Long associated with the French champagne house, the name Roederer (as in Louis Roederer bubbly) has a whole new meaning for Houstonians who attended Monday night's inaugural "Truffle Chef of the Year Challenge."
We are now thinking big, black wonderfully aromatic truffles from Spain under the label Roederer USA and under the auspices of Diane Roederer, a cousin of the champagne family. With the assistance of Elizabeth Stone of Silver Stone Events, Madame Roederer, a French expat, orchestrated the tasting and competition evening at National Tree & Shrub nursery.
Roderer provided 450 grams of black truffles (a value of $17,000) to 20 eager chefs who were given free rein to work their culinary artistry on the portable stoves set up in the tented nursery pavilion. The evening doubled as a fundraiser for Les Dames d'Escoffier International's scholarship program.
Américas' chef David Cordua's whimsical truffle twinkie narrowly edged Brennan's truffle bread pudding (first runner up) and Coppa Osteria's fried brioche bowl with sea urchin, quail egg and truffle (second runner up).
Lucky the 200 invited guests, who parted with a minimum $125 ($250 for VIP tickets) for the rare privilege of tasting so many amazing dishes featuring the luxury ingredient. The heady aroma of truffles filled the air as guests sampled the various chef creations and washed them down with a free-flowing selection of wines.
"While a few stuck to traditional pasta or risotto with shaved truffle, the winning dishes incorporated them more creatively," noted contest judge Eric Sandler of CultureMap. "In the end, the seven judge panel selected Américas' chef David Cordua's whimsical truffle twinkie, which narrowly edged Brennan's truffle bread pudding (first runner up) and Coppa Osteria's fried brioche bowl with sea urchin, quail egg and truffle (second runner up)."
Prizes for the three winners were delicious reward for their efforts: Cordua took home 1 kilo of fresh black truffles, valued at $1,500. Javier Lopez of Brennan's walked away with 250 grams, valued at $750, and Coppa Osteria's Brandi Key earned 250 grams valued at $375.
Sandler added that in addition to the finalists, standouts included Max's Wine Dive's truffle flan, Kuu's seared hamachi and Etoile's mushroom soup.
Joining Sander were judges KTRK Channel 13's Katherine Whaley, Artisans chef Jacques Fox, food writer and Houston Press blogger Mai Pham, Houston Chronicle food editor Greg Morago, food writer and author John DeMers and Houston Restaurant Weeks founder Cleverley Stone.
Rounding out the chef line up were David Denis of Le Mistral, Fritz Gitschner of 60 Degrees Mastercrafted, Jason Grigar of Urban Eats, David Skinner of Eculent Modern Farm to Table, Efisio Farris of Arcodoro, Olivier Ciesielski of L'Olivier, Steve Haug of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House, Kenneth Burke of Ibiza, Kiran Verma of Kiran's Indian Cuisine, Aaron Allen of The Inn at Dos Brisas, Arturo Boada of Arturo Boada Cuisine, Jacob Kris of Kris Bistro, Manuel Pucha of Table on Post Oak and John Michael Lynch of Ristorante Cavour at Hotel Ganduca.