Welcome to the eleventh installment of the Food Republic serial, The Worst Idea Ever?, in which chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan set out to open a restaurant in Houston, Texas as Pilot Light Restaurant Group. This installment features a trip to NYC and a revelation about why they’re in it to win it.

Last week Terrence and I flew to New York City for the annual StarChefs International Culinary Congress. There were legendary chef speakers from all over the world giving demonstrations alongside manufacturers of some of the newest high-end kitchen equipment.

We had no hotel rooms booked or guaranteed places to stay. We were there to see friends in the industry, take a few meetings, get some much needed advice, demonstrate a pizza oven, compete in a blender competition, and have a few drinks along the way. Of those 68 hours we were in the city, 40 minutes stand out as one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had.

There we stood, with luggage in tow (we planned on sleeping at the airport) at a restaurant party. The New York City Michelin guide 2012 results had just been announced — who got how many stars, and so on — and we were leaning against the end of the bar looking out over one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city. The energy in the room was contagious. Waiters and waitresses were hugging, guests were clapping, our friend and Chef de Cuisine was being congratulated by hordes of friends and family that had stopped whatever they were doing that evening to be there. Eleven Madison Park had won its third and most prestigious Michelin star. They were on top of the world. The chef poured from the nebuchadnezzar of champagne into plastic keg cups for everyone to share, as fried chicken came from the kitchen.

As we drank and ate, and stole a piece of that euphoria, we both knew we wanted “this.” “This” didn’t mean becoming one of the best restaurants in the world; rather, we wanted that feeling of pride and accomplishment in not only ourselves but our staff and our guests.

Houston has great restaurants but we need more, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to open ours as soon as we can. 


Read the previous installment of The Worst Idea Ever, The Importance of the Intermezzo.