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  • Cooper Meaders teaches classes on making furniture from reclaimed wood.
    Courtesy photo
  • Meaders' queen headboard made from oak flooring reclaimed from a local home
    Courtesy Photo
  • One of the famous Meaders "chalk" boards, this one in spalted white oak(reclaimed, of course)
    Courtesy Photo
  • A red oak coffee table framing a once-broken Texstone countertop piece
    Courtesy Photo
  • Meaders working away to salvage a neighbor's donated wood flooring
    Courtesy Photo

Leave the upturned pinkie behind for a different take on “finishing school” now being held at a local green institution. Gather that now-wobbly and scratched wooden rocker you’ve had since your childhood, the hiking stick you found years ago and meant to sand and stain or even an interesting piece of lumber you saved to do something with as a rainy-day project – even if you forgot what that something is.

Bring your treasures to the recently launched “Finishing School” wood workshops hosted by New Living and adjoining shop The Green Painter located in Rice Village, where in-house artisans teach how to bring those keepsakes back to life in the greenest way possible.

Finishing School” is the next step for New Living and The Green Painter, which are showcasing headboards, tables and benches hand made by in-house artists using salvaged materials found in the Bayou City.

“We already have people who come here with a piece of wood they reclaimed themselves and have a project in mind,” says Cooper Meaders, New Living artisan, certified green painter, biology college grad, Marine and all-around great guy. “Now with the 'Finishing School,' they can bring in samples and we’ll work with stains, paints. I can even cut pieces and help put them together.”

The DIY concept is the brainchild of the stores’ founder and owner Jeff Kaplan, who sees “Finishing School” as a natural extension of the green products and services New Living and The Green Painter afford their customers.

“We’ll provide the products, and all of our furniture products are completely sustainable and free of toxic off-gassing and formaldehyde,” Kaplan says. “Customers can come work with Cooper and learn how to refinish their existing furniture or create new pieces using sustainable materials and natural finishes.”

“Finishing School” is the next step for New Living and The Green Painter, which are now showcasing headboards, tables and benches hand made by in-house artists using salvaged materials found right in the Bayou City.

“We can’t keep these on the floor,” says Meaders, referring to a pin-up board surfaced with marmoleum, a readily available, natural organic product he prefers to use instead of cork. “The same with the chalkboards, too.”

Meaders’ perfectly squared chalkboards are actually built with reclaimed wood coated with a no- or low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) “chalk” paint that creates that familiar wipe-clean surface. He then constructs the frame from wood and more sustainable products donated to or collected by New Living employees.

“We can’t keep these on the floor,” says Meaders, referring to a pin-up board surfaced with marmoleum, a readily available, natural organic product he prefers to use instead of cork. “The same with the chalkboards, too.”

The New Living furniture biz began as almost as “accident,” Meaders continues. “I started with small projects, like building signs for the store. Then a woman came into the store who was tearing down her home and rebuilding it from the ground up. She asked if we wanted any of the old lumber.”

Meaders and Kaplan excitedly said “Yes!” and spent three days removing the red oak floor from the residence in exchange for the non-toxic paints, stains and other furniture finishing products The Green Painter specializes in.

With this huge inventory of the reclaimed wood, Meaders and the other shop artists had a supply to begin repurposing.

Meaders has put that red oak to good use with such completed projects as a coffee table framing a once-broken Texstone countertop piece for the surface and a beautiful bowed headboard now on the showroom floor that he left unfinished for a buyer’s treatment preference. “I didn’t want to limit the potential,” he explains of the headboard.

He’s also working on vertical planter walls from found and donated pallets or skids, those solid transport structures for loading or shipping. He breaks them down, brings the wood’s grain to its original glory and rebuilds to include inset planter boxes. At his own private studio, he has a massive dining table for 12 underway using reclaimed pecan timbers.

“I prefer to take raw materials and make them ‘new’ again,” Meadors says, adding with a smile, “That’s my fire.”

Finishing School sessions are by appointment only by calling either store at least two days in advance of a time convenient to you. Phone numbers are 713-521-1921 for New Living and 713-797-2935 for The Green Painter. Sessions are $25 per person.

Good News! Houston is only the eighth-worst city in the country for smog — Calistill dominates bad air

What Green Living?

The American Lung Association has released its annual "State of the Air" report, and guess what? Houston-Baytown-Huntsville is the eighth worst city in the United States for smog.

(Los Angeles topped the list, of course, followed by six other California municipalities.)

This bestowal seems a given — Houston is a city of drivers! It is surrounded by refineries! Honestly, considering the haze obscuring the downtown skyling on Thursday morning, we thought we'd rank higher on the Lung Association's naughty list.

Houston has made some improvements, with 47.5 fewer high ozone days than in 1996.

But in terms of air quality, we still fail miserably: Harris County counted significantly more high ozone days than any other Texas county, and Dallas-Fort Worth ranked as the 12th most pollution-happy.

Austin-Round Rock-Marble Falls made it to the list of "cleanest U.S. cities for short-term particle pollution."

Eco Jewels: Designer Monique Weston turns discards into gems that wow at OneGreen Street

CultureMap Art and About Video

Vintage keys, door hinges, decorative locks, Victorian ice box parts, power tool scraps, salvaged plumbing fixtures, plastic toys, gently worn clothing, personal fans, guitar picks, strings . . . for jewelry designer Monique Weston, the old adage that one person's junk is another's treasure doesn't quite hit the mark.

Though these raw materials do not have cash value in and of themselves, it's Weston's own added ingenuity that morphs the castoff trinkets into whimsical gems that are as individual as the person wearing them.

"I have made jewelry from classic materials," she explains. "But I found that clients would ask me before they decided if they liked a piece or not, what is it made of?"

When you re-context materials and put them in a different light, it tickles people's sense of humor, she says. The piece becomes a better expression of their taste.

One particular metal necklace was assembled from drawer pulls, hardware odds and ends, and part of an engine she found abandoned in a deserted parking lot. At the hands of an amateur designer, these components run the risk of looking cheap, tacky, even kitschy. But Weston's finished pieces are nothing of the sort, evoking funky sophistication and spirited mischievousness. Her strategy is to make them playful by incorporating a cornucopia of eco-sourced materials.

"I have made jewelry from classic materials," Weston explains. "But I found that clients would ask me before they decided if they liked a piece or not, what is it made of?"

"One you find the materials, they really just speak to you, " Weston says. "And once you have a feeling of opportunity, of knowing that things will come to you, objects just pop up everywhere, even out of the ground or out of the parking lot."

Weston is an artist-in-residence at One Green Street, Houston's chic boutique destination for all things eco-conscious. Whether that's sustainable fashions, smart fireplaces, organic mattresses, up-cycled household objects or natural cosmetics, founder Sherry Eichberger sought to create an environment where people could find healthy products. Her inspiration was the loss of two neighbors to cancer.

To know Eichberger is a joy — she encouraged me to summon my inner Rambo and sling-shot-beautify empty city lots at "Guerrilla Gardening: Mission Possible I," and now I sport a re-purposed satchel crafted out of retired fire hoses (with a matching belt) and a wallet made out of rubber from old tires, retiring my own timeless couture accessories.

Frequent visitors will notice something new at One Green Street: Yes, the store looks different. The front lobby has been rearranged and outfitted with two very large workstations, and one of them is dedicated to hosting local talent, like Weston.

The Artist Workstation is where local designers can spend a day onsite working on their craft, meet clients, answer questions and style fashionistas personally. For shoppers, it's an opportunity to learn what it takes to remodel raw materials into one-of-a-kind wearable art. A schedule is posted online.

"Our customers really love our education that we provide, in addition to one-on-one consultations and coachings, " Eichberger explains. "A lot of our customers have become collectors and come to see what Monique Weston or Jeannine Peace have made lately.

"Having the artists here creates a nice synergy and interaction."

The other workstation is for the Eco-Body Bar, aimed at helping clients understand organic skin care through makeovers and education.

In this CultureMap "Art and About" video adventure (above), we learn about Weston's journey, Eichberger's passion and One Green Street's mission to make Houston healthier.

  • Each delivery comes to my doorstep in a plastic crate.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • Each week, Farmhouse Delivery sends an email outlining the projected bushel andtakes requests for substitutions.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • Instructions for handling and storage are included with each week's delivery.Our crisper drawers always overfloweth with veg.
    Photo by Whitney Radley

Getting fresh food delivered to your door: How practical are slow food serviceslike Farmhouse Delivery?

