Pioneer Gets a Magical Dinner

Recipe for Success
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Erin-Stewart,Charlie-Ho,Adam-Stephens,Tommy-Lacsynski,Sasha-Grumman,Gracie-Cavnar,Martin-Stayer,Ojan-Bagher,Greg-MArtin,Felix-Florez,Barbara-McKnight-at-Delicious-Alchemy-Banquet_photo-Kirsten_Gilliam.jpgCelebratingRecipe for Success' 15 Year Mission

BY // 05.07.21

The Recipe for Success Foundation "Delicious Alchemy" dinner was glorious testament to the evolution of the seedling of an idea that was planted 15 years ago. Fifty generous patrons were seated for a 10-course dinner in the foundation's Gathering Barn, centerpiece of the seven-acre urban farm in Houston that is the pulse point of the Recipe for Success mission of battling childhood obesity.

Founders of the highly lauded program, Gracie and Bob Cavnar welcomed arrivals who passed the cocktail hour mingling amid Hope Farms' resplendent fields of vegetables and flowers. Missing from the verdant landscape were the entire crop of citrus trees and half of the fruit trees, victims of the February deep freeze. Before the night was over, the ever-creative Gracie Cavnar had announced a giving opportunity that would help replant the once-vibrant orchard. Read entire story.

Guests enjoyed a lively cocktail hour, followed by an over-the-top, formal seated dinner celebrating Houston's rich culinary diversity in the gloriously, verdant pastoral setting. Each course was immaculately paired with either an artisan wine from boutique distributor, Favorite Brands or a refreshing, farm-inspired cocktail featuring partners Tito's Handmade Vodka and Brown Foreman.

David-Garten-Suzanne-and-Jon-Fain_DOrtizPhoto_050321.jpgWe greeted everyone in the Robert L. and Grace R. Cavnar Foundation Chef's Kitchen Garden with cocktails and two passed courses: Summer Gazpacho Shooters topped with edible flowers from Hope Farms by Chef Erin O'Leary Stewart, Savor + Sweat, and Yuzu Marinated Gulf Shrimp Ceviche from Chef Charlie Ho, Le Colonial. Chef-Erin-Stewart-passes-Summer-Gazpacho-shots_photo-Kirsten_Gilliam.jpg

Violinist Maryland Liff set the upbeat tone for the evening with her electric and acoustic performance. As the sun set, guests took their seats in the UnitedHealth Foundation Gathering Barn. The soaring ceilings featured four massive living chandeliers, designed by award-winning luxury landscape architect, McDugald Steele, which were adorned with delicate maidenhair ferns and blue, pink and purple hydrangeas. Thumbnail image for DeliciousAlchemy-table-setting_DOrtizPhoto_050321.jpgThe tables were dressed in deep gray linens with a soft sheen, surrounded by clear acrylic ghost chairs, glittering with silver chargers and hundreds of mercury glass tea lights, and overflowing with arrangements of lush, pastel flowers in zinc urns, rustic cement pots and delicate glass designed by Gracie Cavnar's Flower Child Urban Flower Farm & Studio.

Chef Barbara McKnight, CULINARE kicked off the seated dinner with course three, "A Walk Through the Garden" highlighting This Week's Farm Harvest including wild walking onions. The fourth course, by Chef Greg Martin, Bistro Menil, was an Andalusian Style Gazpacho featuring Hope Farms' Heritage Root Vegetables and Herbs which delivered a special kick from the farm's Jimmy Nardello peppers. In classic Nobie's fashion, Chef Martin Stayer presented a Corned "Beet" Pastrami with Fermented Beet Top Sauerkraut and a Beet Marble Rye Roll that had guests marveling that it really did taste like pastrami. From there, Chef Thomas Laczynski, Ouzo Bay wowed the crowd with his Amber Roasted Chilean Sea Bass wrapped in Hope Farms Collards, Cooked on an Open Fire. Chef Adam Stephens, Guard & Grace brought a hint of sweetness to the seventh course with his Peach Wood Smoked Squab en Crepenette, which he smoked over the remains of a Hope Farms peach tree that was killed off by the recent freeze. Rounding out the savory dishes, Chef Felix Florez, Cherry Block served "Mud Boots", with Falcon Lake Farms Heritage Pork Tenderloin and a Crawfish Boudin Pinwheel, served over a Maque Choux Waffle.

