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Scary Chef Secrets

Foodie Halloween: Houston's top chefs reveal their scary secrets and most tantalizing treats

Foodie Halloween: Chefs reveal their scary secrets, tantalizing treats

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Vanessa O'Donnel Ooh La La horizontal
Vanessa O’Donnell of Ooh La La clearly likes her sweets. Photo by Kimberly Park
Kate McLean of Tony's Restaurant Houston
Kate McLean Photo courtesy of Tony's
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Kate McLean of Tony's Restaurant Houston

Tony’s head chef Kate McLean — the recent winner of the Ready Houston Preparedness Kit Chef’s Challenge — is mostly found in her chef whites, but this month she’ll don a flapper costume along with two others she hasn’t decided on yet.

“I love Halloween!” McLean says. “When I was eight I was a bumblebee, I think that was my favorite costume. But it’s even more fun now because it stretches into three days. Three parties, three costumes.”

This chef starts planning her next year's Halloween costumes a month after Halloween. Oh, and for a chef known for her decadent truffle souffles, McLean's guilty Halloween treat is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

 “My all-time favorite Halloween candy is Brach’s Pumpkin Mallow Candies.” Oh, those would be tasty on her cupcakes. 

Chef Andrew Kramer of Hyatt Market Street in The Woodlands was also a fan of the chocolate/peanut butter treats, as well as caramel corn and Skittles. He has long since stopped trick-or-treating, but this Halloween will be special for him.

“Our baby is expected to arrive in the middle of October, so Halloween will be he/she’s first celebrated holiday,” Kramer says. “My wife Cathy loves to dress up for Halloween, decorate the home, and prepare for kids who go out trick-or-treating. Halloween is one of her favorite holidays, and I’m sure with our first child on the way this season will bring many more fond memories to come.”
 
Vanessa O’Donnell of Ooh La La clearly likes her sweets.

“One of my favorite memories of Halloween is carving pumpkins and making caramel apples,” she says. “My all-time favorite Halloween candy is Brach’s Pumpkin Mallow Candies.”

Oh, those would be tasty on top of some of her cupcakes.

For Patrick Havard over at the Wyndham Houston West Energy Corridor it’s those sugary gummy orange wedges, although he did have a healthier treat for his kids when they were growing up.

“Typical Halloween for my kids and me is, or was, they’re getting too old to dress up, we would carve pumpkins a few days in advance, keep the seeds, wash and dry and toast them with some spices,” he says. “They hated them!”

But he would make homemade pizza for them to eat before his wife took them off to trick-or-treat. So they weren’t totally deprived.

Over at Eleven: Eleven Restaurant & Bar, the guys know their candy. Chef Kevin Bryant loves Cadbury Cream Eggs (sadly, not a Halloween candy, these goodies are usually only available at Easter) and managing partner Joe Welborn’s sweet of choice is Twizzlers.

“I am Twizzlers man,” says Welborn. “All day everyday. Give me the three pound bag and a glass of milk and it’s on. Only red original Twizzlers will do. Any other rope candy is unacceptable.”

Corporate chef Daniel Phalen of the Luby’s/Fudrucker chain has a special reason to love Halloween: It’s also his birthday.

“With an ultra creative mom our Halloween/Birthday parties were always over the top complete with cheesy decorations and the full haunted house,” he says. “Mom would dress up in the full witch costume and could do the witches cackle to perfection that would always bring a chill down your spine. Every year she would have a pair of jeans and a flannel shirt stuffed with newspaper and made a head with a gorillas mask on it.

“Ralphie would sit in a rocking chair holding the bucket of candy. When the kids came in she made them get the candy out of the bucket themselves, but as soon as they’d stick their hand in the bucket my aunt or uncle would be around the corner holding a rope tied to the chair and would yank the rope and growl.

"Too much fun, but you had to have high ceilings . . . some of those kids could jump pretty high.”