Houston’s Ultimate Food Party Honors Legendary Society Writer and Award-Winning Architect Husband
Hospitality Queen Helps Corks and Forks Set New RecordsBY Catherine D. Anspon // 10.08.19
Chair Mary Grace Gray, honorees Shelby Hodge & Shafik Rifaat, Tiziana Triolo (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Culinary Crown winning chef Giancarlo Ferrara of Amalfi (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Chef Kate McLean, Tony & Donna Vallone during a food competition in 2019. (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Linda McReynolds, Lynn Wyatt (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Marcia & David Solomon, Karen & Mel Payne (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Chair Mary Grace Gray, 2019 VICTORY President Bebe Falik, Tiziana Triolo (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Kira & Alex Borlenghi, Dror Zadok (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Auction chair Sherri Zucker, Amy Pierce (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Regina Rogers, Ginger Blanton, Rose Cullen (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Neal Hamil, Bubba McNeely (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Chef Maurizio Ferrarese, Ristorante Cavour at Hotel Granduca (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Kathryn & Jeff Smith (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Deborah Duncan, Brigitte Kalai, Alicia Smith, Ursaline Hamilton (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Renee & Alan Helfman, Sharon Staley (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Sharon Adams, Mark Sullivan (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Aliyya Stude, Courtney Sarofim, honoree Shafik Rifaat, Dr. Dian Ginsberg (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Culinary judges Whitney Mercilus, Mai Pham, Greg Morago (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Adrian Dueñas, Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl, Kristina Somerville (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Phyllis Williams, Karina Barbieri, Ursaline Hamilton (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Patti Murphy, Dr. Rolando Maldonado (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Honoree Shelby Hodge, Javier & Lucinda Loya (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Brennan's Joe Cervantez captured the audience award. (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Brennan's Margie Krause, Carl & Jennifer Walker during better times (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Elizabeth & Alan Stein (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Mary Ann & David McKeithan (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Tiziana & Dr. Fabio Triolo (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Helene Zadok, Raquel Lewis, Dror Zadok (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Deborah Duncan, Monica Hartland, Warner Roberts (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Lane Moore, Karla Haskin (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Virginia Hodge, honorees Shafik Rifaat & Shelby Hodge, Len Kowitz & Cathy Hodge, Bruce Nichols (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
Steak 48 joins the party with both a chef contribution and a swell dinner for eight offered in the live auction. (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
The Ballroom at Bayou Place dressed up for Corks and Forks (Photo by Roswitha Vogler)
What are the ingredients for an over-the-top gala, you ask?
Begin with a beloved pair of honorees — in this case, the social scribe who has personally attended and covered thousands of events (more luncheons, brunches, cocktails, dinners and galas than any First Lady), alongside her equally talented and charming architect husband. Who else could we be talking about, but PaperCity Society & Style Editor Shelby Hodge, and husband, UH professor of Architecture and Urban Planning, Shafik Rifaat, who can list FAIA and FAICP after his name.
Add in a chairman who has long and graciously held court in the kingdom of Houston hotels and hospitality, but is calling in all her favors for her first time ever chairing an event for an exceptionally worthy cause.
That would Mary Grace Gray, stepping up to raise funds for American Cancer Society (honoree Shelby Hodge is a cancer survivor) and recognizing its hard-working volunteer chapter, VICTORY, with an award accepted by long-time member and VICTORY president Bebe Falik.
Then into this winning recipes, mix in a foodie and vintner evening like few others — the perfectly titled Corks and Forks — and you have a philanthropic dish flavored with success.
And so it was when the 4th annual edition of Corks and Forks went down at the Ballroom of Bayou Place. A record-setting crowd of 410 guests, generated a net $275,000 in proceeds for the American Cancer Society — tripling funds raised in years past. The munificent bottom line also helps funds the forthcoming Hope Lodge in the Texas Medical Center, which offers no-cost lodging for cancer patients and families. It will be the country’s largest facility of its kind when it opens in early spring of 2020.
Chefs from iconic Houston restaurants joined with trend-setting newcomers to battle it out in the Culinary Competition, which featured an audience winner (the Vignette award) as well as the Culinary Crown conferred by a panel of five in-the-know foodies: writers/editors Kate McLean, Greg Morago and Mai Pham, joined by Houston Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus and Tony’s Tony Vallone.
Bringing out all the culinary stops for the night’s delicious, and fierce competition were the 14 top Houston chefs: Joe Cervantez of Brennan’s of Houston; Stephen Conklin, La Table; Uchi’s Chris Davies; Lance Fegen of Liberty Kitchen; Giancarlo Ferrara of Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar; Maurizio Ferrarese, Ristorante Cavour at Hotel Granduca; Stephanie Hoban, Verdine; Emmanuel Hodencq, Toulouse Café & Bar; Thomas Laczynski, Ouzo Bay; Hassan Obaye, Le Colonial; Alex Padilla, The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation; Colin Shine, Frank’s Americana Revival; Jeffrey Taylor, Steak 48; and Bisou’s Laura Taylor.
Loch Bar’s chef Aaron Taylor curated early-evening hors d’oeuvres and a specialty cocktail, while Annie Rupani of Cacao and Cardamom Chocolatier and Rosario Tortorice of Tea and Coffee America oversaw the final act of this big-flavored epicurean fundraiser.
Drum roll, please. In a town known for its diverse, rich restaurant scene, the Culinary Crown was captured by Amalfi’s Giancarlo Ferrara for his Capesante in Padella con Crema di Zucchine e Tartufo, a dish of diver sea scallops pan-seared in olive oil and sea salt, accompanied by baby zucchini mousse, Pioppini mushrooms, and black-truffle cream sauce. Ferrara also offered guests a traditional Italian dessert — Sfogliatella Napoletana — Campania, shell-shaped pastries filled with cream crafted of Ricotta cheese, Semolina and candied orange, topped off by vanilla bean sauce.
Winning over the audience at this big foodie fete was Brennan’s of Houston. Chef Joe Cervantez prepared Tasso & Grits dumplings with NOLA-style BBQ shrimp, which were applauded as crowd faves.
PC Seen: Lynn Wyatt; Linda McReynolds; Rose Cullen; Ginger Blanton; Regina Rogers; Aliyya Stude; Courtney Sarofim; Lucinda and Javier Loya; Karen and Mike Mayell; Kathryn and Jeff Smith; Frances Marzio; LeTricia Wilbanks; Alan Helfman, who deftly fielded bids on five coveted live auction packages — from the J.J. Watts signed jersey and helmut to trips to Sicily and an Africa game-preserve; Steak 48 honchos in from Phoenix headquarters Oliver Badgio and Jeff Mastro; Bucky Allshouse; American Cancer Society’s Tiziana Triolo; auction chair Sherri Zucker; Tracey Cleckler; Kira and Alex Borlenghi; and Helene and Dror Zadok.
More in the high-voltage old guard/new guard mix: Mary Ann and David McKeithan; Marcia and David Solomon; Karen and Mel Payne; Brigitte Kalai; Alicia Smith; Ursaline Hamilton; BeDesign’s Adrián Dueñas; Carrie Brandsberg-Dahl; Kristina Somerville; Phyllis Williams; Karina Barbieri; Neal Hamil; Bubba McNeely; the night’s emcee Deborah Duncan; musician David Caceres whose band set the stage for late-night dancing; and City Council candidates/politicos including Bob Nowak and Marina Angelica Coryat.