It is hard to believe the Stephan Pyles Celebrity Chef Dinner is already in its 12th year. The event raises money for the Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarship. Recipients of the scholarship compete in the Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarhip Cookoff, an Iron Chef-style event that takes place in the summer. In the first phase of that competition, the student prepares an application packet which includes the menu that they would prepare. A panel of professional judges selects the top ten, which are sent to Stephan Pyles who selects the top three. In the second phase, the three finalists spend two days prepping, cooking, and erving their menus to a panel of culinary experts that includes Stephan Pyles. The winner receives a $15,000 scholarship made payable to their school, a $500 stipend to travel with Chef Pyles to a celebrity chef fundraising event, and the opportunity to present a course at the Celebrity Chef Dinner and Wine Auction which took place last Sunday.
Let’s get down to the evening.
The fairytale ending is obviously the scholarship would be won by someone of exceptional talent who would not otherwise have been able to afford their culinary training. In that situation, they would have their dream breakthrough, and we would have the fruits of their talent. That is what happened last year. Winner Renée Morgan’s husband had just lost his job and the couple had to declare bankruptcy. In advance of the competition they made the difficult decision to have the electricity to their house cut off in order to pay for the ingredients for the competition. She won it and received the scholarship. Her husband also got a new job.
At this year’s dinner she was responsible for the hors d’oeuvres. Before I was even aware that she had made them I thought they were inspired (especially the Bone Marrow Brulée Tartlett with Cranberry and Red Onion Relish), and assumed that the staff of Restaurant Stephan Pyles must have been responsible. I was impressed when I heard that these were the work of someone just out of culinary school. If these dishes are representative of her abilities then I want to use her Chefalicious Hospitality catering service if I move to Austin.
The full list of chefs and their contributions to the menu is below. The food this year was exceptional.
Renée Morgan – Austin
Bone Marrow Brulée Tartlett with Cranberry and Red Onion Relish
Country Ham and Gouda Goat Fritters
Tomato Martini Shooters with Mozzarella & Basil Oil
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Champagne
David Garrido – Austin
Scallop with Bacon-Potato ball, red Jalapeno Crema and Pumpkin Seed Chardonnay Jello
2010 Evening Land Vineyards Bourgogne Blanc, Burgundy
Stephan Pyles & Joel Harrington – Dallas
Bay of Fundy Salmon Confit with Horseradish Panna Cotta, Honeycrisps and Manchego Chicharron
2008 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Nick Badovinus – Dallas
Cider Roasted Texas Quail, Butternut Squash Grits, Luxardo-Walnut Compote
2008 Pedernales Cellars Family Reserve Red Wine, Texas
Jason Dady – San Antonio
Pan Seared Lamb Loin with Root Vegetable Spoonbread, Fennel, Wild Mushroom and Smoked Huckleberry Bordelaise
2007 Fontanafredda Barolo “Serralunga”.
Rebecca Rather – Fredericksburg
Sweet Potato Doughnuts with Garrison Brothers Bourbon, Bacon Caramel Sauce and Caramel Ice Cream
2007 Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve, Alsace, France
After the meal was a spirited live auction ably led by Harvey Kronberg. Fifteen out of eighteen lots went for above their estimated values. The highest bid was made for an exclusive meal for eight lucky diners prepared by Stephan Pyles at his home. A number for the total amount raised will be available in the next few weeks.
The chefs and their restaurants, students from The Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy, staff at The Food and Wine Foundation of Texas, and George Majdalani, General Manager at Stephan Pyles all donated their time. Also, these events are not possible without the help of generous sponsors and that role of honor is: Central Market, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Evening Land Vineyards, Espirit du Vin, Soklo Blosser Winery, Palm Bay International, Pedernales Cellars, S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna.