When it comes to hosting pop-ups with out of town chefs, no restaurant in Houston does a better job than Fluff Bake Bar’s “Dinner With My Friends” series. After a strong first year that featured mostly Texas-based chefs like Philip Speer (the upcoming Bonhomie in Austin) and Matt McCallister (FT33 in Dallas), chef-owner Rebecca Masson, affectionately known as the Sugar Hooker, has stepped things up for year two by recruiting all-star roster of chefs from New York City, New Orleans, and other places beyond the Red River.
The six-course meals always occur on a Monday night when Fluff is closed. Unlike the first year when Masson had a personal connection to every chef, this year she enlisted some help from Charleston-based publicist Angel Postell to broaden her reach and recruit a couple of chefs she hasn’t met yet.
“I put together a list of the people I knew I wanted to invite, and then (Postell) reached out to people in her network and put together a list of possibilities,” Masson tells CultureMap. “We would go back and look at them, check them out. Some of them I knew their names right off the bat. Some I didn’t know their names, but I would read their bios and be like ‘this person looks really interesting. Let’s invite them.’”
Year two also features a charitable component, as 10 percent of proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry program. Masson serves as pastry chair for the Houston edition of the nationwide fundraiser, which raised almost $100,000 locally in 2016.
The series kicked off with San Francisco chef Richie Nakano in January and continues Monday with Reef chef-owner Bryan Caswell and his wife Jennifer. Two of Texas’ recently-announced James Beard award semifinalists, Steve McHugh (Cured in San Antonio) and John Tesar (Knife in Dallas), will also participate in the series, but Masson cites Jimmy Bradley from The Red Cat in New York City as the one she’s the most excited about.
“That’s my old boss and probably my favorite person I’ve ever worked for,” Masson says. “That’s the most near and dear to my heart, because I get to show him what I’ve made. He helped me several times by talking to me about business.”
Other participants include James Beard award winner Ryan Prewitt (Peche in New Orleans), James Beard Best Chef: Midwest semifinalist nominee Kevin Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe, St. Louis), and Top Chef veteran Grayson Schmitz. The meals typically cost about $100 per person, plus tax, tip, and pairings.
Sommeliers Cat Nguyen (Republic National) and William Meznarich (Victory Wine Group) will take turns creating wine pairings for each meal. If a chef expresses an interest in beer pairings instead of wine, Masson says she hopes to cajole Joshua Justice of The Flying Saucer downtown into making the selections.
Of course, the dinner pop-ups don't mean an end to Masson's Saturday morning bake sales. Recently, Masson has branched out from pastry chefs by inviting more savory chefs (Roost’s Kevin Naderi), restaurateurs (Lee Ellis of Cherry Pie Hospitality), and members of the culinary community (Lisa Seger of Blue Heron Farm) to contribute ideas. She’s even threatening to rope a food writer or two into the mix.
Keep an eye on the Fluff Bake Bar website for upcoming bake sales participants and on-sale dates for tickets to the remaining Dinner With My Friends meals.
Here’s the full roster for 2017:
- February 20: Jennifer and Bryan Caswell, Reef, Houston
- March 20: David Uygur, Lucia, Dallas
- April 18: Grayson Schmitz, New York
- May 15: Jason Neroni, The Rose, Los Angeles
- June 19: John Tesar, Knife, Dallas
- July 17: Sarah Simmons and Aaron Hopkins, Birds & Bubbles, New York
- August 21: Steve McHugh, Cured, San Antonio
- September 18: Ryan Prewitt, Peche, New Orleans
- October 16: Spencer Gomez, Holeman and Finch Public House, Atlanta
- November 13: Jimmy Bradley, The Red Cat, New York
- December 18: Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Café, St. Louis