2011 Houston Rising Star Chef Seth Siegel-Gardner developed an interest in European cuisine early in life, cooking alongside his mother, who spent her childhood traveling across the continent. But it was while in school at the University of Denver that he first cut his professional teeth washing dishes and making pizzas at Coos Bay Bistro and later in the garde manger department of the Brown Palace Hotel. In search of more opportunity, Siegel-Gardner and his wife headed to New York City where the young chef took a job at Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit. There, he contributed to Samuelsson’s innovative interpretations of classic Swedish cuisine.
Siegel-Gardner took on one more New York City post—at Scott Conant’s Alto in Midtown—before moving to Houston in 2006 to serve as sous chef at Randy Rucker’s aptly named Laidback Manor. A second go-round at Alto and New York City followed, and not long after, Siegel-Gardner opened Maze with Gordon Ramsay, first as sous chef, then as executive chef. In 2008, he reteamed with Samuelsson to open C-House, an American seafood and chophouse restaurant in Chicago, where he stayed for 18 months as executive chef.
The itinerant Siegel-Gardner and his wife then relocated to London after she was admitted to the London School of Economics. Siegel-Gardner made the most of his time abroad, taking a full-time job as a private chef while staging at area restaurants during off time, including the Portuguese concept Via Jante and Heston Blumenthal’s globally renowned The Fat Duck. Siegel-Gardner returned stateside in the summer of 2010 to work on Houston pop-up, the Just August Project. He was then lured to join Kata Robata, where he creates contemporary cuisine that clearly, cleanly showcases the strong geographic inspirations that have influenced and defined his cooking.