Chef Seth Siegel-Gardner made a significant imprint on the Houston dining scene more than a decade ago by launching new restaurants like the limited-run Just August Project with chefs Terrance Gallivan and Justin Yu, and most notably, Pass and Provisions, a tasting menu restaurant and casual dining establishment hybrid that diners still wax poetic about. Now, after years of being behind the scenes of major projects and companies, the chef and restauranteur is returning to the Houston restaurant scene in a way that diners can regularly experience.
The chef, who most recently worked as the culinary director of chef Chris Shepherd’s nonprofit Southern Smoke Foundation, says his new role will focus on the kitchen, food, and menus, while also drawing on his culinary resume to assist Levit’s chefs — meaning locals will likely get a taste of what he’s cooking up soon. But the creative aspect of his title will allow him to go beyond the typical culinary realm to give his input on branding, aesthetics, flow of service, and operations, too — while also allowing him to get back out onto the scene to mingle and hear direct feedback from diners. “I love the little details about things, that people notice and appreciate about restaurants,” the chef says.
Much of his initial focus, Siegel-Gardner says, will be on further developing Eau Tour — Levit’s newest restaurant, which opened in Rice Village in March of this year and recently expanded its menu to add weekend brunch. “Openings, menus, and figuring out what a restaurant is ... can take a while,” he says. He first plans to launch a special at Eau Tour, a crispy pork rillette with champagne cane vinegar reduction, as a partnership with the Southern Smoke Foundation. All proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit.
Siegel-Gardner and his team will also focus on launching Levit’s new Mexican restaurant, Maximo. Though few details have been released publicly, a search shows the restaurant could be located at 6119 Edloe Street in West University Place where Little Matt’s is located. But Siegel-Gardner says he’s excited about dreaming up new concepts and ideas, too, including a late-night deli and bar concept he’s been flirting with. Most of all, he’s looking forward to building and learning from Levit, who he calls a Houston legend.
“He’s an OG restaurateur for Houston, so getting to be a part of what he’s created is an amazing opportunity,” the chef says. “I’m getting to learn from him and how he’s been successful operating in Houston and always pushing, innovating, and looking ahead.”
The Houston native’s more visible return to the Houston dining scene follows his longtime friend and former restaurant partner Terrance Gallivan’s return with Elro, a pizza and crudo-slinging restaurant that builds on some of the recipes served at the now-shuttered Pass & Provisions.
Siegel-Gardner’s current role builds on his years of experience in the culinary world, which he began at age 14 while rolling napkins at Tony Mandola’s original restaurant, according to a release. He later worked as a line cook at Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit in 2003, quickly advancing to sous chef, before helping the lauded chef open more restaurants in New York and Chicago. Siegel-Gardner later worked as managing sous chef at Gordon Ramsey’s New York-based restaurant London Hotel, which earned two Michelin stars before he returned to Houston in 2012 to open the Just August Project and Pass and Provisions, a two-part restaurant with a fine-dining tasting menu on one side and a casual Italian restaurant known for its pasta, pizzas, and fresh bread on the other. The restaurant was open for seven years before its closing, and in 2019, Siegel-Gardner moved to Marfa, where he opened two restaurants and the Marfa Spirit Company distillery.