City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Great American Caterers

Executive Chef and Proprietor Robert Fritts Makes Food and Events Memorable 

Article by Emily Dickey

Photography by Marie Rose Photography

Originally published in Frederick Lifestyle

Food is the spice of life.

It’s also what makes a celebration memorable and helps to tie us together as humans. 

Robert “Bob” Fritts, owner and executive chef of Great American Caterers, has made it his life’s work to feed the masses while also creating flavors that will enhance memories for years to come. 

“I like to serve,” Bob said. “I stay pretty grounded with Jesus as my foundation. Serving is gratifying for me.”

Through Great American Caterers, Bob and his team of 60 aim to fill the bellies of guests at weddings, conventions, bar/bat mitzvahs, dinner parties, celebrations of life and other gatherings while ensuring that the events are special and unforgettable.

“Whether it is a small gathering or large, formal event, we are here to make the day perfect.”

With more than 43 years in the kitchen, Bob started his journey as a dishwasher at Sir Walter Raleigh Inn in Bethesda, Maryland, when he was 15 years old. “My sister, Debbie, was a waitress there.” 

Following high school, Bob remained with Sir Walter Raleigh Inns, which had a number of restaurants in Maryland throughout the 1970s until 2005. The franchise was known for its prime rib, seafood and 40-foot salad bar. “It was a great place to start with a very nice team. It was family-oriented but with corporate-type management.” Bob stayed with the company for 35 years, becoming its youngest general manager at the age of 21. 

His time with Sir Walter Raleigh Inns overlapped with other business ventures for Bob, including opening his own restaurant, Main Street Grille in Emmitsburg, in 1989. He owned the restaurant for about ten years, during which time he owned Gourmet Caterers as well. “There were many pots on the fire,” said Bob of this busy time. “We had a lot going on.” 

The busyness stayed even after Bob closed Main Street Grille in 2001; he continued as a consultant with Sir Walter Raleigh Inns, worked for Carroll Valley Resort as a free agent and helped the Frederick Celtic Society open the Highland Grill. 

In 2010, Bob joined The Carriage House, where he helped to build its catering department—making that his primary focus, now that Sir Walter Raleigh Inns had closed and Carroll Valley Resort had been sold. “The Carriage House is where my catering took off.” Bob stayed with the Carriage House for a decade, before starting Great American Caterers in 2020. “All of my years of experience with various restaurants and businesses helped me develop into who I am today.” 

Through Great American Caterers, Bob is able to bring flavor to special events all over the Gettysburg and Frederick areas. Housed in and exclusive at The Lodges at Gettysburg, Bob and his team work closely with ten other venues including Walker’s Overlook, Rock Creek Farm, Gettysburg Battlefield B&B, Springfield Manor, The Looking Barn, Glenview Mansion, Houser Hill Center, Round Barn Farm, Tannery Barn and Dulany’s Overlook. Menu offerings include appetizers, entrees, side dishes, salads, picnic foods and dessert selections. 

With the slogan “Your pleasure is our priority” in mind, Bob said his offerings aren’t just limited to what is listed on their website. “There are dishes and recipes that are special to families—it might be grandma’s macaroni and cheese or a family’s international cuisine—if they have a recipe, we will make it so they can have that special memory as part of their event.” 

When speaking of catering and food preparation—two things Bob is very passionate about—he said that while he took some classes in accounting and food safety at Montgomery College, most of his training has come in the form of apprenticeship and in-the-kitchen, hands-on education. “I learned under a number of really good chefs,” Bob explained. “It’s important to have real world experience, even if you go to culinary school. When you’re cooking, you have to feel it. You can’t read how to cook a steak, you have to feel it. You can’t be a chef if you aren’t a good cook. And when you mess up, you learn, oh you learn,” he said with a smile. 

Cooking is a way for Bob to express himself, he said. “Baking is chemistry; you have to measure and be precise with the ingredients. Cooking is love; it gives me a way to express my creativity through the flavors and presentation.” Bob said many of his flavors and recipes have been around since the beginning of his journey, but have been developed and cultivated over time to really satisfy his audience. “My cooking has gotten even better through the catering I have done over the past 13 years.”

The days can be long and exhausting for Bob and his crew as they prepare food for multiple events that might have hundreds of people at each. “We might have two or three weddings on one day, so we have to make sure we have good time management.” 

At the end of those long days, Bob said he and his wife Edna tag team dinner duty while also teaching their two daughters how to develop their culinary skills. “One of our girls has really perfected her spaghetti,” said Bob with a laugh, noting that one of his two older sons is also an executive chef at a local restaurant. 

“It’s a good life. Food is a way to make it even better.”