The T.J. Martell Best Cellars dinner at Hotel ZaZa isn't just a celebration of Houston’s culinary diversity and innovation. It's a feel-good fundraiser for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and cancer research. The sold-out event brings together the best in food, wine, and live entertainment. For oenophiles, it’s one of the dreamiest nights of the year.
A powerhouse team, chairman Franelle Rogers along with honorary chairmen Carolyn Faulk, Jeanie and Jim Janke, and Dean Putterman bring together wine collectors who tap into their philanthropic nature, serving wines from their own elite cellars for the event.
More than $225,000 was raised at the dinner, which featured thoughtful dishes by guest chefs Luis Roger of BCN Taste and Tradition, Philippe Verpiand of Etoile Cuisine et Bar, and Sash Kurgan of Doris Metropolitan, along with pastry chef Kristy Quach of Hotel ZaZa. Wine hosts chairman Robert T. Sakowitz challenged the chefs to create a menu based on water, air, and sea. The chefs responded with inspired fish, duck, and beef dishes.
Although Best Cellars is serious about the mission of the event, it’s also a great party. Country music legend Randy Travis and his wife, Mary, attended the dinner and the crowd jumped to their feet in applause. When award-winning songwriters Lance Miller, Rob Hatch, and Jerrod Niemann took the stage, impromptu two-stepping began.
The emcee and auctioneer for the night was Shawn Parr, host of the nationally syndicated radio show Nash Nights Live and voice of the American Country Music Awards, American Music Awards, and The Golden Globes. When Parr's flight was delayed, honorary chair Janke stepped up to the microphone until Parr arrived. Once there, Parr donned a sparkling jacket and hopped in the crowd during the live auction, spurring on the bids.
Those sipping and chatting included Dr. Robert Bast, Jr. and Blanche Bast, Stephanie and David Baird, Ed Finger, Hallie Vanderhider, Cathy and David Herr, Mark Bermann, Elizabeth and Alan Stein, Caroline and Gary Kenney, Laura and Jerry Kent, Kim and Mike Weill, Kimberly and Guy Stout, Chantell Preston, Chip Beaver, Becky and Michael Harris, Julie and Stephen Chen, Deana and Larry Blackburn, Carolyn Faulk and Pat Studdert, Jessica and Gabe Mena, Kelly and Steve Provenzano, Shari Heyen, and David Kurzweil.