By the Bushel

If asked to sum up my dietary preferences, I identify as a pescetarian with an inclination toward local, organic and unprocessed foods (notwithstanding certain guilty indulgences).

As such, the idea of community-supported agriculture has long interested me — but, practically, my busy schedule and frequent out-of-town weekend trips never worked well with basket pick-up guidelines.

But when a friend told me about Farmhouse Delivery, I knew I had to get in on it.

The company (which was founded in Austin in 2009 by farmer Stephanie Scherzer and chef Elizabeth Winslow) expanded to Houston in early 2012, and offers an alternative to the regular CSA program.

Farmhouse Delivery sources its produce from several Texas farms for variety. Customers have weekly options for add ons, like baked goods, artisanal cheeses, humanely-raised meats, pastured dairy and farmyard eggs. And the bushel is delivered right to each customer's doorstep.

My boyfriend and I have subscribed to bi-weekly delivery services for nearly two months, and each bushel feels like a wholesome gift. We get immediate benefits of health and a sense of environmental responsibility. Plus, it's nice to pull out the recipe books once a week.

A bushel of veg goes surprisingly far in the kitchen — more than enough for two people, several dinner parties and daily leftovers — and it almost eliminates dreaded grocery store trips.

Last week, we made (* indicates a bushel item):

  • Beet* hash with heirloom garlic*, shallots and kale*, topped with a fried egg, à la Cafe Brasil
  • Arugula* salad with fresh carrots, Israeli couscous and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Arugula* and lettuce* salad with avocado, peppered cashews and lemon vinaigrette
  • Roasted beet* salad with arugula*, lettuce*, grapefruit*, goat cheese, toasted walnuts and reduced balsamic dressing
  • Falafel patties (with garbanzo beans, quinoa and shredded carrots*), with tahini yogurt sauce (recipe here)
  • Beet green* and kale* salad with roasted beets*, avocado*, toasted sunflower seeds, quinoa and a tahini/lemon dressing (recipe here)
  • Cornbread and collard greens*, heirloom garlic* and shallot
  • Whiskey tonic with strawberries* and a twist of lemon

Farmhouse Delivery isn't the only option, of course. Check out LocalHarvest.org for more resources.

  • Window film can reduce the cost of running your air-conditioning.
    PR Web
  • A variety of architectural glass, wall system, art and cabinet glass ecoconscience products to consider are produced by Lambert made exclusively forBendheim.
  • A low-flow toilet reduces water usage.
  • Low-flow faucet by Grohe.
    Grohe

Building green: With more eco-friendly products, builders & designers, it'snever been easier

The Vintage Contessa

When you think green building and design, you may imagine solar panels or water recycling and have an ill-conceived notion that the process is too expensive or complicated. However, there are many ways to simplify your choices in the process of building, remodeling or designing your new or existing home while minimizing the environmental impact.

When choosing “green” products, you give your family a healthier place to live and create a more energy efficient home with increased performance, which in turn saves you money. By starting to focus attention on indoor air quality, water and energy efficiency, and environmentally sound materials, you will make an impact on your life and the world in which we live.

By starting to focus attention on indoor air quality, water and energy efficiency, and environmentally sound materials, you will make an impact on your life and the world in which we live.

With a basic understanding of the benefits of green building accompanied with subtle changes geared towards eco-sensitive material selections, you will give back to the environment and in turn lessen the carbon footprint and overall impact on the world.

First question

In considering green building and design, you should first ask what is most important to you and your family. Is it indoor air quality, energy efficiency, materials and resources or water efficiency?

People in the United States spend 90 percent of their time indoors. Air pollutants are two to five times higher inside than outside. In fact, pollutants have increased at such an alarming rate that there has been a 160 percent increase in the rate of asthma in children over the last decade.

Any given space’s indoor air is a “complex mixture of visible and invisible contaminants,” according to GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI), a non-profit organization that works to reduce indoor air pollution. Strangely, most air purifiers do not work properly; they only clean 100- 200 sf and produce ozone in the process. These airborne pollutants include chemicals, dust, biological contaminants and anything that can populate the air.

Consider looking on the labels for VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions. VOCs interact with one another and create new hazardous compounds as well as causing eye, nose, throat and skin irritations.

