Shelby's Social Diary

The Dream Dinner: 22 top chefs come together to cook for high rollers in a foodie carnival night

The Dream Dinner: 22 top chefs come together to cook for high rollers

27 Staci Davis, from left, Todd Kerr, Jennifer Hoffman and Lewis Martin at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Radical Eats' Staci Davis, from left, Todd Kerr, Jennifer Hoffman and Lewis Martin in costume for their rock star backstage dinner. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
18 Paola Torres of The Tasting Room at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
The Tasting Room's Paola Torres helps prepare a luscious paella. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
15 Mark Holley of Holley’s at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Mark Holley of Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
25 Marty the Juggler at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Marty the fire eater and juggler entertains guests at Max's Wine Dive table. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
1 Rob and Sabrina Hallett, from left, Bryan Caswell, Kristen Barley and Richard Flowers at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Bon Vivant chairs Rob and Sabrina Hallett, from left, Bryan Caswell, Kristen Barley and Richard Flowers. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
24 Danny Trace of Brennan’s at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Brennan's Danny Trace. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
22 Jaques Fax of Artisans at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Artisans' Jaques Fox not only served a fab meal but served wine in Riedel glasses. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
21 Soren Pedersen of Soren Pedersen Catering at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Private chef and caterer Soren Pedersen. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
20 Ja’Nel Witt of Corner Table - Hell’s Kitchen winner at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Corner Table's Ja’Nel Witt serves diners an international feast. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
17 Rocco Nankervis of Oceanaire at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Oceanaire's Rocco Nankervis. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Greg Martin of Bistro Menil at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Bistro Menil's Greg Martin. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
8 Elizabeth Stone at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Silver Stone Events' Elizabeth Stone. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
13 Daniel Blue of Hunky Dory at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Hunky Dory's Daniel Blue. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
10 Antoine Ware of Harolds at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Antoine Ware of Harold's Restaurant, Bar & Terrace. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
6 Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro in the Four Seasons. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
3 Kevin Naderi of Lillo & Ella at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Kevin Naderi of Roost and Lillo & Ella. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
2 Small bites at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Small bites by Quattro's Maurizio Ferrarese. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
27 Staci Davis, from left, Todd Kerr, Jennifer Hoffman and Lewis Martin at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
18 Paola Torres of The Tasting Room at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
15 Mark Holley of Holley’s at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
25 Marty the Juggler at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
1 Rob and Sabrina Hallett, from left, Bryan Caswell, Kristen Barley and Richard Flowers at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
24 Danny Trace of Brennan’s at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
22 Jaques Fax of Artisans at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
21 Soren Pedersen of Soren Pedersen Catering at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
20 Ja’Nel Witt of Corner Table - Hell’s Kitchen winner at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
17 Rocco Nankervis of Oceanaire at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
Greg Martin of Bistro Menil at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
8 Elizabeth Stone at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
13 Daniel Blue of Hunky Dory at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
10 Antoine Ware of Harolds at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
6 Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
3 Kevin Naderi of Lillo & Ella at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015
2 Small bites at the Bon Vivant dinner January 2015

Reef's Bryan Caswell was on a culinary high Monday night as he and 21 other chefs gathered in the Royal Sonesta Hotel ballroom for the annual Bon Vivant Houston dinner party benefiting Youth Development Center.

Caswell was coordinating chef for the evening that is so popular among H-Town's top toques that they actually volunteer for the dinner benefit. "It's extremely unique," Caswell explained. "You have 22 chefs cooking 22 dinners all at the same time and they're completely independent of each other."

The draw of this evening for both chefs and diners is that each chef cooks for only 10 paying guests (20 if a table is sold twice) and it's up to the chef to create to heart's content. Thus, Corner Table's Ja'Nel Witt took her diners on an international journey, complete with passports at each plate. Each of her five courses represented a different international cuisine.

Oceanaire's Rocco Nankervis featured Chilean sea bass with lemon risotto and purple cauliflower while L'Olivier's Olivier Ciesielski served pan seared scallops on beluga lentils and lamb chops with baby ratatouille.

"It's so special that we really get to cook out of the box with only 10 people. With 10, you really get to showcase what you do." 

"I participate every year," said Silver Stone Events' Elizabeth Stone. "It's so special that we really get to cook out of the box with only 10 people. With 10, you really get to showcase what you do." Her entrée course — bone-in, herb-crusted veal chop.

The event, at which each chef has his own station with teaching mirror overhead so that diners can see the preparation, was chaired by Kristen Barlen, Richard Flowers, Sabrina and Rob Hallett, Kirby McCool and Candice Wells

Bon Vivant is basically one big party with the chefs having as much fun as the guests. Consider Max's Wine Dive's carnival atmosphere with a fire eater, knife juggler and lighted hula hoops as dinner entertainment while  Radical Eats' Staci Davis, aka Lady Gaga on this night, created a rock star backstage experience for her diners.

As Brennan's Danny Trace noted, "It's awesome. It's a great cause for the children. All of our brothers are out here. We all have a good time raising money for a good cause."

Rounding out the entourage of chefs were Mark Decker of Down House, Ricardo Vargas of Capital Grille on Westheimer, private chef Soren Pedersen, La Griglia's Luis Rubio, Mark Holley of Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Antoine Ware of Harold's Restaurant, Peter Laufer of the Royal Sonesta, Tanner Lucas of 1600 Bar+Grille, Jonathan Wicks of Hotel ZaZa's Monarch Bistro, Randy Evans of Southern Son Consulting, Jacques Fox of Artisans, Brian Evans of the Tasting Room at CityCentre, Richard Knight of Hunky Dory, Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel, Greg Martin of the new Bistro Menil and Kevin Naderi of Roost and Lillo & Ella.