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MasterMinds 2012

This year's winners have art, passion and history on their side. And now they'll also each have a check for $2,000.

Siegel-Gardner, a Houston native and Lamar High School graduate, grew up cooking with his mother and reading books by his icons Ramsay and Marcus Samuelsson. After graduating from the University of Denver with a bachelor's degree in philosophy, Seth followed his future wife Hannah to New York City, where he engaged in what he calls the "lost art of handing out résumés in person to try to meet my idols in the kitchen."

The strategy worked: He was brought aboard at Aquavit, where Seth's hero Samuelsson was the restaurant's executive chef.

Meanwhile, Gallivan, who spent his childhood in Fredericksburg, Virginia, began his foray into the restaurant biz about as unspectacularly as possible: He washed dishes at a tapas eatery. At the time, he didn't even know that he was interested in making food services a career. But later, a friend suggested culinary school, which Terrence made happen by graduating from the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont.

Captain Matthews and Buffalo Soldiers Museum Board President Angela Holder anchor the museum's small operation that presents plays and African-American history 
re-enactments to area schools and church groups.
Photo by Marco Torres
Captain Matthews and Buffalo Soldiers Museum Board President Angela Holder anchor the museum's small operation that presents plays and African-American history re-enactments to area schools and church groups.
Stick 'Em Up! director Alex Luster has been looking for the next full-length project since his documentary about Houston's street-poster artists sold out the River Oaks Theatre.
Photo by Marco Torres
Stick 'Em Up! director Alex Luster has been looking for the next full-length project since his documentary about Houston's street-poster artists sold out the River Oaks Theatre.

After cooking in New York at Charlie Palmer's Aureole and Danny Meyer's The Modern, Gallivan joined the staff at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in 2007. One of the first people he met was Siegel-Gardner, and the two would talk about opening a restaurant together, because of their like-minded takes on modern styles and flavors.

Each would move on from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay — Gallivan stayed in New York City, Siegel-Gardner lived in Chicago and London — so the two wouldn't cook together again until the Just August project, a pop-up restaurant that posted up in the Just Dinner space on Dunlavy Street in August 2010. The partnership went so well that Gallivan and his wife Annalea made the move to Houston last May. (For months, Terrence and Annalea piled into Seth and Hannah's place in the Heights. The couples have since moved into their own homes.)

Now here they are, in the former storage room of a clothing store, so close to the dream.

"All of our focus is developing this concept," says Gallivan, who steps on a creaky hardwood slat as he transports dirty knives and plates to a sink that's located across from a chocolate brown couch and love seat (a.k.a. the "office" part of the kitchen).

Siegel-Gardner, who hasn't had a steady paycheck in a year, seconds Gallivan's opinion, and explains that working out of the space has been a great way to trial-and-error.

"We've really been able to get to know each other and play off of each other's ideas," says Siegel-Gardner. "It doesn't always go over well, but we're comfortable with each other enough to say, 'I don't agree with you, but I'll support you so that it gets done and gets done right.'"

As for a location, Siegel-Gardner explains that the Montrose would be ideal.

"It's great, it's always going to be great. It would be a home run instantly," says Siegel-Gardner, who adds that he and Gallivan aren't ruling out spots in the East End and the Heights.

Though the location is unsettled, Gallivan says the single-minded focus on opening a restaurant is anything but.

"We would be foolish if we didn't have some trepidation," says Gallivan, "but we're both really confident that Houston is the place to do this."

steve.jansen@houstonpress.com

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1 comments
Marcofromhouston
Marcofromhouston

Congrats to the MasterMinds! Well deserved for sure!

Nice work, Steve.

 
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