Look for a third party verifier

When selecting products, it is important to find out if it has been tested. Look for a third party verifier. GreenGuard Product Certification, is the premier verifier for indoor air quality.

“Indoor air quality is one of the major issues facing the sustainability community, and GreenGuard is at the forefront of protecting indoor environments,” S. Richard Fedrizzi, CEO & Founding Chairman, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), said in a statement.

An indoor air quality test may by conducted in your home by a specialist to identify problem areas. Bluegill Energy is among a number of businesses that provides environment testing, collecting and processing scientific data to determine the root cause of the issue and then make recommendations for the proper remediation necessary to correct or restore the affected area to a safe level.

Window film eliminates costly and damaging ultraviolet rays by 99 percent, the equivalent to an SPF 285+ lotion on your glass.

Adding a Sunbelt window film on your existing glass will lower solar heat gain and reduce the cost of running your air conditioning. Window film also eliminates costly and damaging ultraviolet rays by 99 percent, the equivalent to an SPF 285+ lotion on your glass.

Frustrating glare will be reduced and the strength and safety of your glass increases dramatically. It is safe on any glass and is a simple step to improve energy efficiency in your home.

Water efficiency is certainly most welcome in areas with long or short term drought conditions; however, there is a place for water efficiency in every community. The mean per capita of indoor daily water use in today’s home is slightly over 64 gallons. Implementing water conservation measures can reduce usage to fewer than 45 gallons. Fixtures and Fittings is among a number of businesses that offers unique options including low flow toilets and water efficient fixtures for sinks, tubs and showers.

When choosing sustainable materials with recycled content, you should also consider the manufacturers commitment to sustainability. Examine the products composition, look at the VOC levels. Consider if the cleaning products are safe to use. Look at the costs. Is the product recyclable?

Find these and other checklist at Regreen by ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) and USGBC (United States Green Building Council).

A variety of architectural glass, wall system, art and cabinet glass eco conscience products to consider are produced by Lambert made exclusively for Bendheim. A deep commitment to the environment is evident in their manufacturing, utilizing a large percentage, approximately 40 percent, of post-consumer glass recycled from the municipal waste stream. Dauphin Sales Inc. offers these products in Texas.

The second step is finding a building, remodeling or design professional that will help plan your home, avoiding expensive mistakes. His or her assistance in obtaining permits and giving direction on finding federal tax rebates and solar subsidies (which are varying by state) will be immeasurable.

The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) Accredited Professional directory is a good place to find design and construction professionals who are familiar with LEED and green building in general.

According to the USGBC, “Since green building is an emerging field, the challenge is often in finding building professionals who are experienced and enthusiastic about building green. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional) Accredited Professional directory is a good place to find design and construction professionals who are familiar with LEED and green building in general. The LEED for Homes Provider in your area may have some good recommendations.

"Another great resource on this front is to look for local builders with experience building LEED-certified homes. These professionals have experience building green homes to a high standard and can help to guide you through the process. "

Thanks to the active role of the U.S. Green Building Council - GBC Texas Gulf Coast Chapter in the community — I am on their board of directors — there has been a significant acceleration towards the initiation, development and implementation of green building in our area. Statistically, the chapter ranks third in the country with LEED APs and sixth in the nation for total number of individual members, which is exceptional for a city perceived to be one of the energy capitals of the world.

In addition Houston and surrounding communities score high in these areas:

· Ranks 4th in nation for total number LEED buildings in a metro area

· Ranks 3rd in nation for total number LEED for schools certified

· Ranks 4th in nation for total number LEED for schools registered

· Ranks 1st in nation for Energy Star homes

· Ranks 6th in nation for Energy Star buildings

· Houston is ranked 8th in nation for total LEED buildings

The second rating system designed specifically for homes was produced by the National Association of Home Builders implementing the National Green Building Standard, approved by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) in January of 2009. Builders and members of the trade who focus on their green continuing education can earn a Certified Green Professional (CGP) designation from the NAHB. They recognize builders, remodelers and other industry professionals who incorporate green building principles into homes— without driving up the cost of construction.

The next important professional to consider on your team is an ASID licensed professional. Look for an experienced interior designer who offers beautiful, healthy and environmentally sound solutions to design problems and challenges.

