It was the charming French Ambassador Gérard Araud's first visit to Houston and in between speaking at Rice University's Baker Institute and a luncheon with the French-American Chamber of Commerce, the diplomat was feted Texas style by John and Becca Cason Thrash in their art-filled Memorial area home.
La Becca, a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, knows a thing or two about entertaining and had no trouble pulling together a Lone Star evening for Araud. The dinner began with the hostess welcoming the ambassador in French and pointing out that 90 percent of the 30 dinner guests had supported the Louvre, either at fundraisers in the Cason Thrash home or in Paris at Becca's Liaisons au Louvre benefits.
Cason Thrash tapped RDG chef Robert del Grande to put on a Texas-inspired spread that included quail steaks and pecan pie. The meal served in the pool room with guests seated at one long table decorated with silver cowboy boots and fresh flowers.
Sitting down for the feast was a host of notables including The Menil Collection director Josef Helfenstein and wife Dorothee, former U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Chase Untermeyer and wife Diana, Nabors Industries CEO Tony Petrello, Choice Energy president and CEO Javier Loya and Maria and Neil Bush.
"He was a blast," Cason Thrash said of the ambassador. "The wildly charming and dapper Ambassador toasted us and joked that after meeting guests at the party he felt he could leave and feel as if he experienced Houston to the max."
The experience included exchanging bon mots with guests such as Houston's French Consul General Sujiro Seam and wife Jane, Phoebe Tudor, Greggory and Pat Burk, Randy Powers and Bill Caudell, Robyn Lay, Diane Lokey Farb, Monsour Taghdisi and Henry Richardson, Karen Henry, Mark Sullivan and Cathy and Rivie Cary.
Also on the ambassador's dance card was Houston Grand Opera's production of Die Walküre. He changed his travel plans in order to attend the opera with HGO board vice chairman Lynn Wyatt, also a French Legion of Honor recipient.