Could Another Train Wreck Be Far Behind?
That's how his trademark "collision cuisine" got it's name. Someone wrote that Cassel's cooking was like a train wreck on the plate--but it worked.
At least that's how he recalls it. And it worked well enough to make the Green Room an institution. The young chef and his "pirate crew" earned impressive reviews, standing ovations from those in the dining room and all kinds of accolades.
Then Cassel jumped to Dragonfly in Hotel ZaZa and, well, it didn't work anymore.
After a few years of catering and odd cooking jobs, Cassel returns to the grind with the opening--soon--of Park, a new concept on Henderson. But does that also mean the return of collision cuisine...?
"That's been my style from day one: It's fusion in that it's fusion," Cassel explains--sort of. "Fusion in its purest interpretation." A few words from the once and future chef:
On probable expectations that he will bring back old Green Room flavors...
We're trying to do that, but at a lower price point. Not with the same dishes, but the same spirit. I'm still tongue in cheek, playful and at times offensively sarcastic.
On the Deep Ellum vibe...
My favorite part of the Green Room--besides the one my liver paid for--was seeing young people sitting next to old Highland Park types, getting exposed to good food. The idea is to have that same energy at Park.
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On the Green Room's famously small kitchen...
My second day I was reaching into the oven and part of the ceiling fell on my head. I had just come from Star Canyon. Right off, I was questioning my decision.
His style and attitude didn't fit with upscale Dragonfly. A lot of press came with his appointment and someone approached him with a cookbook deal, but Cassel and the hotel/restaurant soon parted ways. On the breakup...
Are we talking off the record or on? I can't look in the mirror and say I'm not at all to blame. At the end of the day it was good to get out. I didn't like that place. I sold out. The experience taught me not to do that anymore. Now I'm back to what I'm comfortable with.
The owners of Bolsa considered Cassel for their chef position. But he was still too mired in the wake of the Dragonfly fiasco, still not himself. On the deal that didn't happen...
I didn't want to commit to it full time. And then Graham [Dodds] came on the market. They've been doing well.
Sitting on the sidelines has "been weird," he admits. The bout with Dragonfly and moment of doubt with Bolsa left him perhaps a little unsure of things. When Park's owner, Donald Chick, first explained the concept as they sat on stools in the abandoned space, Cassel says "I didn't see it."
Now? "It feels good to be back in the saddle."