Fly on the Wall: Houston Rising Stars Honorees Dinner at The Grove with Chefs Robert Del Grande, Claire Smith, and Mark Cox

by Kathleen Culliton
Shannon Sturgis
April 2011

Restaurant Info

The Grove
1611 Lamar Street
Houston, TX 77010
(713) 337-7321
www.thegrovehouston.com

Body shot off of Bobby Heugel, anyone?

Highland Park Representative Martin Daraz<br> toasts the Rising Stars
Highland Park Representative Martin Daraz
toasts the Rising Stars














Okay, we didn’t resort to such debauchery. But with Highland Park Whisky flowing freely among the guests of the 2011 Houston Rising Stars Honorees Dinner, it was at one point suggested, ahem, rather boisterously. On the night before the big gala, Houston’s first generation of Rising Stars took the opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company.


Host Chef Robert Del Grande
Chef Evan Topel and Chef Regi Hise of
Emmi Roth USA table

The weather could not have been better. Mild and warm, we opened all the doors so guests could congregate on the balcony, nestled amid the branches of oak trees. Candlelight flickered as a breeze brushed through “The Tree House,” the elegant space above The Grove, where Chef Robert Del Grande invited Rising Stars and their guests for an evening of mentor chef tastings, atop Rene Ozorio plateware by Steelite International. Chef Claire Smith, of Canopy and Shade, and Chef Mark Cox of Mark’s American Cuisine worked alongside Del Grande to create the night’s menu. Smith served Braised Australian Lamb, Orange, Sage, Spinach, Almond Piccata, and Crispy Polenta. And a pairing of Highland Park whisky coaxed out the dish’s subtle flavors of orange and sage. Cox prepared an Roasted Australian Wagyu Rib-eye, Sweet Peppers, and Mushroom Flan; it was savory and seductively light. And Del Grande's Cervena Venison Loin with “Texas Gin”, featuring the highly acclaimed Cervena Venison, was a favorite among the chefs. It was almost as if the mentors had said to our Rising Stars, “let us show you how it’s done.”


Future Partners Chef Chris Shepherd
Future Partners Chef Chris Shepherd and
Mixologist Bobby Heugel, with Kaylan Tannahill, on The Tree House Balcony

"The Tree House" was alive with chatter. We sipped Highland Park cocktails, nibbled on cheeses provided by Emmi Roth USA, and inhaled the gossip. Bobby Heugel and Chris Shepherd told us about their upcoming restaurant, Underbelly, which will partner the two Rising Stars as owners. Coincidentally, both Rising Star Pastry Chefs (separately) expressed their desire to come to New York; Chris Leung of Bootsie's hopes to compete in the StarChefs.com 2nd Annual International Pastry Competition and Vanarin Kuch wants to eventually make the city his permanent home. Unfortunately, Rising Star Chef Bryan Caswell wasn’t able to make the dinner, but rumors buzzed about the concurrent soft opening of his new restaurant, El Real. The beautiful restaurant—housed in a restored 1950s movie theater—is sure to evolve into an iconic restaurant, once the team figures out how to stop the plates from exploding (so the rumors say).



Millie Dweck of StarChefs.com speaking with Robert Hahmann of Nordaq Fresh
Millie Dweck of StarChefs.com speaking with Robert Hahmann of Nordaq Fresh

As the evening drew to a close, guests began to trickle out, many in search of a digestif at Heugel’s Anvil Bar & Refuge. It was at that moment, as we watched the Rising Stars piling into each other’s cars, that it struck us why we like these chefs so much: they’re all friends, mentors, and drinking buddies—and it’s been such a thrill to come along for the ride.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 
The StarChefs.com Rising Stars Revue™
Houston Rising Stars Honorees Dinner
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Hosted by Chef Robert Del Grande
Co-hosted by Chef Mark Cox and Chef Claire Smith

Serving In The Vista Room
Robert Del Grande
RDG+Bar Annie and The Grove

Cold-grilled Australian Wagyu Beef with Mission Fig and Bone Marrow Mousse
Cervena Venison Loin with “Texas Gin”
Poached Pear, Buttermilk Blue Cheese, and Smoked Almonds
Tarte Tatin with Caramel Sauce

Mark Cox
Mark’s American Cuisine
Roasted Australian Wagyu Rib-eye, Sweet Peppers, and Mushroom Flan

Claire Smith
Canopy and Shade
Braised Australian Lamb, Orange, Sage, Spinach, Almond Piccata, and Crispy Polenta
Spirit Pairing: Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Domestic & International Cheese Selection
Presented by Emmi Roth USA

Buttermilk Blue from Wisconsin
Buttermilk Blue Affinée from Wisconsin
Moody Blue from Wisconsin
Ostenborg Horseradish and Chive Havarti from Wisconsin
Grand Cru Gruyère Reserve from Wisconsin
Emmi Le Gruyère Reserve from Switzerland
Cave-Aged Kaltbach Le Gruyère from Switzerland

From the Bar
“Park in the Spring”
Featuring Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky


Spirits

Highland Park
Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Water
Nordaq Fresh
(Sparkling and Still)
 

Sponsors

New Zealand Logo Australian Lamb & Beef Logo
New Zealand Logo Australian Lamb & Beef Logo
New Zealand Logo Australian Lamb & Beef Logo
Highland Park Logo

SPECIAL THANKS TO
Cervena Venison, Emmi Roth USA, Fresh Origins, Highland Park Single Malt Scotch Whisky,
Meat & Livestock Australia, Nordaq Fresh, and Steelite International