Hotel Chef Marc Cassel
Dragonfly | Dallas
A resident of East Dallas since 1989, Marc Cassel embarked
on his culinary journey at 32 after receiving his degree from Dallas’
El Centro College, Chef Apprenticeship Program. In 1991 Cassel began
his career as an apprentice at the Dallas Country Club.
Cassel worked at landmark restaurants Baby Routh, The
Mansion on Turtle Creek, Star Canyon, and Azalea,
and credits Stephan Pyles, Kevin Rathbun, and Kent Rathbun
with sharpening his time management skills and propelling him on
a creative culinary path.
Before showcasing his expertise at Dragonfly, Marc served
as the Executive Chef for over eight years at the Deep Ellum neighborhood
eatery, The Green Room, gaining a strong following among
fellow chefs and food connoisseurs for his famous “Feed Me,
Wine Me” format. Nowadays, donning his sparkling cowboy hat,
graffitied sneakers, and cargo shorts, Cassel brings a breath of
fresh air to traditionally uptight hotel fine dining. At Dragonfly,
he transforms the low-brow kitschy foods of the Southwestern American
landscape into quirky dishes like shrimp corn dogs and spicy oyster
shooters. While Cassel takes the liberty of sprinkling hemp seeds
on his pork loin with smoky, smooth mashed potatoes ("because
it's fun"), his focus remains on flavor. The career-changer,
who didn’t get into the industry until 32, has the high-energy
and promise of a chef half his age, but his eclectic, funky dishes
are held together with the mature, singular vision of one who’s
been in the business far longer.
AB: Where have you worked professionally as a chef?
MC: I started working at The
Dallas Country Club but I knew that making mashed potatoes out of
canned potatoes was not what I wanted to do. You need to work in
the best place you can to learn and pick the chef’s brain.
I worked and learned at The Green Room for about seven
AB: Would you recommend culinary school to aspiring cooks? Do you
hire chefs with and without a culinary school background?
MC: No, I wouldn't necessarily
recommend culinary school but I would recommend an apprentice program.
I have hired culinary school graduates, but it really depends on
the person and not their formal education background.
AB: Who are some of your mentors? What have you learned from them?
MC: I’ve worked with
Kent and Kevin Rathbun, and both taught me a lot. Kevin (now at
Rathbun’s in Atlanta) taught me about creativity,
and working for Kent (of Abacus in Dallas) I learned about
Stephan Pyles was on his book tour when I was working in Atlanta
and invited me back to Dallas to be an Executive Chef at Star
Canyon. He trusted me to do a big job, and I didn’t want
to let him down. I’ll always appreciate that opportunity he
AB: In which kitchens have you staged? Which experiences were the
MC: I haven’t formally staged anywhere, but I try to hang
out in different kitchens from time to time to get an idea of what
they’re doing there and maybe learn a little.
AB: What question gives you the most insight to a cook when you’re
interviewing them for a position in your kitchen? What sort of answer
are you looking for?
MC: If anyone says anything about money, the deal is off. I look
for somebody that looks me in the eye and shakes my hand. I ask
them what their favorite kind of food is and what the most important
thing they do before they send food out. The answer I’m looking
for is that they taste it.
AB: What advice would you offer young chefs just getting started?
MC: Be willing to tough it out for six to seven years before thinking
about being an executive chef. Understand time management. I feel
like a good attitude to have is that you are only as good as the
last plate you put out.
AB: Which chefs do you consider to be your peers?
MC: Kent Rathbun at Abacus,
Doug Brown at Amuse, Colleen O’Hare at 1924
in Lakewood, and David McMillan at 62 Main.
AB: Is there any ingredient that you feel is particularly under
appreciated or under utilized?
MC: Beets. All these chefs
have crazy beet dishes but they are using beets from cans which
sort of defeats the purpose.
AB: What are a few of your favorite flavor combinations?
MC: I like vinegar because
it brightens everything up.
AB: What’s your most indispensable kitchen tool?
MC: I really like the Slicky-N sesame seed grinder. It’s a
quick way to grind toasted seeds, which really brings out their
flavor and aroma.
AB: Describe a culinary technique
that you have either created of borrowed and use in an unusual way.
MC: We feed store bought tortillas through a pasta machine with
an angel hair attachment. We also fry up fresh roman noodles. We
use rough corn flour to thicken soup.
AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
Joy of Cooking is a good starting point for everything.
I like retro, and this cookbook gets you intent on the recipe you
AB: Where would you like to
go for culinary travel?
MC: Japan, to learn more about
presentation, and Vietnam and Thailand to learn more Asian technique.
On my days off, ethnic food is all I eat.
AB: What are your favorite restaurants-off the beaten path-in your
city? What is your favorite dish there? What are your favorite after
hour places and bars?
MC: First China BBQ for
duck, marinated chicken, and chicken dumpling soup. Pho
is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.
AB: What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry
MC: I’m not sure where this whole science of food trend is
going. I’m not a huge fan of stuff like foams. I advocate
a return to comfort foods and classic techniques like braising.
AB: Which person in history would you most like to have dinner
with? What would you eat?
MC: I would like to have breakfast
with Hunter S. Thomson at four in the afternoon.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
MC: People call my food “collision”
because it’s like a train wreck on a plate. I like to do low-country
cuisine with a lot of unexpected combinations.
AB: If you weren’t a chef what do you think you’d be
MC: I don’t know. I really can’t imagine not being a
AB: What does success mean for you? What will it look like for
MC: In five years I’d
like to be in Dallas, at my own restaurant, which I’d want
to be really interactive.
AB: How are you involved in
your local culinary community?
MC: I buy from the farmer’s
market as much as I can.
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