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Chef Seth Stowaway on honing creativity and craving togetherness

Cover Image for Chef Seth Stowaway on honing creativity and craving togetherness
By Sophie Brochu
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Categories:Interview

Osito, the highly-anticipated live-fire tasting menu restaurant from chef Seth Stowaway, opens its doors in mid-October. Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, Osito, which means ‘little bear’ (and doubles as Stowaway’s nickname) will focus on California bounty, communal dining, and Tex-Mex inspiration. See what chef Stowaway has to say about creative limitations, his San Antonio roots, and the responsibility of a chef.

Tock: Care, love, and comfort are mentioned in Osito’s bio. Why are these central elements to the restaurant and how will they manifest?

Stowaway: It’s about the intentionality behind the way we run the restaurant. For our guests, it’s in the way we greet you, speak to you, and serve you. Making you feel like you are in a familiar place while presenting you with something new. For our staff, it’s remembering that we are here to be of service and teach something valuable.

Live-fire cooking. Photo by Alexa Treviño.

Tock: In one of Osito’s posts on Instagram the caption reads, “In order to be truly creative, you have to put parameters on yourself.” Can you talk more about this and how it relates to live-fire cooking?

Stowaway: It’s easy to seem like you are very creative when you have all of the tools and gadgets at your disposal, but I think limiting yourself forces a certain kind of creativity and focus. That is one reason for the fire, to limit ourselves and shift the focus to making sure that what is on the plate is perfect.

 

“It’s easy to seem like you are very creative when you have all of the tools and gadgets at your disposal.”

Tock: Speaking of creativity, you’re a former rocker. What will the playlist be like at Osito? And what kind of overlap exists in cooking and playing music?

Stowaway: I am still a musician. Music is a big part of our experience. My wife, Danielle, curates full albums to flow with the evening. We love all kinds of music. You will definitely hear things like John Coltrane, Brazil 66, Tinariwen, Neil Young, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, El Michels Affair, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Curtis Harding. Really all kinds of music.

 

Stowaway and team at a pop-up dinner. Photo by Alexa Treviño.

Tock: Are your San Antonio roots a major factor in the menu?

Stowaway: It definitely plays a role in who I am, the cultures I grew up around. I am much more likely to reach for dry corn than pasta. Our cocktail bar, Liliana, which is connected to the restaurant will have things that remind me of being young.

Tock: You cite chef Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s as a mentor. What’s the most important lesson you learned from him?

Stowaway: That being a chef is a responsibility. It is the responsibility of transferring information from one generation to another.

 

“Being a chef is a responsibility. It is the responsibility of transferring information from one generation to another.”

Tock: You’ve been hosting pop-up dinners over the past year. It was obviously a challenging time for everyone. What do you take away from this time?

Stowaway: The big takeaway is that we crave togetherness. It has profound meaning when someone comes to the pop-up and says “this is our first time out in over a year, thank you for making it so special.” We have seen so many tears, it is really moving.

 

Photo by Alexa Treviño.

Tock: Osito will open its doors in October. I’m sure there are a million things to do. How are you filling your days until then?

Stowaway: Too much to name it all now, haha. We just want to make sure we have all the details figured out. We want to bring staff into a well-organized space with structure and transparency, so everyone understands the decisions we make.

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