Houston Snapshots

Houston Ballet “Raised the Barre” Curbside with a Lot of Help from Local Chefs

Photography:  Wilson Parish
Event:  Virtual gala
Event Date:  September 20, 2020
Location:  Various homes
Money Raised:  $90,000
Beneficiary:  Houston Ballet
Chairpersons:  Mignon & Steve Gill and Samira Salman
Honorees:  Bill & Courtney Toomey and Truist Bank

Houston Ballet “Raised the Barre” Curbside with a Lot of Help from Local Chefs

This past April, the success of Houston Ballet’s tenth annual “Raising the Barre,” presented by Truist Bank, was set to be its most triumphant. Of course, COVID reared its ugly head as it did for everyone, everywhere, and the event was postponed.

Chairpersons Mignon & Steve Gill and Samira Salman, along with honorees Bill & Courtney Toomey and Truist Bank, stood firm with their fundraising efforts, knowing the difficulties facing non-profit organizations, especially the arts.

This seated-dinner event had always been both a profitable and entertaining evening in past years, but how to make it work during a pandemic is the question. To the rescue, comes Host Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Hospitality, Chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi of Kata Robata, Chef Hugo Ortega of H Town Restaurant Group and Pastry Chef Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar. These local renown chefs (each with their own set of COVID-related business issues) prepared their respective courses “a la curbside” with their own individually nuanced styles. Houston Ballet dancers including: Principal Yuriko Kajiya, Principal Connor Walsh, First Soloist Oliver Halkowich, and Soloist Alyssa Springer were still at the top of each chef’s creative mind, even though they were not able to don their aprons and work alongside chefs in the kitchen.

Exclusive invitations were sent to the original reservation holders from the host restaurant Georgia James, which included custom “meal kits” to be picked up curbside by the invitees. The Ballet’s Executive Director Jim Nelson and Artistic Director Stanton Welch were on-hand to safely greet guests in their cars and distribute the neatly packed four-course cuisine, which recipients prepared at their homes. The meals included everything from salmon carpaccio and duck tamales wrapped in banana leaves to herb-marinated chicken over a green papaya salad and a quartet of desserts.

The virtual program included remarks by Stanton Welch along with messages from each of the chefs and dancer pairings, as well as an exclusive Houston Ballet clip. The efforts of all involved raised almost $90,000 to support Houston Ballet’s crisis relief efforts. BRAVO!

Virtually present (not mentioned previously): Ann Bean, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Lindsey Brown, Lilly and Harrison Cullen, Sharon Erskine, Brannon Fitch, Jeremy Griggs, Beth Muecke, Duyen and Marc Nguyen, Amy and Jordan Pincu, Kevin Potter, Laura Robertson. Akemi Saitoh, Liz Schwarze, Shawn Stephens, Bill and Courtney Toomey, Ann Trammell and Hallie Vanderhider.

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