It’s been said that changes in behavior happen through education. So try it. Look online. Read books and magazines. Learn a little day by day. Take a step in the right direction and do what you can to be eco-friendly. Any size step forward will help contribute to the greater good of the environment. You can make a difference.

Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, the owner of The Vintage Contessa, writes about travel, design and fashion. As president of Cangelosi natural stone contractors, she is committed to green building and teaches classes on the subject for the GreenGuard Institute.

  • The end of the line, whence I disembarked.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • A free single ride rail ticket, gifted by a compassionate stranger.
    Photo by Whitney Radley

Bikes on a train: The thrills and frustrations of commuting in an eco-friendlyway in car city

Restricted Hours

Once upon a time, I lived in Austin and in Denton, where my bike served as my primary mode of transportation.

But Houston? No way. It's scary out there! Drivers are mad! Potholes could swallow me! Plus, on my maiden voyage into Houston's treacherous roadways, I popped my tube in a Rice Village parking lot.

However, participation in the FotoFest Bike Scramble last Saturday gave me confidence (and an excuse to finally get that tire fixed). And when Clifford Pugh, CultureMap's editor in chief, took the METRORail to work earlier this week, I decided to take on a personal challenge: Riding my bike to the train, and taking the train to work.

My first problem was logistical — METRO only allows bicycles onboard light rail cars after 9 a.m. in the morning and after 6 p.m. in the evening, and I typically arrive at the office around 8:30 a.m.

Bike in Houston? No way. It's scary out there! Drivers are mad! Potholes could swallow me!

The second, sartorial — what to wear on a day that necessitated several miles of biking and acceptable appearance and hygiene at an afternoon press conference?

After resolving those trivial issues, I was ready.

Just after 9 a.m. on Thursday morning, I arrived at the Ensemble/HCC station. The train pulled up, a friendly disembarking stranger (who must have seen me hurriedly punching buttons on the ticket kiosk while balancing my bike) gave me his single ride rail ticket, and I was off.

From there it was a breeze: The rush hour crowd had dispersed, and the designated area on the train offered plenty of space to stand with my bike; I lost balance only twice, and before I knew it I was at the end of the line.

In all, the bike-train-bike mode added less than 10 minutes to my commute.

Plus, the carefully-avoided eye contact and subtle body language so peculiar to public transportation, combined with the short bike rides that bookended my commute, proved more interesting and significantly less stressful than sitting in my car, by myself, in traffic.

Verdict? I recommend it.

As long as you can make those time restrictions work for you.

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CultureMap film critic’s guide to the 10 Best Picture Oscar nominees of 2023

Oscar analysis

The nominations for the 2023 Academy Awards have been announced, with 10 films vying for Best Picture. Everything Everywhere All at Once led the way with 11 total nominations, with The Banshees of Inisherin and All Quiet on the Western Front close behind with 9 nominations each.

Take a look back at what CultureMap’s film critic, Alex Bentley, had to say about each of the nominees (listed below in alphabetical order) when they were originally released. This year's Oscars ceremony will take place on Sunday, March 12.

All Quiet on the Western Front (not reviewed)
The epic anti-war German film, available to stream on Netflix, has been gaining steam on the awards circuit in recent weeks, also earning 14 nominations for the British Academy film awards, the most among films nominated there. With nine nominations at the Oscars, it's a serious contender to win not just International Feature Film, but Best Picture as well, a la Parasite.

Avatar: The Way of Water
There’s no denying that everything in the long-awaited Avatar looks spectacular, from the Na’vi to the different animals of the world to the abundant water. But writer/director James Cameron has also employed the high frame rate of 48 frames-per-second, giving everything a hyper-real look that, at least for this critic, does not make for a great viewing experience. Also, for a film that’s 3 hours and 12 minutes long, you’d think there would be plenty of time to devote to all aspects of the story, but somehow that isn’t the case. Though it's nominated for Best Picture, its best chances of winning lie in the three other technical nominations.

The Banshees of Inisherin
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this film reunited him with his In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for one of the funniest movies of the year, and also one of the saddest. The film is spectacular in its ordinary nature, with the story centering around Gleeson's character ending his longtime friendship with Farrell's character for seemingly no reason. All four main actors - Farrell (Best Actor), Gleeson (Best Supporting Actor), Barry Keoghan (Best Supporting Actor), and Kerry Condon (Best Supporting Actress) - earned nominations, and McDonagh was nominated for both directing and writing, making this film one of the favorites.

