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Yummy in the tummy

The most creative food festival ever? 14 top chefs push the limits as 700 eaters rejoice

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2761 Natalie Pipkin, from left, Sarahbeth Pipkin and Laura Pipkin at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Natalie Pipkin, from left, Sarahbeth Pipkin and Laura Pipkin sample the offerings at the Risotto Festival at Houston Design Center.. Photo by Kim Coffman
2615 Quattro’s Maurizio Ferrarese and Teri Pugh at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Top winning chef Quattro’s Maurizio Ferrarese joins Teri Pugh at the Risotto Festival at Houston Design Center Photo by Kim Coffman
2959 Lucinda Loya, center, with daughters Ana Luca Loya, left, and Elena Loya at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Festival chair Lucinda Loya, center, with daughters Ana Luca Loya, left, and Elena Loya at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
3060 Jamie Zelko, left, and Suzanne Behrens at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Chef/restaurateur Jamie Zelko, left, receives second-place honors from Art Institute president Susanne Behrens at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2877 Annie Amante, from left, Wendy Lerway and Lori Farris at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Annie Amante, from left, Wendy Lerway and Arcodoro's Lori Farris at the Risotto Festival at Houston Design Center. Photo by Kim Coffman
3079 Zonin’s Peter Adelman, left, and Arcodoro’s Luigi Shimaj at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Zonin’s Peter Adelman, left, and Arcodoro’s Luigi Shimaj share honors at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2920 Penny and John Wright at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Penny and John Wright at the Risotto Festival at the Houston Design Center. Photo by Kim Coffman
2753 Ali Chihani, from left, Brad Collier, Robert Spiegel and Josh Crausby at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Ali Chihani, from left, Brad Collier, Robert Spiegel and Josh Crausby at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2937 Terry and Fred Baca at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Terry and Fred Baca at the Risotto Festival at the Houston Design Center.. Photo by Kim Coffman
2287 Arcodoro’s Crawfish Risotto (2nd Place) at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Arcodoro’s creative Crawfish Risotto took second place at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2557 Roger Hawkins, from left, Tony Pogee, Stuart Rae and Don Bowman at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Roger Hawkins, from left, Tony Pogee, Stuart Rae and Don Bowman at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2461 Drew Karedes, from left, Annie Shen, Lily Jang and Justin Schuetz at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Drew Karedes, from left, Annie Shen, Lily Jang and Justin Schuetz at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2431 Oscar Guevara with the Venetian Photo Booth at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Oscar Guevara with the Venetian Photo Booth at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2413 Glenn and Lee Seureau at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Glenn and Lee Seureau checking out the Star Motocars Aston Martin's at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2367 Susan and Wayne Lapham at the Risotto Festival November 2013
Susan and Wayne Lapham at the Risotto Festival. Photo by Kim Coffman
2761 Natalie Pipkin, from left, Sarahbeth Pipkin and Laura Pipkin at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2615 Quattro’s Maurizio Ferrarese and Teri Pugh at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2959 Lucinda Loya, center, with daughters Ana Luca Loya, left, and Elena Loya at the Risotto Festival November 2013
3060 Jamie Zelko, left, and Suzanne Behrens at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2877 Annie Amante, from left, Wendy Lerway and Lori Farris at the Risotto Festival November 2013
3079 Zonin’s Peter Adelman, left, and Arcodoro’s Luigi Shimaj at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2920 Penny and John Wright at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2753 Ali Chihani, from left, Brad Collier, Robert Spiegel and Josh Crausby at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2937 Terry and Fred Baca at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2287 Arcodoro’s Crawfish Risotto (2nd Place) at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2557 Roger Hawkins, from left, Tony Pogee, Stuart Rae and Don Bowman at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2461 Drew Karedes, from left, Annie Shen, Lily Jang and Justin Schuetz at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2431 Oscar Guevara with the Venetian Photo Booth at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2413 Glenn and Lee Seureau at the Risotto Festival November 2013
2367 Susan and Wayne Lapham at the Risotto Festival November 2013

Creativity is never lacking when the Houston Design Center holds its biennial International Risotto Festival. Just consider the winning combinations from Sunday's outdoor competition — first place Maurizio Ferrarese's Milanese Risotto & Bone Marrow served in the hollowed-out bone or the second place Crawfish Risotto served in acorn squash from Arcodoro chef Luigi Shimaj. And the people's favorite — the Dirty Rice Risotto from Triniti's Ryan Hildebrand.

Close to 700 turned out on the picture-perfect afternoon to stroll the sidewalks of the design center, sample risotto dishes from 14 chefs, experiment with various wine tastings, listen to Italian music, shop the stores that opened for the occasion and just generally enjoy the San Diego style weather. And let's not forget the collection of sleek Aston Martins from Star Motor Cars that had guests dreaming of Lotto winnings.

It couldn't have been a better day for honorary chair Fabrizio Nava, Consul General of Italy, or festival chair Lucinda Loya, accompanied by her young daughters, Ana Luca and Elena.

They and the crowd grazed through offerings that included Carmelo's homemade Italian sausage/artichoke/parmigiana risotto, Vic & Anthony's lobster and cheese risotto, Grotto's risotto pomodoro with almond-crusted jumbo shrimp and Prego's rabbit risotto. And then there was Max's Wine Dive's over-the-top lobster risotto topped with grilled ribeye, caviar and grilled shrimp and scallops.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Education Foundation which provides scholarships for the Art Institute of Houston. In addition to Art Institute president Susanne Behrens, a dozen or so students — in culinary, photography and design courses — were on hand as volunteers. In fact, three of the competing chefs are Art Institute grads — Trevisio's Jon Buchanan, The Tasting Room's Jonathan LeBlanc and Zelko Bistro's Jamie Zelko

Taking in the pleasant afternoon were Sheri and Grant Roane, Alton LaDay and Jonathon Glus, Annie Amante, Lori Farris, Ali Chihani, Lily Jang and Justin Schuetz, Brad Collier, Robert Spiegel, Penny and John Wright, Terry and Fred Baca and Josh Crausby. 

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