Chef Philip Speer did not necessarily follow a traditional path on his way to becoming a chef. At 17, he had a close girlfriend whose father happened to be a pastry chef. “Their family was beautiful, French, awesome and amazing, and that’s how I discovered what I wanted to do,” Speer remembers. Her dad told me to “Go work in bakeries and learn the skill and craft of baking, then take that into restaurants.” Speer followed his advice. “I started working in scratch bakeries for five years straight in Austin and Houston before switching over to restaurants. Following that path gave me a few more tricks in my bag to bring into the restaurant kitchen.”
In Austin, Speer worked with noted chef and friend Shawn Cirkiel at Jean Luc’s Bistro before heading to Houston to help open the Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant Bank, under the direction of chef Bryan Caswell. In 2005 he made his way back to Austin and introduced himself to Uchi Chef Tyson Cole and the two decided to work together. Known early on for his savory and sweet desserts, the culture of collaboration at Uchi coupled with his own need to push the envelope allowed for Speer to have input on all menus, not just desserts. Over the years of menu development with Paul (Qui) and Tyson Cole on both sides of the kitchen, Speer learned more about how the kitchen worked and took it upon himself, “to learn everything there was to know about the restaurant because I was so in love with it,” he says.
This love of Uchi culture and his personal drive led him to take on the role of Culinary Director in addition to his Executive Pastry Chef duties. During Speer’s tenure at Uchi he racked up 4 semifinalist nominations in the James Beard Foundation Outstanding Pastry Chef category as well StarChef.com Rising Star Pastry Chef in 2012 and a listing among Zagat’s National Power Players 2014. Speer has received awards in the Austin Chronicle, the Austin-American-Statesman and Texas Monthly as well as national recognition in Bon Appetit, Food + Wine, Cooks Illustrated, and U.S.A. Today. Today, Speer is working on a concept in his home neighborhood of North Austin aimed at the growing area’s need for a great full-service, everyday restaurant.