Leaving a Legacy: Remembering Steve Seidensticker

Community

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY WEDNESDAY PHILANTHROPY EDITION WEDNESDAY AUG 15, 2018

There’s an empty seat at the head of the table in Sarasota’s culinary community with the passing of one of Sarasota’s most prominent and successful restaurateurs, Steve Seidensticker, after being diagnosed with an advanced cancer in January 2018.

A familiar face in the Gulf Coast foodie world, Seidensticker’s fingerprints can be found all over the local dining scene. From his first restaurant, the stylish yet laidback Libby’s Café & Bar, opening in 2008 and named for his mother, through all the subsequent ventures he would set out on with his family and friends—Louies Modern (named for his father), Muse at the Ringling and Oak & Stone—the Seidensticker name became synonymous with high concept and high quality, and the Tableseide Restaurant Group became one of the defining forces in the dining landscape.

But Seidensticker’s multifaceted legacy goes beyond the table, and tells the tale of a man deeply devoted to his community and family. He began serving as chairman for the Jewish Children and Family Services board in 2016, and, last year, took the ultimate hands-on approach to helping his community and became permanent guardian to one of Sarasota’s chronically homeless, a 61-year-old man named Michael Smith. An early success of the Comprehensive Treatment Court program, designed to help identify offenders suffering from mental illness and direct them towards support and assistance as opposed to incarceration, Seidensticker’s extra effort could have made all the difference. "[Steve] was relentless in finding solutions, undeterred by roadblocks and he welcomed the opportunity to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty," says Judge Erika Quartermaine of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, who referred Smith to the CTC program and then Seidensticker as guardian. "His legacy is that of pure selflessness, hard work and generosity," she says.

In recent years, Seidensticker stepped back from restaurant operations and focused his efforts on the philanthropic wing of the enterprise, Tableseide Cares, including spearheading plans for a Newtown restaurant, Miss Susie’s, designed to help revitalize the area and bring youth employment opportunities.

But through it all, culinary success and community acclaim, it appeared to be family that Seidensticker prized most, and the restaurateur is survived a thriving family that includes three adult children, Joe, Lisa and Pat, who all help run Tableseide Restaurant Group, which remained a serious point of pride for the man. In an interview with SRQ in 2014, Seidensticker barely mentioned his restaurants or the food, instead devoting his time to bragging about his children.

“I have watched Lisa, Joe and Pat do what they do with great pride,” he told SRQ. “It makes me very proud as a father to see how dedicated they are to the businesses. We work 60 to 70 hours a week. I’ve seen a lot of restaurant families that don’t do that, but we’re committed.” Together, the children were a perfect team, he said, “They all have their gifts.”

Seidensticker was 65.

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