New York-based celebrity chef Rocco Dispirito was just one element that wowed the throng of 800 who turned out at Houston Design Center for the 11th International Risotto Festival. Italian music and wines played backdrop to the coterie of chefs who whipped up tantalizing versions of the Italian specialty.
While guests grazed through the offerings, more than a dozen waited for the judges' decision on top honors. Dispirito led the team in the blind tasting. Going home with seriously full tummies were Elena Sgarbi, Consul General of Italy, and Marina Acquista Lapuvade, deputy secretary general of the Italian-American Chamber of Commerce.
In the end, it was Justin Kouri, representing Recipe for Success, who took top prize for his red beet risotto. Taking bows for next best were chef Maurizio Ferrarese of Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel, chef John Sikhattana of Straits Asian Bistro and chef Scotty Campbell with Milestone Distributors.
The event raised $100,000 for the Scarlett Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a cause close to the heart of festival chairs Donae Cangelosi Chramosta and Rob Chramosta and her parents, Nancy and Vito Cangelosi, who served as honorary chairs.
Special guests were Scarlett James, the funds namesake, and her parents Jennifer and Robert James.
Chefs joining the competition included Bart Black of Black's Market Table, Charles Clark of Ibiza, Ricky Cruz of Grotto, Carmelo Mauro of Carmelo’s, Greg Milo of the Art Institute, Mario Valdez of Oceanaire, Michael Pellegrino of the Tasting Room City Centre, Carlos Ramos of Latin Bites, Mark Riley of Eric's Restaurant and Luigi Shimaj of Arcodoro