Elvis
One of those love-it-or-hate-it type movies, the latest from writer/director Baz Luhrmann didn't hit the sweet spot for this critic, mostly because its focus was more on Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), and not Elvis (Austin Butler) himself. That meant much more time for Hanks to deliver one of the worst performances of the year. Butler earned his Best Actor nomination, as there are times when he is absolutely electric. But there's a reason that six of its eight nominations are in technical categories - the story doesn't live up to Butler's performance.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
On the other end of the spectrum from Elvis is Everything Everywhere All at Once, a film that knew how to use its flashiness in much better ways. Featuring a breathtaking lead performance by Michelle Yeoh (who earned her first-ever nomination), the return of '80s kid star Ke Huy Quan (favored to win for Best Supporting Actor), and polar opposite performances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu (both nominated for Best Supporting Actress), the film was as wild and weird as it was emotional. With a couple of surprise nominations, including Best Musical Score and Best Song, it seems destined for a lot of wins.

The Fabelmans
The most personal movie ever from writer/director Steven Spielberg (nominated in both categories), The Fabelmans is a lightly-fictionalized chronicle of Spielberg's childhood, where he caught the bug of filmmaking and endured his parents' disintegrating marriage. With seven overall nominations, including Best Actress for Michelle Williams, a surprise Best Supporting Actor nomination for Judd Hirsch (who's in the film for less than 10 minutes), and another nomination for Best Score for the iconic John Williams (who now has 52 - !! - lifetime nominations), it would be unwise to discount this film's chances at taking home the top prize.

Tár
If ever a film was defined by its lead actor, it's Tár, featuring a towering - and now, Oscar-nominated - performance by Cate Blanchett as world-renowned - but fictional - conductor Lydia Tár. The first film in 16 years from writer/director Todd Field (nominated in both categories), it is notable for how much time it devotes to setting up Tár as a character. Though the story is set in the rarefied world of classical music, it has a grounded nature that keeps it balanced. The film is nominated for seven total Oscars, but its best chance at a win lies with Blanchett, who's the heavy favorite.

Top Gun: Maverick
My personal No. 1 movie of the year, the long-gestating sequel to 1984's Top Gun delivered everything you could want out of a summer blockbuster and more. Even though it it essentially offers up the greatest hits from the original in a slightly repackaged manner, it does so in a spectacular manner. Even though you'd expect its five nominations aside from Best Picture (which gives star Tom Cruise, who also served as a producer, his first Oscar nomination in 24 years) to be technical ones, it was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, an indication that its story was equal to its visuals.

Triangle of Sadness (not reviewed)
A black comedy that takes aim at the obliviousness of wealthy people, Triangle of Sadness is only nominated in three categories, but they're three big ones - Best Picture, Best Director (Ruben Östlund), and Best Original Screenplay (Östlund). Unlike some of the other films in this category, it was not among the best-reviewed movies of the year, but it's clear that Östlund has his supporters in the writer and director wings of the Academy, so one or two wins are not out of the realm of possibility.

Women Talking
Although it was one of my top 10 movies of the year, Women Talking is perhaps the least likely film among the 10 nominated to be in this category, as it only has one other nomination, Best Adapted Screenplay for writer/director Sarah Polley. Set almost entirely in a barn loft on a Mennonite compound as a group of women decide how to fight back against abusive men, it is a true ensemble film, with no actor truly standing out among the others. Still, with award-winning actors like Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, and Claire Foy leading the way, it deserves to be recognized among the year's best.

Houston's Top Chef Season 18 finalist and former Olympian packs her knives for Season 20 in London

houston's top cheftestant

A Houston chef has packed her knives and gone to London. Dawn Burrell will be one of the 16 competitors on Top Chef's 20th season, Bravo announced.

Burrell, who reached the finals of Top Chef season 18 in Portland, Oregon, earned a James Beard semifinalist nomination for her work at downtown restaurant Kulture. The former Olympian-turned-chef will open Late August, a restaurant that explores the intersection of African and Asians cuisines, in the Ion mixed-use development later this spring.

“I’m a natural competitor, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete on the Top Chef stage again to try to bring home the win," Burrell said in a statement. "All in all, it was truly an honor to be selected for this All Stars season — the first across the pond!”

