There were plenty of highs at this year’s 13th Annual Houston Culinary Awards, which took place this past Sunday, October 6, 2013 at The Houstonian Hotel. The event, founded and hosted by My Table Magazine, is the premier event of its kind in Houston, drawing the restaurant industry’s biggest movers and shakers. If there was one night to rub elbows with Houston area chefs, bartenders, service people, and everyone else in the culinary industry, Sunday night was the night.
Entering the reception area, a who's who of chefs were in attendance: Revival Market’s Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber; Triniti’s Ryan Hildebrand and Chong Yi; Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe’s Tracy Vaught, Hugo Ortega, and Ruben Ortega; Haven’s Randy Evans; Gatlin’s BBQ’s Greg Gatlin; the Cordua Restaurant Group’s Michael and David Cordua; Mark’s American Cuisine’s Mark Cox; Kiran Varma of Kiran's; Clark Cooper Concepts’ Charles Clark and Grant Cooper; Brooklyn Athletic Club’s Shepard Ross; John Sheely of Mockingbird Bistro and Osteria Mazzantini; Kaz Edwards of Uchi Houston; David Kaiser of Central Market, and many many more.
The cocktail reception featured passed hors d’oeuvres by chef Michael Pellegrino of Max’s Wine Dive, Mario Valdez of Rainbow Lodge, and Neal Cox of The Houstonian as champagne and Brugal Rum cocktails flowed freely. Spirits were high in the room, which reverberated with an air of optimism and cheer.
Dinner was held in the The Houstonian Ballroom, where approximately 350 attendees feasted on a meal that started with a beautifully plated salad of heirloom beets with local goat cheese and pecan-bacon brittle by Jeff Axline of the Hotel Zaza. This was followed by a wild game duo of kangaroo and elk carpaccio topped with shaved foie gras by Kevin Bryant of Elevin XI.
For the entree, Ronnie Killen of Killen's Steakhouse in Pearland and the soon-to-be-open Killen's BBB, served a delectable whole barbecued short rib served with cream corn, a standout of the night for its tender texture and deep barbecue flavors. Fluff Bake Bar’s Rebecca Masson offered a playful dessert made of moist pistachio pound cake, served with Cloud 10 Creamery dulce de leche ice cream, with fennel and orange, accompanied by a iced coffee service by Blacksmith’s David Buehrer and Ecky Probanto.
It was during dessert and coffee service that the awards ceremony began. My Table Magazine's publisher and editor-in-chief, Teresa Byrne-Dodge, took the podium to announce the Annual Legend of Houston Restaurants Award, naming Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s Brock Wagner as this year’s honoree.
“I founded Saint Arnold’s in 1994, which was a great idea for 2006,” Wagner said, drawing chuckles from the audience. Wagner is a visionary in the craft beer world, opening at a time when no one knew what craft beer was. “I finally got people to put my beer on the menus, where it would get listed on under the ‘foreign’ category,” he said, remembering the way things were then. His speech was witty and heartfelt, setting the stage for the rest of the evening.
In total, 10 Houston Culinary Awards and 15 Houston Foodie Star Awards were presented. Highlights included the naming of Gatlin’s Barbecue for Favorite Barbecue, Sheridan Fay of El Gran Malo as Favorite Bartender, Lankford Grocery as Favorite Burger, Phoenicia Specialty Foods as Favorite Supermarket, and Blacksmith for Favorite Coffee House.
Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner of The Pass and Provisions took home two awards for Best New Restaurant and Restauranteur of the Year. Hugo’s took home two awards as Best Houston Classic and Outstanding Bar Service.
Lyle Bento of Underbelly was recognized as the Up-And-Coming Chef of the Year, and Brandi Key of Coppa Ristorante and the new Coppa Osteria received a standing ovation when she was named Chef of the Year.
For a complete list of this year's winner, please visit My Table Magazine.