Sunday may have been the night when Houston's restaurant community gathered to celebrate Donna and Tony Vallone's 50 years in business, but some more recent arrivals made the biggest splash at My Table Magazine's 2015 Houston Culinary Awards.
My Table selected the Vallones as the winner of the prestigious Legends of Houston Restaurants Award. In a short speech, Tony Vallone thanked people for their support and also acknowledged the presence of others at the ceremony who helped shaped dining in Houston such as Master Sommelier Guy Stout and El Meson chef/owner Peter Garcia.
As for questions about whether he'll retire, "I want them to carry me out with a fish in one hand and pasta in the other," Vallone declared to thunderous applause.
A portion of the evening’s proceeds benefited the Grant Gordon Foundation, which addresses issues in the medical field that further suicide prevention among those suffering from neurological diseases such as MS. Gordon served as executive chef at both Tony's and Vallone's prior to his death in 2014.
Midtown hotspot Weights + Measures took home three awards: Favorite Late Night Spot, Best Interior Design and Outstanding Bar Service. Expressing her excitement, bar manager Judith Piotrowski's acceptance speech including a couple of well-chosen expletives that had host St. John Flynn joking about two bleeps if the event were being broadcast by his employer Houston Public Media.
Elsewhere, Ronnie Killen added Restaurateur of the Year to the Chef of the Year and Favorite Barbecue honors he took home in 2014. Ryan Pera, the culinary force behind Coltivare, Revival Market and the upcoming 8-Row Flint icehouse, won Chef of the Year.
Holley's Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar won Best New Restaurant in a crowded field that included BCN Taste & Tradition, Pax Americana and Peska Seafood Culture.
As always, the awards' finalists are selected by a committee of writers (including this author) and sponsors, but winners are selected by My Table readers in an online vote.
The nature of the categories sometimes produces some surprising results, as in The Pass & Provisions chef/owners Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan winning Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year two years after they won Restaurateur of the Year and less than two weeks after the duo landed the top spot on Chronicle critic Alison Cook's 100 favorite restaurants list.
However, both chefs meet the category's requirement of being 35 or younger.
While some will always quibble with specific results, the awards are always an entertaining evening that allows the hard working people in the restaurant industry to dress up and celebrate their accomplishments. Let's do it again next year.
The full list of Sunday night's winners follows:
Houston Culinary Awards
Restaurateur Of The Year: Ronnie Killen, Killen's Barbecue/Killen's Steakhouse
Chef Of The Year: Ryan Pera, Coltivare/Revival Market
Up-And-Coming Chef Of The Year: Terrance Gallivan & Seth Siegel-Gardner, The Pass & Provisions
Outstanding Wine Service: Underbelly
Pastry Chef Of The Year: Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar
Outstanding Bar Service: Weights + Measures
Service Person Of The Year: Steven McDonald, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
Houston Classic: Backstreet Cafe
Best Interior Design: Weights + Measures
Best New Restaurant: Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar
Houston Foodie Star Awards
Favorite Bakery: Petite Sweets
Favorite Barbecue: Jackson Street BBQ
Favorite Bartender: Terry Williams, Anvil Bar & Refuge
Favorite Breakfast: La Guadalupana
Favorite Burger: Pappas Burger
Favorite Coffeehouse: Common Bond
Favorite Farmer’s Market Vendor: Blue Heron Farm
Favorite Food Truck: Tacos Tierra Caliente
Favorite Late Night Spot: Weights + Measures
Favorite Mom & Pop Ethnic: Arnaldo Richards’ Picos
Favorite Outdoor Dining: The Grove
Favorite Pub Or Bar: Julep
Favorite Supermarket: Sprouts Farmers Market
Favorite Sweets/Ice Cream: Cloud 10 Creamery
Favorite Wine Seller: Richard’s Liquors & Fine Wines