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Society / Featured Parties

America’s Best Chefs Come Together in Houston For Smashing Opening

Stunning Jewels — Including a $14.7 Million Diamond Ring — Set the Stage for the New Valobra

BY // 02.13.19
photography Kirsten Gilliam

Franco Valobra’s fast friendship with master chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jérôme Bocuse began on a Ferrari racetrack in Florida more than a decade ago. It was thus no surprise, but assuredly astonishing, that the three came from across the country to join in celebration of the grand opening of  Houston’s Valobra Master Jewelers, a smashing boutique that rose almost overnight on Westheimer, on the site of the former Mr. Santos Tailoring.

What was surprising was the congeniality that these legendary chefs, considered the best in the country, shared with the 250 celebrants.

Boulud, owner of a restaurant empire that includes seven in New York and eight far beyond, was hands on, graciously serving guests his boudin blanc with truffle mashed potatoes au jus. Keller, the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneously three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants (the French Laundry in California and Per Se in New York) chatted with guests about the 60 dozen oysters that he flew in especially for the night, his seafood bar displayed atop an ice sculpture bearing the Valobra logo. And then Bocuse, son of famed Paul Bocuse and a master in his own right, struck a sweet chord with guests for his oh-so-tempting dessert creations.

What items the gents did not fly in from their home bases, they prepared in the kitchen at Hess Tower, working for two days prior to the fête.

“They have supported before many causes that we have had together,” Valobra tells PaperCity. “They fundraised for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We fundraised for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Foundation (2012) and now they are here to support me for the opening of my flagship store in Houston.”

While the food was ravishing, this evening was also about the new classic emporium (don’t miss the Venetian glass chandelier) and the jewels, a number of special items brought in from New Orleans, where Valobra landed from Italy at the age of 19. Consider, for example, the 73.11 carat vivid yellow diamond set as a ring, priced at $14.7 million, and the “Farnese Blue,” a 6.16-karat pear-shaped diamond given to Elizabetta Farnese when she became Queen of Spain in 1714.

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These and the wealth of dazzling gems within explained the hefty security that surrounded the store.

In a clever nod to the elegance of the evening, a bevy of “cat burglars,” draped in Valobra jewels, prowled the environs, perhaps planting seeds for gifts for Valentine’s Day, only two days away. Before guests arrived and while the models were donning their jewelry, the three chefs were entertained as Valobra pointed out the yellow and blue diamonds, secured in a special case. Then they were on to the watches, examining each other’s wrists and fawning over Valobra’s watch collection.

“Shopping?” quipped Keller. “We’re always shopping for diamonds.”

While in Houston, the chef stars bunked at the swank Hotel Granduca, were hosted by Shawn Virene for dinner at a’Bouzy and treated to lunch at Chris Shepherd‘s One Fifth.

 What the Chefs Served

Thomas Keller: Regiis Ova Ossetra Caviar, Pacific Hamachi Ceviche, Island Creek Oysters (East Coast), Kumamoto Oysters (West Coast), Gulf Prawns, Snow Crab Claws, Prince Edward Island Mussles.

Daniel Boulud: Pâté Grand Mere; Pâté Grand Pere, Fromage de Tete, Pâté en Croute with Duck and Foie Gras, Courrone de Volaille Noisette et Cranberries, Jambon de Paris, Boundin Blanc with Truffle Mashed Potato and Jus, Beet and Endive Salad with Candied Nuts, Lentils Cu Puy, Brie aux Truffe, and Taleggio.

Jérôme Bocuse: Apple Tart, Crème Brûlée, Raspberry Lime Macaron, Warm Chocolate Moelleux and Rum Baba, a puff of pastry with a tiny flexible test tube for infusing the rum.

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