Meet the team
James Siao’s culinary journey started in a somewhat unlikely place: In Ohio, working at his father’s Chinese restaurant. His natural talent for the restaurant business has taken him across time zones and oceans, all the way to the gastronomical mecca of Santa Barbara. After finishing culinary school in Pittsburgh, James ran a number of small restaurants in his home state, then headed west. Settling in Arizona, he worked as chef de cuisine at Taggia at the Firesky Resort in Scottsdale. We’ve been lucky to have him with us ever since.
James took a brief hiatus from Taggia to travel to Italy to help a friend open a restaurant there, and he returned to his kitchen armed with new flavors and new ideas. In 2012, he relocated to Santa Barbara to become the executive chef at Coast, which later evolved into Finch & Fork. Both at Finch & Fork and now at Outpost at the Goodland in Goleta, James once again took inspiration from his surroundings and crafted a menu that reflects the incredible variety and quality of the ingredients of the California coast. Working with fishermen, farmers and ranchers, James champions regional, sustainable ingredients and translates them into crave-worthy classics like steak tartare, yellowtail ceviche and more.
In his free time, you will find James participating in local charitable events like Share Our Strength's Chefs Cycle, or planning a restaurant recon mission to San Francisco or L.A. to check out what his peers are up to.
Lead Bartender Mary Valdez
When it comes to crafting the perfect cocktail, Mary Valdez knows the importance of balancing respect for tradition with experimentation. “You can’t be afraid to get funky with it,” says the bartending veteran, who’s been with Outpost from the very beginning. “Some things don’t seem like they would make sense together and end up being the best combinations.”
It doesn’t hurt that she’s got all of California’s seasonal bounty at her fingertips. “I’d consider myself a ‘farm to bar’ kind of girl,” says Mary, who’s been experimenting with summery farmers-market produce in seasonal drinks like the Rhubarbarian, a refreshingly spicy and citrus-forward sipper made with El Jimador blanco, Cointreau, togarashi and her own rhubarb syrup and rhubarb bitters.
Mary’s two loves--agave spirits and beer cocktails--come together in creations like the Easy Like Sunday Morning, a take on the classic Mexican Paloma made with a grapefruit IPA brewed right here in Goleta. Mary has honed her approach over nearly ten years in the business, crafting menus that are as fresh, local and innovative as Santa Barbara itself.