Food lovers from across Texas flocked to Brenham on Sunday, October 20, to eat and drink with a purpose at The Butcher’s Ball. Now in its fourth year, the festival celebrates not just the chefs who make food but the farmers and ranchers who supply the ingredients.
The two-day event drew over 1,200 attendees to Rockin’ Star Ranch for food, drinks, demonstrations, presentations, live music, and more. Each year gets a little bigger than the last, with more than 50 chefs and pitmasters serving food at both a dinner on Saturday, October 19, and the afternoon festival on Sunday afternoon. All told, the event raised more than $20,000 for local nonprofit Urban Harvest's programs that support local farmers and ranchers.
Always a highlight, the Golden Cleaver competition drew 30 chefs from across the state, including Houstonians Dawn Burrell (Kulture), Brandi Key (Alice Blue), and Martin Stayer (Nobie’s, The Toasted Coconut) — each of whom paired with a farm or ranch to showcase a signature cut of meat. For the first time in the event’s history, a Houston chef didn’t win.
Instead, Justin Manning of C&J Barbecue in College Station took the top prize for his smoked osso bucco with redeye gravy, bone marrow biscuit, and a roasted red pepper and pecan gremolata. Austin Simmons (Tris in The Woodlands) took third place for his smoked, dry-aged akaushi short rib from HeartBrand Beef, while Houston favorite Monica Pope (Sparrow Cookshop) came in second for her chicken wing confit with crispy rice and six-day cured egg yolk.
Other highlights included a savory profiterole from chefs Sarah Heard and Nathan Lemley (Foreign & Domestic in Austin), adobo beef tongue from David Uygur (Lucia and Macellaio in Dallas), and a wagyu sirloin taco from Tony Luhrman and Mike Serva (El Topo in Houston).
Master bartender Linda Salinas, a regular on CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast, recruited the bar staffs from Monkey’s Tail in north Houston and Rosewater in Clear Lake to create cocktails made with spirits provided by sponsors, including Ketel One vodka, Highland Park whisky, 8th Wonder gin, El Tesoro tequila, and others. Sarah Troxell, the current CultureMap Tastemaker Awards bartender of the year, served up tiki cocktails for her recently-opened project, The Toasted Coconut.
Panel discussions on the state of Texas barbecue and farm policy, a kids cooking class led by Pope, and performances by the Will Van Horn Trio, Mexican Blackbird, Vinyl Ranch, Dawn & Dupree, and Jaime Wyatt offered a respite from all the eating and drinking.
Butcher’s Ball always attracts a who’s who of the local culinary community. Spotted in the crowd were Ashley and Tyler Horne, Michael Fulmer, Monica Danna and Joey Garcia, Gin Braverman and Bret Whitacre, Joe Apa, Graham Laborde, Cat Nguyen, Matt Marcus and Eby Harvey, Janna Roberson, Keri Henry, and so many more.
We can’t wait to see how organizers Jonathan Beitler and Elaine Dillard top themselves in year five.