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Can they cook?

Young professionals, celebrity chefs and hot ballerinas mix together in ultimate foodie night

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2860, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, NAMES
Will and Valerie Dittner Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
77, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Kristy Bradshaw, Jim Nelson, Lindsey Brown
Kristy Bradshaw, from left, Jim Nelson and Lindsey Brown Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
2678,Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Nao Kusuzaki, Chris Shepherd, Rebecca Masson, Chris Coomer, Kristy Bradshaw, Lindsey Brown, Randy Evans, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, Monica Pope
Nao Kusuzaki, from left, Chris Shepherd, Rebecca Masson, Chris Coomer, Kristy Bradshaw, Lindsey Brown, Randy Evans, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama and Monica Pope Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
190, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Brandon Sparks and Claire Thielke
Brandon Sparks and Claire Cormier Thielke Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Ting Breshnahan, John Bresnahan
Ting and John Bresnahan Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
222, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Jarod Lang and Maryam Ashfari
Jarod Lang and Maryam Ashfari Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
216, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Beth Zdeblick, Nick Zdeblick
Beth and Nick Zdeblick Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
164, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Mary Nichols and Ben Patton
Mary Nichols and Ben Patton Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
104, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Dr. Polly Gauthier, Dr. Jerry Gauthier
Drs. Polly and Jerry Gauthier Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
74, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Merrill Hafner, Joe Hafner
Merrill Hafner and Joe Hafner Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
2694, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Christy Bradshaw and Lindsey Brown
Christy Bradshaw, left, and Lindsey Brown Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
3016, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Underbelly, crowd, venue
Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
2970, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, food
Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
2811, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Jo Furr, Jim Furr
Jo and Jim Furr Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
2930, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Jason Arnoldy, Lindley Arnoldy
Jason and Lindley Arnoldy Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
2745, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, NAMES
Russell Beach, from left, Katie Walker and Claire and Charlie Brown Photo by © Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio
2860, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, NAMES
77, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Kristy Bradshaw, Jim Nelson, Lindsey Brown
2678,Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Nao Kusuzaki, Chris Shepherd, Rebecca Masson, Chris Coomer, Kristy Bradshaw, Lindsey Brown, Randy Evans, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama, Monica Pope
190, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Brandon Sparks and Claire Thielke
Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Ting Breshnahan, John Bresnahan
222, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Jarod Lang and Maryam Ashfari
216, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Beth Zdeblick, Nick Zdeblick
164, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Mary Nichols and Ben Patton
104, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Dr. Polly Gauthier, Dr. Jerry Gauthier
74, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Merrill Hafner, Joe Hafner
2694, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Christy Bradshaw and Lindsey Brown
3016, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Underbelly, crowd, venue
2970, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, food
2811, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Jo Furr, Jim Furr
2930, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, Jason Arnoldy, Lindley Arnoldy
2745, Ballet Barre dinner, April 2013, NAMES

Everyone knows that Houston Ballet's hoofers can execute a perfect fouetté, a pas de bourrée and a grand jeté. The question at Sunday night's Ballet Barre soiree at Underbelly was: Can they cook?

The essence of four cavaliers and ballerinas was tastefully teased in a four-course menu deliciously prepared by the creme de la creme of the city's food scene.

Call it a "Raising the Barre" gourmand pas de deux between chefs Randy Evans, Chris Shepherd, Monica Pope and Rebecca Masson and their twirling partners, who served as sous chefs for the night. That would be soloists Christopher Coomer and Nao Kusuzaki, principal Karina González and demi soloist Charles-Louis Yoshiyama.

Yet in lieu of just offering a party in one's mouth — what else would you say about an hors d'oeuvre sampling of chorizo stuffed dates wrapped in bacon or crawfish fried rice balls? — chairs Kristy Bradshaw and Lindsey Brown, co-founders of this influential young professionals throng, choreographed the sold-out affair so that it would also offer a glimpse into the lives of the quartet of performing artists.

 Coomer's guilty pleasure were Lion Bars, the elements of which were deconstructed for Masson's grand finale.

Following a chatty reception and a silent auction, guests filled the main dining room that overlooked the many cooks in the kitchen. 

Up first was Pope's and Gonzalez's sherried black bean soup and family style cheese arepas, which Gonzalez's mom served morning, day and night when she was growing up in Venezuela. Evans nodded to the street foods of Japan with his char-grilled quail served yakitori style. It reminisced on Yoshiyama's native Shizuoka, a coastal region that bounds with Mount Fuji.

Kusuzaki's journey from Ehime, Japan, to Washington D.C. and Boston — and her recent role as Madame Butterfly — served as the muse for the complex flavor layers in Shepherd's slow roasted pork belly and fish cake adorned with a twisty crispy noodle. Coomer's guilty pleasure were Lion Bars, the elements of which were deconstructed for Masson's grand finale: a sinful melange of milk chocolate cremeux, stroopwafel and caramel drizzle.

Talk about young professional power. The 175 in attendance raised $65,000, roughly a 60 percent increase over last year's foodie affair.

Taking a bite out of dance alongside executive director Jim Nelson and artistic director Stanton Welch were Ballet Barre chair Christine Transier and hubby Chris, Chris BradshawIsabel and Danny David, Sten Gustafson, Lauren Levicki, David Rassin, Derith and Dr. Darrell Cass, Shawn Stephens and Jim Jordan, Claire Cormier Thielke and Rick Thielke, Dr. Jerry Gauthier and Jo and Jim Furr.

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