon after, Frazier, then living in Hoboken with her husband and daughter, met Jane Bace, the owner of the popular Lady Jane's Restaurant on 14th Street.
"We hooked up and started our own catering company," Frazier said.
It didn't take long for Bace and Frazier Catering to get their biggest and certainly most famous customer - Bruce Springsteen.
"We both cooked for Bruce and his family," Frazier said. "We traveled every day to Rumson. I would go for four days and Jane would go for four days. We did that for three years [1994 through 1996]. Sometimes, guests would pop in and we'd cook for them. There were some times we cooked late night after gigs."
Frazier said that cooking for the Boss was a blast.
"Absolutely, it was great," Frazier said. "He called me 'Miss Paula.' Everyone wants to know what his favorite foods are."
So, what delights quench the Boss' palate?
"Buttered noodles and watermelon are his favorites," Frazier said. "But not together. He was just so charming and wonderful. I never lost my fascination for working there. Bruce was so appreciative of everything."
Some of the famous people, other than Springsteen, his wife, Patti Scialfa and the members of the E Street Band, that Frazier prepared meals for include Sting - "they were working on 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' together at the time," Frazier said - Jon Bon Jovi, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson.
"It was fun," Frazier said. "I never lost the thrill."
But in 1996, Bace had a baby, and the daily commute to Rumson became too much of a grind, so the association with the Springsteen gang came to an end.
"I wasn't getting home until 6 a.m. every day," Frazier said. "It was getting tough. One night, I was exhausted, driving home on the [Garden State] Parkway and I guess I must have been swerving, so a state trooper pulled me over. He asked me if I was drinking and I told him I was just tired from working all night. He asked me what I did and I told him that I was Bruce Springsteen's chef, so he escorted me all the way home to Hoboken. But I knew then that I had to give it up."
The Bace & Frazier Catering Company remained in business for the last seven years. However, after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, Frazier said that the catering business suffered considerably.
"The bottom just fell out of the catering business," Frazier said. "Then Jane moved to North Carolina. I was left without a partner. I tried to do some free-lance catering, but the market really wasn't there."
About a year ago, Frazier just happened to visit the restaurant Rigoletto, located on Park Avenue in Weehawken near Frazier's home that had just recently opened.
"I became a frequent customer of Rigoletto," Frazier said. "I loved the place. But the kitchen there was always calling me. It's a sweet little place."
The owner of Rigoletto, Monica Bizzarrinni, was looking for a business partner, so it seemed to be a perfect fit for Frazier to jump right in.
"I never dreamed of owning my own restaurant, but it always seemed to be the next natural step," Frazier said. "It was perfect for me. I needed some steady work, so I bought some. It was so close to home. Monica and I both come from a culinary background. Her father was a chef who used to cook for the Pope and owned several restaurants in Italy. It was like we got married and made a baby."
A cook for the Boss hooks up with a cook for the Pope. Sounds perfect.
Frazier signed on as a partner last month and will celebrate the grand opening of "Paula's at Rigoletto" this week, with an official ribbon cutting ceremony slated for Tuesday.
During the grand opening week, Frazier and Bizzarrinni are giving away 10 pairs of tickets to see the opera Rigoletto at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, two tickets each night to a lucky customer. Each customer will also receive a complimentary glass of champagne.
Frazier is doing all the chef work, saying that she hand-selects all the natural ingredients for the mostly Italian-based dishes. All of the desserts are homemade as well.
"The response has been great so far," Frazier said. "It's been a lot of work, but we're pretty happy. I know Monica seems very happy with the association. It's going to be great."
Frazier said that the restaurant will also feature the work of local artists that will be on sale in the restaurant on a monthly basis. For the first month, the works of 13-year-old Union City artist Marcial Ramos are on display.
"Each month, we'll feature another artist," Frazier said.
So Frazier's excited about the latest chapter in her life. Apron around waist, spoon in hand and she's ready.
"I think Weehawken is a very supportive community," Frazier said. "I really think this is going to be successful."
Now, if she can only get her former Boss to come to visit.
Paula's at Rigoletto is located at 3706 Park Avenue in Weehawken. The restaurant does not have a liquor license, so you must bring your own. Reservations are recommended. For further information and reservations, call (201) 422-9500.