She will compete against an all-star cast of former Top Chef competitors from 11 seasons, including Buddha Lo, winner of last year's season 19 in Houston. The cast also has a global flavor with winners and finalists from Top Chef's international editions in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the Middle East & North Africa, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and Poland.

Such an accomplished group merits an equally compelling set of challenges. Over the course of the season, viewers will watch the cheftestants put their spins on British classics such as beef Wellington, afternoon tea, and pub fare. They'll cook at prominent London destinations including Highclere Castle and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

For the signature Restaurant Wars episode, the chefs will cook at Core by Clare Smyth, a London restaurant that holds three Michelin stars. The finale will take place in Paris and feature an appearance by legendary French chef Alain Ducasse.

Top Chef stars Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Padma Lakshmi will all return to the show. They'll be joined by a number of prominent chefs including the aforementioned Clare Smyth as well as Aquiles Chavez, Hélène Darroze, Martha Ortiz, and Dave Zilber (Judge, Top Chef Canada).

Top Chef season 20 will premier at 8 pm on Thursday, March 9. Episodes will be available the following day on the Peacock streaming service.

Here's a sneak peek at the action.



Here are the top 14 things to do in Houston this weekend

weekend event planner

What's poppin' this weekend? How about a gazillion bubbles — or so — as a popular New York bubble show bounces into Houston. A highly anticipated downtown park finally hosts a grand opening bash, while Houston Botanic Garden blooms with massive sculptures hiding in plain sight.

A major influencer beefs up a burger pop-up, comedian Jo Koy brings the funny, and a K-pop smash act hits town. Enjoy; here are your best bets for the weekend.

Thursday, January 26

State & Liberty Charitable Happy Hour

State & Liberty, a clothing retailer of men’s athletic-fit dress shirts, will be hosting a happy hour and charity shopping experience. Benefitting the Kyle Tucker Foundation, State & Liberty opens its doors to shoppers to peruse their wrinkle-free, lightweight performance fabrics. The brand offers suits, sport coats, polos, and casual stretch shorts. The store will donate 10% of sales to the Foundation during the event. While shopping for a cause, guests can also take in complementary whiskey tasting and live music, as well as a cigar gift with purchase. 5 pm.

Holocaust Museum Houston presents The Jewish Dog

In collaboration with the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and the ADL Southwest, Holocaust Museum Houston presents The Jewish Dog, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Based on the book of the same name, this moving – and at times funny – one-man show tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of Coresh, a dog born into a Jewish Family in Berlin, 1933. 6:30 pm.

Moores Opera Center presents Die Fledermaus

Raise a glass to comedy and decadence with one of the most beloved operettas in the repertoire. What could be more fun than a show that revolves around practical jokes, disguises, and gallons of champagne? Audiences will attend the ultimate masked ball and discover not only why Johann Strauss Jr. is known as the Waltz King, but also just how far some people will go to exact their revenge. 7:30 pm (2:30 pm Sunday).

Friday, January 27

Trebly Park Grand Opening

Located in southern downtown, in the Central Business District, Trebly Park is a neighborhood park that features dog runs, a large lawn, Tout Suite and more. At the Trebly Park Grand Opening, experience “three times as much” fun. Visitors can get sweet macaroons at the park restaurant, Tout Suite, visit the dog parks, listen to live music, and play carnival games at downtown Houston's new neighborhood park. And it’s all free. 2 pm.

Houston Botanic Garden presents Intertwined, Wined & Dined

Houston Botanic Garden will host Steve Tobin, the creator of Intertwined: Exploring Nature's Network, for this exclusive happy hour and dinner, where guests will learn directly from Steve about these sculptures. Guests will also get to take a stroll after-hours at sunset with a private tour of the Houston Botanic Garden and its newest sculpture exhibit. Executive chef Thomas Stacy will host the five-course immersive pop-up dinner and wine pairing, featuring garden grown heirloom collard greens, selected veggies and robust herbs. 5 pm.

Reeves Art + Design presents "Houston, We Need a Title" opening reception

The gallery returns to its eclectic roots with a show that incorporates everything but the kitchen sink. Bringing together work from over 25 Texas artists, they aim to take a step back from traditional curation with this show and simply allow their clients to experience a plethora of art and explore their own tastes and preferences. Featured artists include those making their Reeves Art + Design debut, including Gary Griffin, Holland Geibel, Wood Francher Anthony, Jessica Simorte, Hector Hernandez, and more. Through Saturday, February 18. 6 pm.

