It's not just any event that inspires Houston's culinati to ditch their T-shirts and kitchen whites for a jacket and tie.
On Sunday that event was the My Table Houston Culinary Awards, a gathering of nearly 300 Houston's chefs, restaurateurs and foodies.
For the first tme, the event was not held at the restaurant that won the previous year's Restaurateur of the Year award — 2009's winner, Feast, could contain only a fraction of the guests and regardless the owners were in New Orleans opening a second Feast.
Also for the first time the dinner was created by a group of current nominees and previous winners. Passed appetizers were made by RDG's Robert Del Grande, Shade's Claire Smith and Mockingbird Bistro's John Sheely.
Inventive first courses were served by Michael Cordúa of Américas, who created a crispy, chip-like taro plated in an oversize rosebud shape and served with a creamy, spicy huancaina sauce. T'afia's Monica Pope created a vibrant, flavorful farro and shell pea salad with honey-butternut gremolata. Even the bread basket from Slow Dough Bread Co. was exceptional.
But the highlight of the meal was a main course by Mark's Mark Cox and Haven's Randy Evans of a perfectly cooked slow-roasted prime rib and Texas wild shrimp and grit cake. Topped off with Rebecca Masson's lemon snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich, it was a meal that made one forget it was prepared in a catering service for 300.
The awards started off with the night's honorees, Damian, Tony and Vincent Mandola, who received recognition of Oct. 3, 2010 being officially designated Mandola Family Day in a written statement by Mayor Annise Parker. The three brothers said they owed their success to the amazing love for food and gift for cooking distilled from their mother, Grace.
Damian Mandola also earned recognition for Carrabba's in the Houston Classic category, for restaurants in business over 10 years.
And the Mandolas were not the only family to bring home multiple statues. Michael Cordúa accepted Best Interior Design for his Américas location in The Woodlands, while his son David Cordúa won Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year (for those under 35) for his work at Américas as well.
Another family legacy honored was the Brennan's group, with Alex Brennan-Martin receiving the night's marquee award, Restaurateur of the Year.
Other big winners included Chris Shepherd of Catalan, who took home Chef of the Year; Sean Beck, who won Service Person of the Year and Favorite Mixologist for his sommelier duties at Backstreet Cafe and Hugo's; and Haven, which took home Best New Restaurant.
The complete winner's list:
Legends of Houston Restaurants Award: Damian Mandola, Tony Mandola, Vincent Mandola
Foodie Star Awards
Favorite Bakery: French Riviera Bakery and Cafe
Favorite Barbecue: Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Que
Favorite Breakfast: The Buffalo Grille
Favorite Burger: Becks Prime
Favorite Coffeehouse: Empire Cafe
Favorite Houston Food Blog: Cook's Tour
Favorite Ethnic: Fadi's Mediterranean Grill
Favorite Food Truck: Little Miss Cupcake
Favorite Late Night Spot: House of Pies
Favorite Mixologist: Sean Beck
Favorite Outdoor Dining: Backstreet Cafe
Favorite Supermarket: Central Market
Favorite Pub or Bar: Anvil
Favorite Sweets: The Chocolate Bar
Favorite Wine Cellar: Spec's
Houston Culinary Awards
Best New Restaurant: Haven
Best Interior Design: Américas — The Woodlands
Houston Classic: Carrabba's
Service Person of the Year: Sean Beck, Backstreet Cafe
Outstanding Bar Service: Capital Grille
Pastry Chef of the Year: Ruben Ortega, Hugo's
Outstanding Wine Service: The Tasting Room
Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year: David Cordúa, Américas
Chef of the Year: Chris Shepherd, Catalan
Restaurateur of the Year: Alex Brennan-Martin, Brennan's, Bistro Alex