The earth indeed moved Saturday night as world-renowned chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jérome Bocuse created a culinary orgasm for well-heeled diners who parted with $2,500 each for the sublime World Master Chefs Dinner.
As if the gregarious presence of these mighty culinary talents wasn't enough, the chefs worked their magic from soup to nuts or should we say through four courses that began with Bocuse's Maine lobster salad and concluded with Keller's cinnamon sugar beignets. Add to the gastronomic pleasures, the array of hors d'ouevres prepared by the newest Master Chef Richard Rosendale of the Greenbriar.
The evening took place in the vast River Oaks home of Deana and Larry Blackburn. Although they had moved in less than a year ago, the Blackburns ordered all the furniture moved out to accommodate beautifully-dressed dining tables for the crowd of 150. None appeared daunted by the generous tariff that was expected to raise $150,000 for the Harris County Sheriff's Office Foundation.
The trio of chefs created a similar benefit dinner in New Orleans two years ago. Key to that fundraiser and Saturday night's event were jeweler Franco Valobra (who divides his time between New Orleans and Houston) and New Orleans attorney John Houghtaling (Kevin Costner's partner in Ocean Therapy Solutions) with offices in Houston. The duo founded the Harris County Sheriff's Office Foundation slightly more than a year ago and have to date raised $1 million for the cause.
Insuring that guests were in a genial mood before dinner, the master chefs each crafted a unique cocktail, the wait staff from City Kitchen well-educated on the content whether it be a champagne concoction with spicy gin or a tequilla temptation topped with a slice of jalapeno. In a surprising egalitarian gesture, the chefs mixed with guests throughout the cocktail hour as they explained their creations.
First course was Bocuse's Maine lobster salad with caramelized porcini mushrooms over mesclun salad with black truffle vinaigrette, a dish so divine as to send the sophisticated palates into a gastronomic swoon. The French Laundry's famed Keller seduced taste buds with his remarkable Dover sole a la grenobloise with meyer lemon and brown butter mousseline. Boulud saluted Lone Star sensibilities with red wine-braised Texas short ribs and roasted Wagu tenderloin.
And for dessert, diners couldn't resist the selection of Keller's tarte au chocolate or Boulud's caramelized honeycrisp apple Napoleon. Then came Boulud's passion fruit/raspberry gelee with coconut macaron and Keller's aforementioned beignets.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia worked the various rooms of the stately home thanking guests and sharing details of the foundation's work. Kevin Maples, volunteer chief of police for the Harris County Sheriff's Department, was in full dress uniform, to the surprise of many guests who know him more closely as an advertising exec and husband of community leader Alissa Maples.
Special friends of the chefs Marie and Alain LeNotre (son of famed French chef Gaston LeNotre and founders of Culinary Institute LeNotre) were seated for dinner as was Dr. Cathi Walsh, respected gourmet who writes a restaurant letter for local chefs, and Houston Restaurant Weeks founder Cleverley Stone.
Among those departing with smiles on their faces and satisfied tastebuds were Carol and Mike Linn, Virginia and Dan Steppe, Ericka Bagwell and Alex Klein, Kena and Steve Cope, Nancy Valobra, Yulia Houtaling, Diane and Neil Magee, Ugo and Christin Claffey, Laurie Krohn, Mike Plank and Monica Garcia.