March of Dimes Signature Chefs gala chairs Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia and Susan and Mike Plank kicked it up a notch in the ballroom of the Hilton-Americas Houston for the annual blockbuster fundraiser. For the first time, the entire throng, numbering 700 this year, was seated for dinner after grazing through a line of taste sensations presented by 15 of the city's top toques.
In previous years, some two dozen chefs had put their best food forward while most of the crowd sampled and the big guns (those paying $15,000 and $25,000 a table) had a full meal served by a stellar chef's team. Friday night, culinary honoree Robert Del Grande and his RDG + Bar Annie cohorts served the high donors while the hotel served dinner to the remainder of the crowd. Also new this year were wines provided by Becker Vineyards from the Texas Hill Country and vodka and scotch tasting stations.
Among those cooking samples for 700 were Culinaire's Barbara McKnight offering roasted yellow tomato bisque with smoked crawfish sauce, Damian's Napoleon Palacios serving caesar salad and Michael Pellegrino of Max's Wine Dive presenting braised beef sliders. Guests swooned also over the offerings from Mr. Peeple's Pedro Silva, Up's David Coffman, Kiran's Kiran Verma and more. Chef Mark Cox of Mark’s American Cuisine won Best Culinary Creation for his Muscovy duck with autumn root vegetables and cider.
Joining Del Grande in taking bows were community honorees Rosemary Schatzman and Vanessa Sendukas and corporate honoree Franco Valobra, who once again donated one of his fab pieces of jewelry for the live auction. Guest speaker was March of Dimes national board chair Laverne Council.
Themed Une Bonne Nuit dans le Jardin, the event raised more than $725,000.
Savoring the tasteful evening were guests including honorary chairs Marci and Steve Alvis, auction chair Katherine Le, Matt Schatzman, Perry Sendukas, Candice and Lonnie Schiller, Julie Brown, Lori and Dan Wolterman, Holly A.N. Smith and Austin Alvis, Rachel and Tom Regan, Tara and David Wuthrich, Audrey and Brandon Cochran and Dominique Sachse and Nick Florescu.
Following the dinner and program, Yvonne Washington & the Mix revved up the party engines with music for the New Orleans-themed after-party.