Let me just say that there was more tempting food on the table at CultureMap's second annual Last Chef Standing competition than a girl who's watching her waistline oughta try. But that didn't stop this scribe or any of the 400 epicureans packing the Royal Sonesta ballroom from going full throttle across the field of gourmet offerings Tuesday night.
Twenty of the city's top chefs put their best recipes forward in a friendly contest that pitted such contenders as Brennan's chef Danny Trace's Shrimp Remoulade against Max's Wine Dive chef Michael Pellegrino's "bread and butter," a scrumptious foie gras on toast creation. In the end there were only two winners in this second leg of the contest. CultureMap readers had earlier voted Latin Bites and chef Roberto Castre as their fave in the online challenge.
Local Foods' Gilbert Angel reaped the most affection from the 400 attendees, winning the people's choice award.
Eleven XI chef Kevin Bryant wowed the professional judges with his creative yellow tail sashimi with smoked seaweed salad and blue corn stone-ground, miso-infused grits with lime soy honey sauce topped with crushed Lays potato chips. A first-place winning mouthful for sure. Although the judges did not announce a second place, Monica Pope's cured smoked and braised pork jowl from Black Hill Ranch served over corn and fennel pudding with crackling and mostarda (a picked fruit mixture) was their next best choice. We'd like to see that one added to the Sparrow Bar + Cookshop menu.
Local Foods' Gilbert Angel reaped the most affection from the 400 attendees, winning the people's choice award for his truffle-infused egg salad sandwich.
One of the several beauties of this evening was the cocktail station accompanying each food site, which meant that no one went thirsty or waited in a line of any sort for libations. VIPs, who bought premium early entry tickets, started the evening with Italian bubbly (Ca' del Bosco Cuvee Prestige) while revelers closed the night out with the popular Tiramisu Pop'tail, a wicked combo of Dripping Springs vodka with hazelnut liqueur accompanied by a GoodPop coffee popsicle for dipping.
The alcohol infusion led to plenty of playful antics at the Smilebooth where 450 photos were taken at the event sponsored by Cadillac and Ben E. Keith.
As the DJ Gabe Bizonee spun tunes, guests traversed the ballroom where The Grove, The Tasting Room, Vic & Anthony's, Triniti and more beckoned with taste sensations that clearly had this crowd satisfied. Included was Haven's Randy Evans' yummy grillades and grits, a sampling of his new "breakfast for dinner" menu for June.
Among those sampling the top toque fare were CultureMap CEO Alyce Alston, City Council members Jack Christie, Mike Laster and Dave Martin and Metro's Tom Jasien and Russ Frank, all guests of The Clifford Group's Cindy Clifford. Restaurateur Gigi Huang, Mayor Annise Parker's director of external affairs Jenn Char, cookbook author Erin Hicks, restaurateur Lonnie Schiller, Jenny Perez and Christian Capitaine, Alex Griffin and Deborah Kopel Rose and Myles Rose.
Dying for a behind the scenes look? Check out the complete CultureMap video: