Foodie Events / Restaurants

Gourmet DJ Headlines Woodlands Wine & Food Week After Surviving Gordon Ramsay’s Pressure Cooker

Your Cheat Sheet to the Grand Foodie Party

BY // 05.31.18

Eat, drink and be merry is almost the command for Wine & Food Week in The Woodlands. The 14th annual gastronomic extravaganza kicks off on Tuesday, June 5 and goes through Sunday, June 10. This year’s theme? Taste of Love.

The weeklong, all-inclusive wine and culinary fest has delighted everyone from wine connoisseurs to serious foodies to craft beer fans for more than a decade.

“The whole premise of wine and food and relationships is so important to us,”  says Constance McDerby, founder of Food & Vine Time Productions, which runs the event. “You really get to know someone when you break bread and you drink wine with them. We want people to have a really deep experience this year.”

The biggest draw this year just may be Gourmet Wizard DJ Shaun O’Neale. The DJ earned serious street cred after winning Season 7 of Fox’s MasterChef. The champion got his start in electronic music before parlaying his love of cooking into a big-time career.

“I personally think in today’s food world, being self taught is the way to go,” O’Neale tells PaperCity. “Culinary schools, as great as they are, they don’t stay on trend with what’s happening in restaurants today.”

He was off to a casual start when he was 17, prepping for a party with friends. “I made a big pot of spaghetti with as much crap as I could,” O’Neale says. “Sausage, beef, peppers, onion. I threw everything in. I didn’t know any better.”

Cook books were his true inspiration. The DJ thumbed through Michelin-starred restaurant cook books, from New York’s famed Eleven Madison Park restaurant to Thomas Keller’s Napa Valley legend French Laundry. “I think that’s why I’ve been able to carry this success,” O’Neale says.

MasterChef was an eye-opening experience, with the judges teaching him persistence and how to get back up — noted kitchen screamer Gordon Ramsay in particular.

“You’re in the kitchen with the toughest man in the world when it comes to food. One of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, but in the kitchen…,” O’Neale laughs.

“With food I feel like I found a unique voice. I felt like MasterChef made me find that voice. Food is where I’m supposed to be.”

He can’t wait to head to The Woodlands to share his voice. “Houston is one of the flourishing foodie scenes,” O’Neale says.

Woodland Wine & Food Week fits right into that with national and international wine tastings, wine dinners, special events, seminars and casual wine strolls. It all builds up to the tour de force: the Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase.

Tickets can be purchased for each event, with the H-E-B Wine Walk the least expensive at $20 — an event with wine sampling and live entertainment — up to the extravagant Platinum Wine Vault’s Celebrity Cruises at $250.

This year’s 75-plus chefs range from Kiran Verma of Kiran’s to The Woodlands’ finest and even top chefs from Mexico, Europe and Aruba.

Sixty of the chefs will go head-to-head to win the national, coveted Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs award and a $5,000 cash prize. Meanwhile, inspired pastry chefs will vie for the Just Desserts trophy and a $1,000 crash prize.

Guy Stout will serve as the Wine Wizard Master of Ceremonies. Stout is one of only 215 official Master Sommeliers in the world and one of the very first in the United States.

Fun’s on the menu.

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