Society / Featured Parties

88-Year-old Grocery Store Pioneer Gets Her Moment in a Magical Dinner at Houston’s Urban Farm of Wonder

Celebrating Recipe for Success' 15 Year Mission

BY // 05.07.21

While it wasn’t precisely a crystal anniversary celebration, 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.

The soirèe was actually celebration of 88-year-old dynamo Peg Lee, founding director of Rice Epicurean Market cooking school who later held the position at Central Market. Lee is credited with single-handedly taking Houston’s restaurant and grocery scene from the relative dark ages into a world of culinary adventure.

Such was her influence that in a proclamation presented by City Councilman David Robinson, Mayor Sylvester Turner declared it Peg Lee Day In Houston. Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis sent his regards to Lee and a formal recognition from the county.

It was a festive affair that displayed the Gathering Barn’s potential as an event space. Yes, you can rent it out. McDugald Steele helped to dress the space by providing four massive floral chandeliers laced with maiden hair ferns and pastel-hued hydrangeas. The flowers complimented the table centerpieces, product’s of Gracie Cavnar’s Flower Child Urban Flower Farm & Studio.

Chef-Martin-Stayer-plates-his-Beet-Pastrami-for-Delicious-Alchemy_photo-Kirsten_Gilliam
Chef Martin Stayer of Nobie at The Gathering Barn at Hope Farms where Recipe For Success hosted the Delicious Alchemy dinner. (Photo by Kirsten Gilliam)

The voluptuous dinner was prepared by chefs Barbara McKnight of Culinaire, Erin Stewart of Savor + Sweat, Charlie Ho of Le Colonial, Greg Martin of Bistro Menil, Martin Stayer of Nobie, Thomas Laczynski of Ouzo Bay, Adam Stephens of Guard & Grace, Felix Florez of Cherry Block,  Sasha Grumman of The Fierce Chef, and Ojan Bagher of Sysco.

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Sysco’s even larger role in the evening was realized when Gracie Cavnar revealed that the Sysco Nourishing Neighbors Foundation has made a leadership gift to fund the new Peg Lee Culinary Classroom at Hope Farms. Applause, applause!

PC Seen: Kristen and Bobby Cavnar, Sultana and Moez Mangalji, Elizabeth and Bob Phillips, Carson Seeligson, Al Lasher, Gayle and Lloyd Bentsen, Laurann Claridge, Sara Dodd, Sheree and Norman Frede, Elyse Lanier, Laura and Rick Jaramillo, Ford Hubbard, and Kim Tutcher.

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