Ann Redding was born in Thailand, but came to Thai cooking in a roundabout way. Redding’s first job was at her mother’s friend's restaurant. She was 14, a waitress, and terrible at it.
A bad waitress, maybe, but Redding was sure she wanted to cook—just not Thai food, necessarily. Born in Ubon Ratchathani, Redding grew up in Thailand and the Philippines, eventually moving with her family to the United States. Redding studied at the Institute of Culinary Education before taking her first cooking jobs at places such as Amuse, Jewel Bako, La Esquina, and Per Se, which she joined several weeks after its opening.
Cooking at Per Se not only helped Redding pad out an already illustrious résumé, it introduced her to her future husband, Matt Danzer, who had also come on board for the restaurant’s opening. When the duo decided to open a restaurant, Redding still didn’t go in a Thai direction. Instead, they ran a store and café on Shelter Island. But that kind of seasonal work allowed Redding to take Danzer to Thailand during slow winters. These trips were the inspiration for Uncle Boons. Named for Redding’s uncle, the restaurant isn’t a region-specific or academically nuanced study in Thai cuisine. It’s Thai cooking the way Redding (and now Danzer) crave it—the way Redding, loaded with modern technique and fond food memories, recalls it. In 2015, Redding earned a StarChefs Rising Star Concept Chef Award for her work at Uncle Boons.
In one sense, Matt Danzer hasn’t traveled far from home. Born and raised on the North Fork of Long Island, Danzer now co-owns a restaurant in Manhattan with his wife, fellow chef Ann Redding. It may seem like Danzer simply hopped the East River, but his culinary journey has taken him significantly farther afield.
A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, one of Danzer’s first jobs out of culinary school called him farther away, and for good reason—when Thomas Keller calls, chefs tend to answer, which found Danzer working at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. When Keller opened his New York flagship Per Se, Danzer followed back to New York, arriving just in time for the restaurant’s opening.
He also arrived just in time to meet Redding, who would not only become his wife but future partner. Looking to work on a project together, the duo eventually moved back to Danzer’s native Long Island, running a store and café on Shelter Island for five years. And while the intense seasonal schedule proved a bit demanding—nothing Keller-pedigreed chefs aren’t prepared for—it also left time for the duo to travel to Redding’s native Thailand, where Danzer fell in love with Thai cuisine and the liberally creative, shamelessly crave-inducing concept for Uncle Boons was born. In 2015, Danzer earned a StarChefs Rising Star Concept Chef Award for his work at the restaurant.