Our Team

Cinder House Oven Grid

Michael Fricker

Executive Sous Chef

“The theme here is fire,” explains Michael Fricker, nutshelling the concept behind Cinder House, the signature dining experience of Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis. Though the restaurant takes inspiration from the grilling traditions of South America and heat from wood-burning stoves, Fricker warmed right up to the universality of what he oversees as Executive Sous Chef in the kitchen. “The earliest cooking occurred with fire; it’s in every culture. You get into the idea that fire is global and that we have something everyone can relate to.”

The central element of the Hotel’s revamped food and beverage operations, Cinder House is the latest enterprise of Gerard Craft, the James Beard award-winning Best Chef: Midwest whose Niche Food Group has shaken up the local dining scene with restaurants across the city and as far as Nashville. Working with Craft is a pleasure, says Fricker. “For a chef of his stature, he’s incredibly down to earth, supportive and humble.”

Fricker brings a lot to his role, including experience with Four Seasons service and standards. He joined the St. Louis property in 2016 as a Senior Sous Chef with Cielo Restaurant & Bar, the Hotel’s imaginative Italian forerunner and, during its day, one of the top restaurants in the city.

“They look at cuts of meat and vegetables differently than other cultures. It’s really about letting the ingredients shine.”

Cinder House has been easy for Fricker to embrace. Latin American cuisine is his passion, he says, adding that passion is an essential ingredient. “You really have to understand the flavours and the mindset of those who cook it. I have worked with a lot of Puerto Rican and Spanish chefs. They look at cuts of meat and vegetables differently than other cultures. It’s really about letting the ingredients shine.”

There is no shortage of fresh ingredients in the America heartland, of course. Fricker notes the “beautiful proteins” and “many farms that are doing fantastic work with heirloom vegetables and natural growing purposes” within close proximity of the restaurant. He has developed many rewarding relationships with local suppliers. “We talk so often, we become friends. Sometimes I drive them crazy, changing my mind as our dishes develop. But we truly need each other, when they have something cool they’re working on, they’ll call and give me a heads up; it has to be a symbiotic relationship.”

Fricker was hard at work pursuing undergraduate degrees in philosophy and theology at a college near Philadelphia when he decided he needed a change. “I didn’t want to end up in a room teaching for the rest of my life.” Having already fallen for the rush of restaurant work – including “the culture, the adrenaline, the speed, and the stress” – he chose to study the culinary arts at a Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon and fell just as hard for the food. “Once you have a reverence for the ingredients and realise that you’re handling living things, cooking takes on a life of its own as an art.”

He had quick success after earning his culinary arts degree, landing with a luxury boutique hotel in southern New Jersey while running his own private chef and catering business on the side. But soon enough, Fricker knew he needed another change. So he headed St. Louis, saying, “The culture in the Midwest breeds collaboration and support. I know if I’m struggling with something, there are a lot of people that I can go to for advice as well locally-sourced products.”

Indeed, Fricker is now right where he wants to be. He never cooks at home, he says, and he never runs out of places to dine in the meantime. “I like riding around on my motorcycle and discovering restaurants and bars. St. Louis is a really a big foodie town. I’m like a lot of people here – I can’t get enough.”


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