During her time in college, Shelby Sieg felt uninspired. Working toward a degree she had little interest in, she surprised herself when someone asked her to name the first happy career choice that popped into her head.

“I blurted out, ‘Pastry chef,’ and the rest is history,” Sieg says.

Today, as executive chef of The Pritchard in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District, Sieg tries her hand at a lot more than just pastries.

“When I heard about the concept and the location, I was excited to be involved,” she says. “My background is in pastry, so this was really my first jump into fully running the savory side of things. The menu is seasonal and fresh.

“We feature a lot of small plates and like to encourage the tapas style of eating where you order a few things, then maybe order a few more and just share it all with friends. It encourages a really social atmosphere that makes things a lot of fun. It’s definitely a place I would hang out at frequently, even if I didn’t work here.”

Sieg, who has lived in nine places around the world as the daughter of an Air Force general, earned her culinary chops at an early age while helping her mother with home-cooked meals – sometimes for a crowd.

“My mom was a phenomenal home cook, and my parents used to host large office parties at our house every year during the holidays,” she says. “Any sane person would have had a 50-plus-person party in their home catered, but my mom always cooked everything and it was always the most amazing food.”

Sieg brings that inspiration to the kitchen and turns it into magic. The menu constantly changes – dishes are seasonal, and Sieg says she gets bored and likes to create new fare – but some standbys, like Brussels sprouts with Spanish chorizo, have a permanent place in the lineup. One of Sieg’s latest creations is Frico Friulano, a dish she sampled in northeastern Italy and was eager to create.

“It’s essentially a mix of fluffy mashed potatoes with this incredible Italian cheese that gets all browned in a pan and topped with prosciutto di Parma,” she says. “I have been dreaming of it ever since I got back, so I finally decided to re-create it for our diners.”

Sieg thinks The Pritchard has found its home in a neighborhood that has boomed over the past decade.

“I love being part of the Plaza District family,” she says. “The restaurant concepts here really complement each other. There’s everything from great pizza to incredible ramen to every beer you could want. We feel like The Pritchard fits into that really well. We have the best wine selection around, unique and delicious food, and a casual vibe that really feels right in this district.”

The Pritchard is at 1749 N.W. 16th St. Reservations are available through OpenTable.

The Pritchard offers several small plates like the delicata squash with burrata and crispy sage. Photo by Brent Fuchs.

Delicata squash with burrata and crispy sage

1-2 whole – delicata squash

2 tablespoons – butter

Vegetable oil – varies on size of pot

6 – sage leaves

1 ball – burrata (cheese)

Cut squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds, then cut into 1-inch pieces resembling semicircles.

Place butter in a saute pan over medium heat and toast until golden brown. Do not let it go past this stage.

Add the squash and salt to taste. Cook the squash while tossing it every 2-3 minutes until tender and golden.

Fill a sauce pot with 1 inch of vegetable oil and heat to 350 degrees while the squash cooks.

Place sage leaves in hot oil and fry 10-15 seconds until crispy. Place leaves on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Place squash on a serving platter.

Top with a couple of hearty spoonfuls of burrata.

Finish with crispy sage leaves and large flake sea salt before serving.