Houston Grand Opera presents Werther

The lovesick yearnings of the tortured young poet Werther lead to his tragic fate in Massenet’s lush opera, which returns to HGO for the first time in 40 years with this production from French director Benoît Jacquot, making his HGO debut. Matthew Polenzani, one of the world’s most distinguished tenors, leads the cast as Werther in his Houston debut. With mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard debuting alongside, audiences won’t want to miss this chance to see legends perform a rare psychological drama. Through Friday, February 10. 7:30 pm (2:30 pm Sunday).

Saturday, January 28

Performing Arts Houston presents Gazillion Bubble Show

After 20 years as a Master of Bubbles, in 2007 Fan Yang brought his unique brand of bubble artistry to the Big Apple and has since wowed bubble lovers of all ages. The Gazillion Bubble Show truly is a family affair for Fan: his wife Ana, son Deni, daughter Melody, and brother Jano all can be found on stage in New York and around the world performing their bubble magic. Audiences are delighted with an unbelievable experience, awash with a bubble tide, and some even find themselves inside a bubble. 11 am and 3 pm.

Queen of Hearts: Griff’s Employee Relief Fund

Memorial Trail Ice House will have a Queen of Hearts benefit for the Griff’s employee relief fund. Griff's Irish Pub has been a Houston landmark for many years, and the news of the fire that happened earlier this month has affected a lot of people – especially the staff and owners. Come support the employees as they rebuild, while getting a chance to win 50% of the pot. Tickets are $20 with no purchase limit. Slim Chance Bistro will be on site until 4pm. Noon.

Harris County Public LIbrary presents Holocaust Remembrance Day Concert

Apollo Chamber Players and Harris County Public LIbrary will reflect Holocaust Remembrance Day with a program of multicultural new music by Sephardic scholar Isabelle Ganz and Rice University faculty composer Richard Lavenda. Guest collaborators include vocalist Ceclia Duarte, percussionist Jesus Pacheco, and bassoonist Benjamin Kamins, former principal of the Houston Symphony and professor at The Shepherd School of Music. 2 pm.

Toyota Center presents Jo Koy

After proving he could headline a big-screen comedy with last summer’s Easter Sunday, Jo Koy and his Jo Koy World Tour will feature all-new material. One of today’s premiere stand-up comedians (dude has a bunch of specials on Netflix), Jo’s uniquely relatable comedy, which pulls inspiration from his colorful family, has reached all kinds of people and has translated into sold-out arenas around the world. 8 pm.

Sunday, January 29

Rahim Mohamed “Ocky Way” pop-up at Burger Bodega

Burger Bodega will host the famous TikTok influencer and viral internet sensation Rahim Mohamed for a one-day pop-up. Mohamed will take over the parking lot with his exotic "Ocky Way" chopped cheese sandwiches. With his enormous following, Mohamed has coined the term "Ocky Way" and has taken it to new heights at his sandwich shop Red Hook Food Corp in Brooklyn. Rahim's unique style of sandwiches helped him gain a following of over 4 million followers with millions of views overall. 1 pm.

Ars Lyrica presents From China with Love: Musical Chinoiseries in 17th- and 18th-Century Europe

Exotic decorations on cabinets, porcelain vessels, and embroideries imported from China inspired a popular design trend in Baroque Europe, one reflected in various objects in the Rienzi collection and on the harpsichord featured on this program. Musical selections by Teodorico Pedrini, Henry Purcell, Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Christoph Willibald Gluck illustrate how composers of this time created equally lavish-sounding textures. 4 and 5:30 pm.

ONEUS in concert

After a triumphant U.S. tour last year, the hottest Korean boy band since BTS is back to prove they’re still the most electrifying act on the world stage today. The five members of ONEUS have a fresh, vibrant sound and attitude that sets them apart from all other pop acts. The group’s songs, music videos, and stage show often draw inspiration from traditional Korean instruments, fashion, and culture, but are also forward-looking with intriguing themes, inspired couture, and modern-day sounds like trap, hip-hop, and futuristic funk. 7:30 pm.