Whether You’re an Employee or a Guest, the Tableseide Restaurant Group Creates a Warm and Inviting Family Feeling For All
For a lot of us, what we seek during the holidays does not necessarily come in pretty wrappings. Rather, it is the gift of knowing that wherever we go for our celebration, those who care about us will welcome us gladly and feel that no holiday would be complete without us. That family feeling is what makes the holidays so special.
The ability to create that comfortable familial warmth – along with really great food, which the holidays also are all about – is a key underpinning to the success the Seidenstickers have achieved locally with their family-run Tableseide restaurant group (941.487.7300/tableseide.com). Starting in 2008 with one restaurant, Libby’s in Southside Village, Tableseide now employs more than 300 people locally in five restaurants, an events company and venue, and a consulting business. Those include Libby’s, Louies Modern, and the new Oak & Stone on Cooper Creek Boulevard, which has the region’s largest RFID technology wall of self-serve craft beers. They also now manage Muse and the Banyan Café at The Ringling. Their events business includes Modern Events and The Francis in downtown Sarasota.
Steve Seidensticker and his children, Joe, Patrick and Lisa, and their partner Jeff Greco remain very hands-on in the day-to-day business. One key secret to their success is the ability to create that feeling of family belonging not just in their restaurants, but also among their employees. Some Tableseide employees have offered a glimpse into life at Tableseide and into their own lives and holiday traditions. For many of them, Christmas is the big holiday, since the restaurant is closed that day, while Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days in the hospitality industry, so just about everyone is working.
Molly Moore is Manager of Louies Modern, the Seidenstickers’ downtown Sarasota food-centric take on fine dining with an urban vibe. Moore’s relationship with the Seidensticker family goes back to the early days when she started as a server at Libby’s in 2008, working her way up to bartender. Eventually she decided to get her master’s degree in hospitality management from the University of South Florida and then went to work for a local resort.
“I just came back about 10 months ago. I had recently updated my resume for a job search when I ran into Steve on the beach, and he found the perfect spot for me at Louies Modern,” she says. “We’re kind of like a second family to each other. Steve is like an uncle to me. Back in the early days, I wasn’t exactly mature yet and was still making mistakes. He could have replaced me, but didn’t. Its like the unconditional love and understanding of a family member, and they do not so easily let someone go. I’m thankful they gave me all those chances because it allowed me to grow.”
This time of year Moore reminds herself that although the holidays are a time of connecting with a loving spirit, she also has the opportunity to do that all year in every circumstance, not just at church. Christmas Day she spends with her parents, decorating their condo, making silly cookies and listening to old John Denver tunes and the Muppets.
Ryan Hill, who is the Event Director for Modern Events and The Francis, started at Libby’s on the same day Moore did. Hill was still finding himself career-wise, and while at Libby’s began helping with events, which led him to consider going to college to study meeting and event planning. “The business at Libby’s was the most familial work environment I was ever in. We were close and still are,” he says. “Steve has gone above and beyond to help me in my personal life. He’s been my mentor, and Lisa is with my family all the time and I’m always with hers.”
Hill passes that familial feeling along to clients through his genuine enjoyment of being part of the special events in their lives and making their day as beautiful as he can. When he was considering entering college to pursue event management as a profession, Steve told him he was opening The Francis downtown and encouraged Hill to stay for a real world education. “They gave me the reins to express my passion for throwing events,” Hill says. “Having a secondary family where I get to express my creativity and passion in an environment that’s like family means I can’t imagine working somewhere else.”
Hill’s focus on food and family was shaped growing up in Ohio where holidays were spent with a large extended family on an aunt and uncle’s rural property, complete with log cabin, and at his grandmother’s house. “My grandmother was the original farm to table. She grew everything,” he says. Spending time with her and his aunts in the kitchen fueled his delight in giving clients a great culinary experience.
Large family gatherings have also been an important part of the holidays for Claudia Chuqizuta, who is the Controller for Tableseide. Chuqizuta is originally from Peru and many members of her father’s family live in the area. In their holiday tradition, Christmas celebrations begin at midnight on Christmas Eve. “There are about 30 people when we get together. Everyone is in charge of bringing a dish, and we wait until midnight,” she says. “Then, we celebrate like it’s a party with tons of gifts. It can take us until 4 a.m. to open presents.”
Chuqizuta came to Tableseide three years ago after having completed her bachelor’s degree in accounting and working for a larger hotel chain as food and beverage manager and in accounting. “Where I worked before was more of a corporate structure. It was a good company, but here it is very family-oriented. They care a lot about their employees, and you can have a good time as long as you are being responsible,” she says. “I’m very thankful for this job. They are always caring and asking about what is going on with you. It’s very personal.” Although Chuqizuta’s responsibilities are in the office, she does get out to the restaurants frequently and has a favorite dish, Libby’s Four Cheese and Pear Tortelloni with white truffle cream.
As Executive Chef for Louies Modern, Jose Rojas is responsible for the many dishes that people like Chuqizuta and others have come to love. Rojas has been working in restaurants since he was 14 years old and began working at Libby’s in 2009. He joined Louies Modern where he worked his way up from line cook to sous chef, and now is responsible for everything from ordering products to ensuring the line is properly set up for service.
A restaurant kitchen is known for being a high-pressure environment because there is so much going on, but at Tableseide, it’s different. “I feel pressure about work because of my work ethic. Their approach to us is not just as our bosses, they really care about you. They know me well and so know if I’m having a bad day and will ask if there is something they can do to help. Not just with me, but everyone,” Rojas says. “You can see everyone come to work happy and leave happy. The people I started with at Louies Modern four years ago are still with me.”
In one instance, Rojas said he was helping a friend who was working to feed the homeless. “When Steve found out about it, he helped me. That says a lot about all the family,” he says. “They also push me to get past my fears because they believe in me, and that feels good.” That familial feeling is even more important to him as much of his own family is in Mexico City, where he grew up. His sister and her children are in this area, however, and he relishes time he can spend with them. Rojas devotes his time on Christmas to cooking. Like Chuqizuta, their tradition is to start the holiday feast at midnight. “Thanksgiving is also very important to me. Everyone eats earlier that day, so I can usually spend the rest of the night at my sister’s house,” he says. “There is so much to thank God for.”
Continuing to grow beyond Sarasota is very much the plan for the Seidenstickers, as is expanding its consulting business for hotels, clubs and other hospitality businesses, including a new Westin hotel planned for the Vue Sarasota Bay building and a Hyatt concept in Fort Lauderdale, according to Joe Seidensticker. “Sarasota is very important to us, and we’d like to grow with Sarasota as the hub. I do think we can keep that family feeling as we grow,” he says. “The people who are with us have been involved in what we’ve accomplished and appreciate our standards. They are behind our culture of putting that great experience number one, and that doesn’t change.”