Chef-Ojan-Bagher-serves-up-dessert-at-DeliciousAlchemy_DOrtizPhoto_050321.jpgGuests were invited to push back from the table and stroll back into the garden for desserts to finish the night. Courses nine and ten left the evening on a sweet note with a Hope Farms Beet Crostada from Top Chef contestant Sasha Grumman, The Fierce Chef, and Mama's Pound Cake from Chef Ojan Bagher, Sysco, topped with Hope Farms Blueberry-Nasturtium Sause and Tèo's Goat Cheese Gelato. Peg Lee's son Matthew Lee created Tèo's Gelato, which has won numerous awards around the world. He developed the Goat Cheese flavor especially for this dish.

Our Founder, Grace Cavnar emceed the evening and shared her own memories of Lee, who is her treasured mentor and a very early supporter of Recipe for Success. Gracie-Cavnar-with-Peg-Lee_DOrtizPhoto_050321.jpgThree separate toasts to the special honoree, who was surrounded by her family, punctuated the evening. City Councilman David Robinson recognized her impact on the city and presented a proclamation declaring May 3rd as "Peg Lee Day" in The City of Houston. Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Precinct One sent his high regards and a formal recognition from the County. The proclamations brought everyone's glasses up for a clink and exuberant applause.

All ten chefs appeared as course four was served. After they were introduced and thanked by Cavnar, Chef Greg Martin gave a loving toast to Lee, a singular culinary pioneer who was so supportive of our town's blossoming chefs, including him. Peg Lee began teaching cooking classes at Houston Community College in the 1970s and a decade later became the founding director of the Rice Chef-Greg-Martin-toasts-Peg-Lee_DeliciousAlchemy_DOrtizPhoto_050321-2.jpgEpicurean cooking school. In 2001, Houston's brand-new Central Market lured her away to start their, now wildly successful, cooking school where she helped attract well-known national and international chefs alongside local talent. As guests tucked into the final savory course at table, Cavnar invited John Miller--Region President Sysco South Texas, to join her as she announced a final surprise. Sysco Nourishing Neighbors Foundation has made a leadership gift to fund the new Peg Lee Culinary Classroom at Hope Farms, where Cavnar hopes to continue in the spirit of her treasured mentor as a site of cooking classes for all ages presented by chefs of note from Houston and across the country.

Cavnar then thanked McDugald Steele for not only installing the glorious living chandeliers, but for donating a special collection of Asian Pear Trees. After sharing with the crowd that 100% of Hope Farms citrus orchard and 50% of the rest of their fruit trees were wiped out by the recent freeze, Cavnar invited guests to underwrite new trees in remembrance of someone dear. Over half the group responded!

BOLD FACED TYPES INCLUDED - Founders Gracie and Bob Cavnar with their son Bobby Cavnar and his wife Kristen, Gayle and Lloyd Bentsen, Laurann Claridge, Sara Dodd, Sheree and Norman Frede, Rachel Lee Hovnanian, Ford Hubbard, Laura and Rick Jaramillo, Al Lasher, Sultana and Moez Mangalji, Elizabeth and Bob Phillips, Carson Seeligson, Kathy Smyth, Shelly and Warren Spann, Kim Tutcher and Katherine Warren.

SPECIAL THANKS TO - 44 Farms, Alto, Brothers Produce, CULINARE Inspired Events, Favorite Brands, Flower Child Urban Flower Farm & Studio, Fontana Coffee & Tea, Herradura, HiveBee Honey, Hope Farms, Jake's Finer Foods, Katherine Warren, McDugald Steele, Sysco, Teó Gelato, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Woodford Reserve.

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