Magical Memorable Meal

Houston's all-star chefs create magical memorable meal at fundraiser for culinary favorite

All-star chefs create magical meal at fundraiser for culinary favorite

Culinary All Stars Philip Speer Karen Man
Philip Speer and Karen Man ready the monkey bread. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars Coltivare fish
Ryan Pera's whole roasted Gulf fish impressed diners. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars chefs
Karen Man, Ryan Pera, Terrence Gallivan, Seth Siegel-Gardner, Justin Yu and Chris Shepherd. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars Underbelly Korean fried chicken
Korean fried chicken from Chris Shepherd. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All-Stars Liz Fenton Chris Shepherd
Host chef Chris Shepherd with Liz Fenton. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars Ronnie Killen
Ronnie Killen and chefs from Kata Robata ready beef ribs. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars The Pass & Provisions Terrence Gallivan
Terrence Gallivan prepares the cresto de gallo pasta. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars Rebecca Masson
Rebecca Masson adds cherries to her pistachio cake.  Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars Philippe Gaston Ruben Ortega Hugo Ortega Jenny Wang
Philippe Gaston, Ruben Ortega, Hugo Ortega, event organizer Jenny Wang. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars Kata Robata sashimi
Sashimi from Kata Robata chef Manabu Horiuchi began the meal. Photo by Kimberly Park
Culinary All Stars Philip Speer Karen Man
Culinary All Stars Coltivare fish
Culinary All Stars chefs
Culinary All Stars Underbelly Korean fried chicken
Culinary All-Stars Liz Fenton Chris Shepherd
Culinary All Stars Ronnie Killen
Culinary All Stars The Pass & Provisions Terrence Gallivan
Culinary All Stars Rebecca Masson
Culinary All Stars Philippe Gaston Ruben Ortega Hugo Ortega Jenny Wang
Culinary All Stars Kata Robata sashimi

"If a comet struck the building right now, Houston would be screwed."

A dark sentiment to be sure, but the anonymous speaker at Sunday's Culinary All-Stars dinner had a point. The epic fundraiser brought together so many of Houston's finest chefs for a sold-out, 10 course, family-style meal that if anything had happened the city's dining scene would have been devastated.

Priced at $300 per person, the meal raised almost $40,000 for Liz Fenton: a popular figure in Houston's culinary world who's suffering from a rare neurological disorder called transverse myelitis that has left her disabled. The money raised Sunday night and from a Go Fund Me page will help Fenton with expensive treatments and the loss of income she's sustained during her illness. 

"I never would have understood Korean food without Liz," Underbelly chef/owner Chris Shepherd told the crowd. "It wouldn't have fucking happened." Considering Underbelly's signature dish is Korean braised goat and dumplings, that's about as high a compliment as the James Beard Award-winning Shepherd could have paid Fenton.

From there, the event set off a breakneck pace that saw all eight savory courses served in about 90 minutes. As attendees struggled to keep up with the avalanche of food that hit the tables, one clear sentiment emerged. Given the incredible diversity and high-level of execution, picking a favorite dish would be impossible. How does compare Kata Robata chef Manabu Horiuchi's expertly-cut, screamingly fresh sashimi with Hugo Ortega's banana leaf-wrapped lobster tamales or Coltivare chef Ryan Pera's citrus-infused roasted whole fish? 

Other chefs served variations on their signature dishes such as Pax Americana chef Adam Dorris's smoked beef tartare, The Pass & Provisions chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan's cresto di gallo pasta with mushrooms and Ronnie Killen's smoked beef rib. 

On a personal note, the only dish I reached for a second piece of was Shepherd's Korean fried chicken; the combination of the crispy crust, juicy meat and sweet and spicy glazed proved utterly delicious. Oxheart chef Justin Yu surprised the crowd with his kimchee and cheese stew. Spicy may not be an adjective typically used to describe Yu's cuisine, but the stew's broth delivered serious heat that the suggested pairing of Saint Arnold Endeavour IPA helped tame.

Oxheart baker Karen Man supplied monkey bread and focaccia. Former Uchi chef Philip Speer and Fluff Bake Bar owner Rebecca Masson proved there's always room for dessert with Speer's curried sweet potato and Masson's pistachio cake. 

Measuring by the star power of the chef's involved and the dollars raised, Underbelly's Southern Smoke event in October had the higher profile than Sunday night's dinner. Still, the impressive collection of talent, the warm feeling that pervaded every aspect of the meal and holiday spirit that moved people to make such a generous contribution on behalf of a woman that's likely a stranger to many of the attendees made the Culinary All-Stars a meal that won't be forgotten.

As Fenton said in some brief, emotional remarks, "I can't wait to have this again next year." 

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