P&P chef's new home
Pass & Provisions star chef reunites with Local Foods owner to helm culinary operations
One of Houston’s top chefs has joined a prominent local restaurant group. Seth Siegel-Gardner is the new culinary and creative director for Benjy Levit’s restaurants — a group that includes sandwich and salad concept Local Foods, gourmet grocer Local Foods Market, French restaurant Eau Tour, wine bar Lees Den, and Maximo Canteen, a new Mexican restaurant that will open in the former El Topo space.
Best known for his time as the co-owner of The Pass & Provisions, Siegel-Gardner also brings experience working for celebrity chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Gordon Ramsay. Most recently, he’s served as culinary director for the Southern Smoke Foundation. He’s also a co-owner of the Marfa Spirit Co. with Agricole Hospitality co-owner Morgan Weber and Josh Shepard.
Siegel-Gardner and Levit have worked together in the past, including in 2019 when the chef helped revamp the menu for Benjy’s restaurant in Rice Village. In his new role, he’ll work with the company’s existing chefs, including Local Foods chef-partner Dylan Murray, on everything from menu development to staffing and HR. He’s also working with Levit on what he describes as “long term crazy ideas.”
What does that mean, chef?
“A very crazy idea is wanting to build a gym — wellness, food, fitness — figuring out a way we could get into that space,” he says.
What about opening a new restaurant of your own that would build on the legacy of The Pass & Provisions, widely considered one of Houston's best during its run from 2012-19?
“That’s always a possibility. I’ve got a million ideas in my head of concepts I would love to do,” he says. “A lot of times it’s a little more strategic thinking about timing and then creating longevity for the concept. Wanting to build iconic restaurants instead of flash in the pan restaurants.”
In the short term, he’s working with chef Tony Luhrman on the evolution of his Mexican restaurant El Topo into Maximo Canteen. As CultureMap reported this summer, Luhrman partnered with Levit on the project, which was originally going to be called Teshica. Although details are still being finalized, Siegel-Gardner does share a few things they’re working on for the restaurant.
“One of the biggest pushes we’re giving Tony will be the way it feels inside. We’re totally gutting it. It will be a different service style,” he says.
Plans also call for expanding the restaurant’s taco offerings that are made with heirloom corn tortillas. Specifically, Maximo will add fish tacos to El Topo’s existing roster.
“I think Berryhill left a huge vacuum when they left town. I crave fish tacos all the time,” he says. “We need a great place to do that. Tony is already making incredible tortillas. We have great relationships with Frixos [Chrisinis of Blue Horizon Wholesale Seafood] and other seafood vendors. Let’s get all these people together to own that space a little bit.”
While the chef’s daily involvement with Southern Smoke has come to an end, he says he’ll always remain affiliated with the organization. Towards that end, Eau Tour will serve a crispy pork rillette with champagne cane vinegar reduction throughout November; the restaurant will donate 100-percent of the dish’s proceeds to Southern Smoke. He’ll also continue to participate in fundraiser such as one this week at Riel.
Eau Tour will serve these pork rilettes in November.Photo by Kent Domas
“Whenever they need me, they know to pick up the neon yellow Southern Smoke bat phone. I will always answer,” he says.