Who are they?
Siegel-Gardner: I'm a Houstonian born and raised who's getting to run a restaurant in my hometown.
Gallivan: I'm a cook, I'm a husband and I'm learning how to be a business owner.
How did they end up doing what they do?
Siegel-Gardner: It was the only thing I was good at. It started out as a job and turned into a lifestyle. I think that's of becoming a cook. The lifestyle grabs hold of you.
It was important to me to find a home and a restaurant I really felt comfortable with. Once that happens, it takes hold of you and helps shape you. Getting to work side-by-side with Marcus Samuelsson was a big deal. It's important to work with people who are more talented than you. To use a sports metaphor, training with better athletes helps you become better. (Siegel-Gardner played lacrosse and football in high school.)
Gallivan: I kind of backed into it as a second job that helped pay bills and tuition, but fell for the camaraderie of the kitchen. After a few years, I knew I wanted to do it for a living. I was taken under the wing of a colleague and started to build a skill set. It's helpful to have someone to kick you in the ass and show you the right way of doing things. Blake Betham of Bistro Betham in Fredericksburg was one of those people. He said, "If you want to do this for a living, you've got to go to school or work for someone good."
What do they do?
Siegel-Gardner: I'm trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together every day. Day in and day out, that puzzle is to run a successful business the way we want to and not let the biz run us.
Gallivan: The corny but honest answer is I try to make our guests and employees happy. We try to put out a good product for people. Hopefully the people who work for and with us feel like they get something out of that. When it's all said and done, it's a good feeling to walk out the back door at night knowing it was a good service.
Why they love it:
Siegel-Gardner: I get to cook the food that Terrence and I want to cook every day. I get to work with a lot of my friends and see more friends every day when they come to our restaurant. I get to make new ones, too. One of the best things about the hospitality business is making people laugh -- in a good way.
Gallivan: It's a satisfying job in terms of being able to see someone enjoy what you create. It's very rewarding and part of why we want to do things our own way. You want to put your name to something and more directly have those relationships with your guests and employees.
What inspires them:
Siegel-Gardner: We get to create something every day. It's hard work, but we like the adrenaline...the challenge. Hopefully, we're creating a unique experience for people who eat here. Good or bad, we get an instant response from the guests. There are plenty of online ways to hear about it after the fact, too. We get to work hard, make something every day and get feedback on it.
Gallivan: Seth and I push each other back and forth and we draw from everyone else that we work with here. We'll have a conversation with Fred, our beverage director, about a wine he's brought in. Our sous chefs will discuss things. Even the restaurant in general inspires us. We'll remember ideas we talked about during the design phase. Something might happen during a service that pushes us in a different direction. "That's not working, but let's try it this way next time."
Houston inspires us, too. Look at all of our friends and colleagues. We're rooting for each other, but we're keeping each other in check and holding each other to a higher standard. That's the nature of the business. It's a friendly competition...you always want to push and pull. It's what drives us as cooks.
If not this, then what?
Siegel-Gardner: I've always been interested in the law. I have a philosophy degree and a minor in legal studies. I think architecture would be an interesting field to get into as well, but I can't really see myself anything different.
Gallivan: I'd be washing dishes. Nah, actually, before I was head over heels with the industry, I was a carpenter's apprentice for a few summers. I learned how to build walls. It's pretty cool to go back to a house a month later and see a family living there. It's affirmative. Building something with your hands and having people enjoy it is much like being a chef.
If not here, then where?
Siegel-Gardner: My wife would want us to move back to London. We had a great time there. It's a beautiful city with lots of history. I was a private chef there at one point for a very wealthy young person and I spent the rest of my time staging at Viajante, a Portugese fine dining restaurant.
Gallivan: I'd likely be back on the East Coast, maybe in Newark, D.C. or close to where I grew up in Virginia.
Siegel-Gardner: Well, we have our new restaurant opening up soon...that new location. Just kidding. Next for us is keeping the business. Growing the business. Making sure we're focusing all of our energy on the restaurant and employees. We also hope to find a little more balance in our lives. We've poured every ounce of energy into this place for the past year.
Gallivan: This is it. This is next. For us, it's a matter of always getting better at what you do. It's the challenge for every chef. We were very happy with the way we opened both restaurants and the staff we hired. We are lucky to be successful up to this point. It's up to us to give people reasons to keep coming back.
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