An A-list group of Houstonians were recently transported to the Italian countryside for an intimate dinner at the villa-style home of Lisa and Michael Holthouse, which is perched lakeside, tucked away in the tall trees of Memorial. Decked out in garden chic/no ties dress code, guests gathered around long family-style tables lined with silver and crystal and referred to handmade menu portfolios to keep up with the culinary action. Presented by Brunello Cucinelli, the evening featured 10 extraordinary Houston chefs who created ten exquisite courses matched with nine superb wines to benefit Recipe for Success Foundation.
Thanks to the generosity of Cucinelli — and a host of in-kind donors of food, beverages, service, music, and décor —100 percent of the ticket income ($235,000), equaling 20 percent of the foundation’s annual budget, went directly to Recipe for Success programming. Cucinelli offered a specially-tailored, private two-day/one-night tour of Solomeo—the organization’s home village in Tuscany—and bidding was so exuberant that they ended up awarding trips to four donors.
Cucinelli and Recipe for Success Foundation share a passion and purpose in inspiring people to celebrate shared meals, local food and healthy eating. Cucinelli’s Project for Beauty focuses on agriculture as a way of restoring man’s dignity. It has renovated abandoned properties throughout the Umbria region of Italy, transforming them into green and vibrant spaces, much as what the Recipe for Success Foundation is doing at Hope Farms, its seven-acre farm and training center located in Houston’s historic Sunnyside neighborhood.
Recipe for Success partnered with many chefs, some who have been involved with the Foundation for years and others new on the Houston scene — Arturo Boada (Arturo Boada Cuisine); Vincent Celeste (La Table); Olivier Ciesielski (L’Olivier); Giancarlo Ferrara (Amalfi); Maurizio Ferrarese (Sud Italia); Felix Florez (Black Hill Ranch and Cherry Block); José Hernandez (Lucienne); Kevin Naderi (Roost); Charles Ho (Le Colonial); and Claire Smith (Canopy). Through their dishes, the chefs celebrated the influence of Italian cuisine on the foodways of the world.
“Chefs are at the very heart of what we do,” says Gracie Cavnar, founder of Recipe for Success. “It was 24 chefs – including many of this year’s amazing talents — who rolled into fourth-grade classrooms with me 13 years ago to inspire and empower children to make healthier eating decisions.”
Brunello Cucinelli was presenting Sponsor while Hosts Lisa and Michael Holthouse, along with Founders Gracie and Bob Cavnar, Van Cleef & Arpels and River Oaks District, were major event underwriters of the evening. Barbara Friedel McKnight, whose Culinaire catering company sponsored service for the event, was also the Dinner Chair. Guests were welcomed to the Holthouse’s Italianate-style home with a cocktail created by Hal Brock, the Tito’s Daisy, which featured Tito’s Handmade Vodka, lemon juice, and a shrub made from sage, rosemary and dill grown at Hope Farms.
Brock’s floral company, 22Fresh donated the table arrangements, a variety of white roses interspersed with thistle, hydrangeas, lisianthus, tulips, sage flowers, rosemary and dill, some of which were harvested at Hope Farms, the foundation’s working farm in south Houston.
The evening’s meal was paired with wines from the portfolio of Rootstock Wines. Other sponsors providing food, beverage and party elements included The Events Company, The Macallan Single Malt Whisky, Hendrick’s Gin, Neiman Marcus, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Martin Preferred Foods, Socialitè Americas, Java Pura Coffee Roasters, M Penner, and Hotel Granduca Houston.
Spotted in the crowd: Barbara and Lance McKnight, Holly and Austin Alvis, Fady Armanious, Emily and Art Armenta, Rosangela and David Capobianco, Kara and Ray Childress, Emily and Robert Clay, Ernie and Stephanie Cockrell, Hilda Curran, Ralph and Lisa Eads, Clayton Erikson, Marita Fairbanks, Sheree and Norman Frede, Karen and Roland Garcia, Curry Glassell, Ford Hubbard, Shamika Johnson, Stacey and Al Lindseth, Lucinda and Javier Loya, Sultana and Moez Mangalji, Virginia and William McMullen, Fatema and Wasim Naqvi, Cynthia and Tony Petrello, Tom and Jessica Roupe, Melissa and Doug Schnitzer, Melissa and Dan Sugulas, and Zina Garrison.