Shelby's Social Diary
Chefs take on the challenge of cooking in a hotel ballroom
It wasn't quite Iron Chef Houston, but the 12 culinary wizards, manning their burners in the ballroom of the Hilton Americas-Houston Wednesday night, were challenged with preparing a five-course feast while diners salivated at adjacent tables.
Chefs, including Lemond Catering's Reginald Martin and Hotel ZaZa's Aaron Neely, arrived late afternoon toting their cooking gear, ingredients of their choosing and hopes of ringing the chimes of the paying customers. By the time the doors opened to the 100 or so guests, the ballroom resonated with kitchen sounds and teased palates with heavenly aromas.
This deliciously interesting evening, benefiting the Youth Development Center, was the brainchild of Linn Energy senior vice president and general counsel Charlene Ripley, a YDC board member, and event planner Sandy Cazemier. Restaurateur AlexBrennan-Martin came on board as emcee and brought along chef Juan Carlos Gonzalez of Bistro Alex. That set the pace and encouraged other chefs, contributing their own food and staff, to participate.
And then came the table purchasers, most of them corporate firms like RBC Richardson Barr, Lock Lord Liddell and Vinson & Elkins. Individuals, including Kathy and Jeff Love, Janiece Longoria and Steve Lasher, stepped up to the plate to raise funds for the Fifth Ward reading program. What better way to entertain friends and clients.
The first-time event, Bon Vivant Houston, is destined to become one of the city's most popular fundraisers, particularly if the chefs in the future participate with the same enthusiasm as that of Wednesday night's crew.
Among the mouth-watering creations: Butternut squash bisque with jumbo lump crab meat from Andrew LaRue of Abuso Catering, New Zealand lamb loin from Brian Robertson of the San Luis Resort in Galveston and braised short ribs with foie gras mashed potatoes, red wine sauce and chanterelle mushroom accompaniment from Philippe Schmit of Philippe Restaurant and Lounge (that French-flavored spot a work in progress). Pesce's popular Mark Holly wowed with his sweet potato soup with tasso and shrimp ravioli, one of several dishes preceding the whole roasted red snapper.
Rounding out the men and women in toques were catering whiz Elizabeth Stone of Stone Kitchen Catering, Michael Pelligrino of Max's Wine Dive Houston, Ruffy Sulaiman and Kyle Dennis of the Hilton Americas-Houston and CliveBerkman, author of Creating Empty Bottle Moments and chef/proprietor of that '80s hot spot Charley's 517.