A Delicious Alchemy

10-course banquet with 20+ wines is the Recipe for Success at gourmet dinner party for a delicious cause


Kalyn Oden, Karina Barbieri, Vivian Wise, Carolyn Farb, Gracie Cavnar at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Recipe for Success dinner table settings
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Kevin Naderi in kitchen at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Recipe for Success dinner wine
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Marc and Duyen Nguyen at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Chris Brown, Divya Brown at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Robert Del Grande in kitchen at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Recipe for Success dinner models
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Barbara McKnight, Karina Barbieri at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
 Ally Shell van Kollwijk, Martijn van Koolwijk at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Bison Burgers from Kiran's at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Bill Baldwin, Hallie Vanderhider, Fady Armanious at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Jeff Shell, Jessica Rossman, Becca Cason Thrash, Gordon Bethune at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Gracie Cavnar and chefs at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Erin Parekh, Aashish Parekh, Puja Parekh at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Heidi Smith, Marcus Smith at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Bryan Caswell, Jennifer Caswell at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Abby Barnett, Mason Lytal at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Justin Kouri, Gracie Cavnar at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Genevieve Patterson, Shawn Patterson at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Melissa Sugulas, Jennifer Swallen at Recipe for Success party
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Tory Watson, Neal Hamil, Natalie Watson at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group
Jessica Rossman, Clifford Pugh, Miya Shay, John Dascoulias at Recipe for Success dinner
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group

A select group of 100 foodies and fans of Recipe for Success gathered at the home of John and Becca Cason Thrash for a spectacular 10-course dinner dubbed "Delicious Alchemy." Gracie Cavnar, who, with her husband, Bob, co-founded the nonprofit dedicated to combating childhood obesity with healthier eating, enlisted many of Houston's top chefs to create exotic offerings using fresh and local ingredients. Here are some scenes from the evening's dinner, which raised more than $200,000.

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From left, Kalyn Oden, dinner party co-chair Karina Barbieri, Vivian Wise, Carolyn Farb, and Recipe for Success founder Gracie Cavnar. 

The Thrashes served as hosts for the dinner at their Memorial mansion, where elaborately-decorated tables were set around the indoor swimming pool. "Just one request," Becca Cason Thrash joked, "no on falls in the pool until after dessert. And then we can all go swimming."

Thankfully, no guests fell in the pool during the evening, although before they arrived, two waitstaff who were attending to tables took an unexpected dip.

Table centerpieces featured fresh vegetables under glass while large vine arrangements from Lexis Florist snaked from the floor to the ceiling.

 

In the Thrash kitchen, Roost chef Kevin Naderi put finishing touches on the third course, lobster and celery root on Slowdough pretzel cracker with caviar.

"What we like to do is do good and have fun and eat well," Gracie Cavnar told the crowd. "We're all about healthy eating with all things in moderation — except for tonight."

The evening was also a wine lover's delight as each course was accompanied by a wine from Italy and a wine from France, with the glass of French wine to the left of the Italian wine, "just like on the map," waiters told guests as a reminder on how to differentiate the two. Jack Fassetta, founder of Beviamo International, donated a vintage Italian wine from his boutique winery for each course, while wine maker Jean-Francois Bonneté donated a different Liberation de Paris French vintage for each course, plus servings of cognac and gin.

Standing out amid the glamorous crowd were Marc and Duyen Nguyen. She wore a glittery backless Tom Ford tunic that she transformed into a mini-dress.

Houston City controller Chris Brown and wife Divya were among the guests.

Chef Robert Del Grande, who created a dessert of panna cotta aux fromage blanc with apricol coulis as the eighth course, helped out earlier in the evening with chef Bryan Caswell's fourth course, a pea crusted snapper with mirliton and Brussels sprout chlorophyll.

 

Models showed off dinner napkins penned by famous artists. The live auction featured a design by famed Texas artist Kermit Oliver that sold for $5,000. Other live auction items included a diamond pendant from Chopard, a private cognac tasting for 20 by Bonneté, and a French wine country experience. 

Guests also donated funds to plant trees in honor of deceased Tootsies owner Mickey Rosmarin at Hope Farms, a 7-acre farm in Sunnyside operated by Recipe for Success using organic methods to produce crops in the midst of one of the city's largest food deserts. Mickey's Grove will eventually wrap around the entire perimeter of the farm.

In the kitchen, dinner co-chair Karina Barbieri, right, visited with Culinaire chef Barbara McKnight, who created a raspberry ice wine soup as the ninth course.

Ally Shell van Kollwijk, left, sported some killer pink pumps. But her best accessory was hubby Martijn van Koolwijk.

Kiran's chef Kiran Verma created a Bison slider with onion jam, wild mushrooms, and chaat masala fries as the sixth course.

Bill Baldwin, Hallie Vanderhider, Fady Armanious. Baldwin was the winning bidder during the live auction of artist Kermit Oliver's pen-and-ink drawing, Tribute to Texas Produce.

Jeff Shell, Jessica Rossman, Becca Cason Thrash, Gordon Bethune.

Recipe for Success founder Gracie Cavnar, center, poses with the evening's chefs. Among those who donated their time, creating dishes for the evening, were Martha de Leon (Pax Americana), Ryan Pera (Coltivare, Eight Row Flint, Revival Market), Kevin Naderi (Roost), Bryan Caswell (Reef, El Real, Little Bigs), Wayne Nguyen (Maba Pan-Asian Diner), Kiran Verma (Kiran's), Greg Martin (Bistro Menil), Robert Del Grande (Cafe Annie, The Grove), Barbara McKnight (Culinare), and Claire Smith (Shade, Canopy).

Erin Parekh, Aashish Parekh, Puja Parekh.

Heidi Smith, Marcus Smith.

Chef Bryan Caswell, Jennifer Caswell.

Abby Barnett, Mason Lytal.

As an added bonus for guests, Recipe for Success culinary director Justin Kouri, left, created a salad featuring vegetables from Hope Farms. Kouri also spoke briefly about the organization's mission.

Genevieve Patterson, Shawn Patterson.

Melissa Sugulas, Jennifer Swallen.

Tory Watson, Neal Hamil, Natalie Watson.

Jessica Rossman, Clifford Pugh, John Dascoulias, Miya Shay.

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