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My Table Awards honor critic and restaurant that banned her — along with winners galore

My Table award winners include critic and restaurant that banned her

My Table Houston Culinary Awards Travis Lenig Matt Marcus Liberty Kitchen
Up-and-Coming Chef winner Travis Lenig, left, with Eatsie Boys chef Matt Marcus and Greg Scheinman. Photo by Kim Coffman
Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette interior with crowd
Liberty Kitchen won the award for best interior design. Photo by © Julie Soefer/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
My Table Houston Culinary Awards Teresa Byrne Dodge Alison Cook
Teresa Byrne-Dodge with Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook and a mayoral proclamation.  Photo by Kim Coffman
Chris Shepherd Teresa Byrne Dodge Tracy Vaught My Table Houston Culinary Awards 2014
Underbelly chef/owner Chris Shepherd and Teresa Byrne-Dodge, left, with Restaurateur of the Year winner Tracy Vaught.  Photo by Kim Coffman
My Table Houston Culinary Awards Nara Donald Chang
Donald Chang's braised pork shank with kimchi was the night's best dish.  Photo by Kim Coffman
My Table Houston Culinary Awards Sam Ray Teresa Byrne Dodge Laurie Sheddan Leslie Ross Triniti Phaedra Cook
My Table Publisher Teresa Byrne-Dodge, left, with Triniti bartenders Laurie Sheddan and Leslie Ross. Photo by Kim Coffman
My Table Houston Culinary Awards
Over 300 people filled a ballroom at the Houstonian hotel.  Photo by Kim Coffman
My Table Houston Culinary Awards Travis Lenig Matt Marcus Liberty Kitchen
Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette interior with crowd
My Table Houston Culinary Awards Teresa Byrne Dodge Alison Cook
Chris Shepherd Teresa Byrne Dodge Tracy Vaught My Table Houston Culinary Awards 2014
My Table Houston Culinary Awards Nara Donald Chang
My Table Houston Culinary Awards Sam Ray Teresa Byrne Dodge Laurie Sheddan Leslie Ross Triniti Phaedra Cook
My Table Houston Culinary Awards

Never let it be said that the readers of My Table magazine lack a sense of humor. At Sunday night's annual Houston Culinary Awards gala, the magazine celebrated Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook by bestowing on her the Legends of Houston Restaurants Award. 

However, the night's big winner was a restaurant that has famously banned Cook from dining at it; River Oaks-area restaurant Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette took home Best New Restaurant, Best Interior Design and Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year. The restaurant defeated such luminaries as Coltivare, Caracol and Common Bond for best new, while chef Travis Lenig triumphed over a who's who of well-known Houston chefs that included Oxheart's Justin Yu, Tony's chef de cuisine Kate McLean and Uchi's Kaz Edwards. 

 Would their shared good fortune mean that Liberty is ready to bury the hatchet with Cook? "No comment," said Lenig.  

Would their shared good fortune mean that Liberty is ready to bury the hatchet with Cook? "No comment," said Lenig. 

The night's other big winners included Triniti, which shed its unofficial Susan Lucci status of being frequently nominated and never awarded by taking home Outstanding Bar Service for Ladies of Libation Laurie Sheddan and Leslie Ross and Service Person of the Year for popular server Michael Fulmer, who encouraged the magazine to consider replacing his individual award with one that recognizes teams. Ross encouraged the attendees to check out Sanctuari, the new bar concept within Triniti, when it opens in November.

As for the night's top prize, Tracy Vaught earned her second Restaurateur of the Year award for Caracol, Hugo's and Backstreet Cafe. Adding barbecue to his repertoire proved to be a good move for Ronnie Killen; he won Best Barbecue and the highly coveted Chef of the Year. Although it may not have earned Best New Restaurant, Common Bond has made enough of an impression on Houstonians to win both Best Bakery and Pastry Chef of the Year for Roy Shvartzapel.

The ceremony was light on those sort of unpleasant surprises of suspect winners with one exception. Trader Joe's defeating Revival Market and a host of well-regarded ethnic grocery stories in the Favorite Supermarket category was met with silence from the crowd of mostly restaurant industry insiders who filled a ballroom at the Houstonian hotel. 

In accepting her award, Cook acknowledged the gap between critics and cooks but assured her audience that their work is what inspires her. Remarking on all the ways Houston has changed since she arrived from Vermont to attend Rice University, she observed that the city is in the midst of developing a culinary identity that's as distinct as New Orleans' celebrated cuisine. 

"I can’t wait to see what happens next," she said.

Houston Culinary Awards

Restaurateur of the Year: Tracy Vaught
Chef of the Year: Ronnie Killen
Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year: Travis Lenig
Outstanding Wine Service: Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
Pastry Chef of the Year: Roy Shvartzapel
Outstanding Bar Service: Triniti
Service Person of the Year: Michael Fulmer
Houston Classic: Vic & Anthony's
Best Interior Design: Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette
Best New Restaurant: Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette

Houston Foodie Star Award Winners

Favorite Bakery: Common Bond Café & Bakery
Favorite Barbecue: Killen’s Barbecue
Favorite Bartender: Richard Middleton of Brennan’s Houston
Favorite Breakfast: Avalon Diner
Favorite Burger: Underbelly
Favorite Coffeehouse: Revival Market
Favorite Farmers Market Vendor: The Grateful Bread
Favorite Food Truck/Cart: The Waffle Bus
Favorite Late Night Spot: Tacos a Go-Go
Favorite Mom & Pop Ethnic: Irma’s
Favorite Outdoor Dining: Rainbow Lodge
Favorite Pub or Bar: West Alabama Ice House
Favorite Supermarket: Trader Joe’s
Favorite Sweets/Ice Cream: Fat Cat Creamery
Favorite Wine Seller: 13 Celsius