2015 New York Rising Star Concept Chefs Matt Danzer and Ann Redding of Uncle Boons

2015 New York Rising Star Concept Chefs Matt Danzer and Ann Redding of Uncle Boons
February 2015

In an age of product- and place-specific cooking, it’s a bit of a relief when a chef from Long Island and a chef born in Thailand can come up the ranks, find each other, and figure out how to cook exactly what they want without sacrificing standards. Let Matt Danzer, Ann Redding, and the defiant biography of Uncle Boons be a testament to a new age in culinary improv.

Not that it didn’t take some work … and a bit of travel. Danzer was raised on the North Fork of Long Island, and Redding in Ubon, Thailand, and in the Philippines before moving to the United States with her family. While both sought a career in food, Danzer attended The Culinary Institute of America and Redding, The Institute of Culinary Education. After graduating, Danzer moved cross country to work at The French Laundry. Redding took jobs at top New York spots, such as Amuse, Jewel Bako, and La Esquina. Their paths might not have crossed but for Thomas Keller, who opened Per Se and hired Danzer and Redding for its opening.

Finding a life, and professional partnership together, Redding and Danzer were eager to open their own place. For five years they ran a store and café on Shelter Island. The seasonal rhythms were trying—nothing a Keller pedigreed chef couldn’t handle—but they also allowed Redding to take Danzer home with her to Thailand, where the renegade seeds of their future project were first, fruitfully planted. The dream finally came to fruition in spring 2013, with the opening of the instantly acclaimed and wildly popular Uncle Boons.  

Interview with New York Rising Star Concept Chefs Matt Danzer and Ann Redding of Uncle Boons

Antoinette Bruno: How did you get your start?
Ann Redding: I started in the fashion industry, but I found myself searching the Food Network all the time. I was obsessed with food.

AB: Who is your most influential mentor?
AR: My mom, grandmother, five aunts, and Uncle Boon, who is really my uncle. They were all street vendors in Thailand.

AB: How did you end up in the States?
AR: My dad is American and he moved to Maryland to be a teacher.

AB: Where do you most want to go for culinary travel?
Matt Danzer: I would love to keep going back to Thailand.  I see and learn something new every time I'm there. Plus, Ann's family is pretty fun.

AB: What’s a favorite dish you like to cook?
I like really simple dishes, especially when I cook at home. Ann and I sometimes just do a simple fresh made pasta with some zucchini and pollack roe.  

AB: What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do in your career?
It's all been hard. When I first started cooking, I was one of the only women in the kitchen. But I don’t have any horror stories. I’ve had great mentors—Jonathan Benno and Chris L'Hommedieu, who recently passed away. They taught me to keep my head down and have integrity.

AB: What are you most proud of?
This restaurant. To be able to have this opportunity and that it actually happened! We were out on Shelter Island working at a deli and market for five years to save money to open this place.

AB: Do you have a specific kitchen resource you find yourself turning to a lot? 
 My friends and colleagues. Talking things through with fellow chefs—techniques, products, etc.—works for me.           
AR: My family.

AB: Where will we find you in five years?
AR: We would like to have a fast casual offshoot and I would like to not be such a workaholic!