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Chef Chat, Part 1: Seth Siegel-Gardner of Kata Robata

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Shortly after naming Kata Robata (3600 Kirby Dr, 713-526-8858) Houston's best new restaurant, we learned that they were getting a new chef: Seth Siegel-Gardner, a native Houstonian.

EOW had the chance to speak with Siegel-Gardner in early December, just as he was rolling out his new menu. Siegel-Gardner is making some very interesting changes to the menu. We got the scoop on his extensive culinary background.

Eating Our Words: Hello Seth! It's wonderful to meet the new chef of one of my favorite restaurants. How long have you been here so far?

Seth Siegel-Gardner: It's been five weeks, six weeks now.

EOW: And what were you doing before that?

SSG: Before that we were doing the August Project.

EOW: What is the August Project?

SSG: It's the pop-up restaurant with two of my good friends, Terrence and Justin. Justin is from Houston. We took over a space for one month and operated it and basically did whatever we wanted to do. It was kind if an anti-restaurant restaurant.

EOW: How was that? Did you enjoy it?

SSG: It was an interesting experience. Someone asked me the other day if I would do it again and I would definitely have to think long and hard about it before I would. It was a lot of work, and it was just a lot of things you don't even think about that happen in a restaurant. Every day we were covering everything, the three of us in the kitchen, and my wife, taking the trash out, scrubbing pots and pans, running to the store to buy stuff we had forgotten. We had a lot of help from my family.

EOW: What type of food did you serve?

SSG: It was just a set tasting menu. It was usually eight or nine courses, BYOB, and we tried to use as much local products as we could. We would go to the market every week. The coffee guy was doing our coffee service for us. I don't know exactly. When anyone asks me what kind of restaurant it was, it wasn't a farm-to-table restaurant. We weren't necessarily about doing the "right" thing. If it's available in Houston, why not just buy it in Houston? More restaurants need to buy their pork from Revival Meats and get their Cheese from the Dairymaids.

EOW: I agree. What were you doing before you did this intriguing anti-restaurant restaurant?

SSG: Living in London. I spent about a year there while my wife was finishing up her master's in economics. I was staging at restaurants and working as a private chef.

EOW: What is the food culture like in London?

SSG: People are out all the time. It's the pub culture. Everyone is at the pub on Sunday. There are some really amazing cheap eats and then there are some of the best restaurants in the world.

Check back tomorrow when we seek Siegel-Gardner's opinion on culinary school, and find out what the future holds for Kata Robata.

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