Having named The Pass and Provisions Eater Houston's most anticipated fall opening, the day after its first official day in business seemed like a good time to check in with chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan. During the course of the interview, they discuss finding the restaurant's space, hiring the team and how they want diners to perceive the restaurant.
How did you find this space? Gallivan: Basically, we were looking for almost a year, a fully dedicated real estate search while at the same time trying to do other things to keep ourselves busy and some money in our pockets ... This building is pretty iconic. It's one of the more interesting looking and obviously has a very rich food history to it. Once we heard it was available, it was definitely one of the things we asked our real estate broker to investigate. Take a look at what was happening and what the possibilities were. That was earlier this year. Siegel-Gardner: We never wanted to take over a space just because it could be a restaurant. We wanted the space to feel right. This space felt the most right of anything we looked at. Gallivan: We wanted a place with character. This place isn't short on character.
Talk about the renovations process: Siegel-Gardner: Obviously, we didnt change the footprints of the building. We're sitting in the bar now, and this is where the bar was before. We made the bar a little bigger. We redid everything: redid the floors. Reused as much material as we could, so it's all the original mesquite floors: whitewashed them to brighten up the space. Reused the old tables to clad the bar and this (community) table that we're sitting at now. These rails along the side are the mesquite tables. Then reusing the ironwork that they had done before and reusing that idea throughout the building. There's a lot of iron, concrete and wood. Gallivan: Taking cues from what we were left with. Trying to play off that. It's got that industrial feel to it which we liked but wanted to soften a little bit. Make it a little more comfy, more homey inside instead of this cavernous brick space that would be comfortable when people came in.
How did you decide where to put the P&P logo and why is it featured so prominently? Siegel-Gardner: Because it's two restaurants in one space, there needed to be kind of an identifying marker for us as far as what our brand is and what represents us. That's why we have that ampersand logo. Gallivan: It's almost a representation of this particular space. It's two restaurants in one. Each one has a very distinct identity. They have their own logos; they have their own brand. There's two restaurants, but we also have a lot of crossover between the two. We have the same wine list for both restaurants, one bar serving both restaurants, one kitchen serving both restaurants. You come in through the same door for both restaurants.
Did you find that people were excited to work with you when you approached them? Siegel-Gardner: I think that the way that we approach our staff is we wanted to make sure that our standards, that we've been trained for, were letting those kind of trickle down through our entire staff. Obviously, there's some key players in our staff, but we're very excited about the staff as a whole. There's a lot of people that have made names for themselves here in town, but we want this to be The Pass and Provisions as a whole unit. Gallivan: It's cliché to say. It's easier said than done and so rarely done right. By no means are we saying we're doing it perfectly, but our goal is to amass and assemble a team that has the same kind of goals and is willing to work together to get there. Siegel-Gardner: We think we've put together a pretty good basis of what a great restaurant can be. Like-minded people will want to work here. That's the goal, giving everybody the tools they need to be successful. We think we've done that.
What's the influence for the salmon dish? Siegel-Gardner: That's like breakfast for us. That's like going to get bagels at the Hot Bagel Shop or something like that. From our time spent in New York with access to really good delis.
Do you anticipate any deli sandwiches on the lunch menu? Siegel-Gardner: We're talking about it. We want to pay homage to the Antone's with the elements like having the original sign from the building redone and put inside the dining room. It's in the works, and there's definitely going to be some surprises as far as announcements to come with sandwiches and stuff like that.
Do you understand why people are really excited about this place? Do you feel it? Siegel-Gardner: For Terrence and I, this is our dream. We are literally getting to live our dream here in the space. This is the restaurant we've been talking about before we even met. After working together and kind of getting a feel for each other and our ideas and things we want to do, this seems like it's going to be the perfect opportunity to do all of the things we want to do. Gallivan: We want to be people's regular spot. We want people that live in the neighborhood to walk here for a pint of beer or some oysters or a pizza. We also want people that live 15, 20 or 30 minutes away to feel just as regular because they come here once or twice a month. We also want people to feel like they're getting good value from it. For any hospitality industry outlet, people need to feel welcomed. One of our main goals when people come in is we want you to leave and talk about the next time you're going to come back. There's a lot of different areas here. It's a big building. Siegel-Gardner: It's a lot of options. That's why we designed the menu the way it is as well. It kind of lends itself to bouncing around a little bit. Making sure you're getting something from each category. But also, "we're not doing pizzas today, let's do it next time we come back." I think we've created it so you can keeping coming back for different areas. You can come have a really good pizza one day but then two days later have a bowl of pasta.
Gallvian: The great casual restaurants that we admire have this distinct ability to bridge all gaps as far as content. You can go there for a really good Sunday brunch, get a really solid breakfast and a Bloody Mary. You can also go there for a nice date on a Friday evening, get sort of dressed up and get a nice cocktail or a really great bottle of wine and have a more intimate dining experience. Then come back for lunch with your coworkers and have a good business lunch. It's all coming out of the same place. Being able to meld all those scenarios. That's definitely something we want to be able to do here.
Do you want to tell me when the Pass is opening? Gallivan: We're saying four to six weeks. The restaurant has only been officially open for two days. Siegel-Gardner: This is the focus right now. Just making sure things here are running the way we want them to run and the standards are at the level we want them to be. Just making sure this is a busy, fun space. Gallivan: It doesn't do ourselves or our guests a service to spread ourseveles too thin. We want to be able to give every guest our attention and make sure they're getting what they pay for and feel like they've gotten a good experience. We want to make sure this is on its legs and up and running at the point we can pull off and execute the opening of the second restaurant. Siegel-Gardner: This is obviously the big one, too. The Pass will be an opening and difficult. This is the one that needs the most attention right now.
Siegel-Gardner: We want people to understand all the things that are going on in the space. We've been kinda known around town for one style of food for awhile and we take this is as seriously as we do anything. We want people to, as well. Gallivan: We've said before, and it's a tired cliché, in our minds it's the best of both worlds. Every cook that likes to cook fine dining food and is into more intricate preparations or technique is just as satisfied by cooking a great piece of fish or making really good bread. It's an outlet for us to hit all points in our minds. It's also a lot of fun to do all the things we want to do. We're very lucky to have that chance in these two spaces.
Does it help that your wives are friends? Siegel-Gardner: Makes it a lot easier, of course. They spend a lot of time together. Not as much as Terrence and I do. Terrence and I have a partnership and we watch each other's backs. I think they do, too. They take care of each other, as well. It's just as hard for them as it is for us. Gallivan: We've all been good friends since we all first met in New York at Ramsay. There's that sort of shared history. It's nice that they have someone whose husband shares the same hours when you're home alone six days a week.
Siegel-Gardner: They're the ones that let us do what we want to do. Gallivan: We certainly wouldn't be doing what we're doing without them. Siegel-Gardner: That's for sure.
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