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Chef Fritz Cassel

Like many chefs, Fritz Cassel's first cooking lessons started in the family kitchen. Originally from Oklahoma, his parents were always cooking and "very into food."

"We had a huge kitchen, and we always had a garden where we grew our own vegetables," Cassel told Clean Plate Charlie during a recent interview.

Cassel later worked for a local restaurant, Vito's Italian Kitchen, where the wood-burning stove and creative menu helped to foster a love of creativity in the kitchen.

When it came time for Cassel to decide what he wanted to do for a living, he opted for sunny South Florida, and the Lincoln Culinary Institute of West Palm Beach.

He later began his career as sous chef -- and later executive chef -- of Spoto's Oyster Bar in Palm Beach Gardens. He also spent time as the chef at Spoto's Oakwood Grill.

Most recently, Cassel helmed the kitchen as executive chef for Gratify American Gastropub in West Palm Beach, which closed its doors in July. "Gratify is where I really had the chance to come into my own," said Cassel. "We weren't pigeon-holed into one kind of food, or one type of cuisine, so I was able to develop my own personal style and tastes."

While he began cooking at home tackling the usual family-style dinners, what Cassel does today is far from ordinary. He most enjoys cooking over an open flame, and was well known for making Gratify's own house-cured bacon -- a skill reminiscent of the time he spent working with the family-owned meat distributor, Bush Brothers, of West Palm Beach, perhaps?

Currently, Cassel has a penchant for roasting vegetables, which he says imparts an intense amount of flavor into the foods he cooks. It's something you will be able to find on the new menu he is working on for his most recent gig as executive chef for a new Italian and Spanish-themed gastropub off Clematis St., which is slated to open mid-December. There, Cassel said he hopes to erect a roof-top garden where he will be able to grow his own spices, herbs and vegetables.

When asked what charity he would like to work with, Cassel said he was most interested in donating money in support of an Alzheimer's research foundation.

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