Tag Archive | "Bruce Auden"

Bruce Auden’s Cooking Up a Storm at the Gage This Weekend

The Gage Hotel

The Gage Hotel

No other time of the year lends itself to a road trip like summer. And what better destination than the Gage Hotel?

Located in Marathon, Texas (where it is usually about 10 degrees cooler than San Antonio temperatures) near Big Bend National Park, The Gage is a historic, mission-style hotel that will be hosting chef Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks on Saturday as a part of the “Grilling at the Gage” series.

Auden and his right hand man, chef Martin Stembera, will be cooking up a storm in the Gage’s kitchen and will be joined by Auden’s wife, Debra, who will be baking bread for the event. After dinner will be a performance from singer/songwriter Kelley Mickwee.

Auden’s menu is as follows:

–Hill Country wild boar cooked with Asian spices wrapped in lettuces with bean sprouts, cashews and spicy sauces

–Jerk Scallop with Texas cheesy grits and pineapple rum relish

–Bandera Quail and grapefruit salad with avocado, walnut and bleu cheese

–Axis Venison and Lamb on corn pudding with “massaged” kale, fig relish and juniper sauce

–Sticky Toffee Pudding with bourbon fruit and English Custard

For  more information, visit or call 800-884-GAGE.

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Chefs for Chefs: Serving Up Some TLC

The chefs gather for a group photo.

The chefs gather for a group photo.

When a member of the San Antonio restaurant community is in need, a number of restaurants have shown themselves willing to pitch in to help out.

Jesse Perez serves one of the brunch patrons.

Jesse Perez serves one of the brunch patrons.

That’s the basis of the 2-year-old event, Chefs for Chefs. The first year, the effort was to benefit the young daughter of a chef who has been battling a brain tumor. This year, one of the beneficiaries will be Steve Silbas, the beloved former owner of Casbeers who’s in need of a kidney transplant.

Smoked Trout and Kale Tart

Smoked Trout and Kale Tart

With that in mind, chefs from throughout the city showed up at Biga on the Banks Sunday morning to put on their best for the brunch.

You would never have known that chef John Russ from Lüke hosted hundreds from the San Antonio Cocktail Conference until the wee hours of the morning before showing up to serving a spicy shrimp and grits dish. Or that Jason Dady had just opened his new restaurant, Umai Mi, a day before arriving to serve his Asian-spiced deviled eggs, a taste of the new menu.

Steve Silbas

Steve Silbas

Jesse Perez from Arcade Midtown Kitchen offered chicken tinga, while Steve McHugh’s Cured showcased their house-cured meats. Damien Watel of Chez Vatel Bistro presented a veal roulade with mashed potatoes. Mark Bliss served a bright orange trout roe with blini that matched the color of the bacon-topped soup that Lisa Watel of Bite served at the neighboring table. Ceviche from Aldaco’s, smoked trout with kale from John Brand of Omni La Mansion del Rio and a lettuce wrap with mahi-mahi from Zedric’s: Fresh Gourmet to Go were among the other treats. Ron Smith of FreshPoint served up some fine Brazos Valley Cheese, while Casbeers was on hand, too, with their famous enchiladas.

Colorful desserts

Colorful desserts

Jeff Wayne White of Boiler House and Diana Barrios Treviño of Los Barrios, La Hacienda de Los Barrios and Viola’s Ventanas had tables as well as Bruce Auden’s team from the host restaurant, Biga. Daniela Borquez of D’Sweets Creations provided the mouthwatering array of desserts. Others pitching in included Lisa Filip, Mercedes Zachary and Fabien Jacob.

For those who remember the story last year of the young girl who was behind the first event, the team at Biga released the following update: “Emma, the daughter of Biga on the Banks’ Executive Sous Chef Daniel, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and went through radiation. Today, she has made great progress and continues to work on strengthening her immune system while getting better one day at a time. Team Emma inspired this amazing event last year and we hope that we will be able to help many more families in our culinary community for years to come.”

Mark Bliss of Bliss greets a guest.

Mark Bliss of Bliss greets a guest.

Damien and Lisa Watel talk with a patron.

Damien and Lisa Watel talk with a patron.

Jeff Wayne White of Boiler House. Behind him are Lisa Filip and Mercedes Zachary.

Jeff Wayne White of Boiler House. Behind him are Lisa Filip and Mercedes Zachary.



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It’s Emma’s Day at Biga on the Banks

Chefs for Chefs, on behalf of Emma Dirmeyer, attracts about 340 people.

Eight-year-old Emma Dirmeyer has hundreds of friends she didn’t know she had.

Emma Dirmeyer

She met quite a few of them Sunday at Biga on the Banks, which staged a huge party in her honor.

Emma is the daughter of Biga’s sous chef, Daniel Dirmeyer, and she has a brain tumor that is forcing her to undergo radiation five days a week.

Steven McHugh’s roe-topped eggs.

To help her family with the cost of the medical bills, a number of her father’s associates in the city’s’ culinary community joined together for a fundraiser that featured fine food, wines and cocktails, and an overwhelming sense of generosity.

Chefs for Chefs drew about 340 people to the event. They went from food station to food station in order to sample the likes of Damien and Lisa Watel’s Venison Bourguignon or Diana Barrios Treviño’s mini churrasco steaks in chimichurri sauce. Gabriel Ibarra from Cappy’s offered ropa vieja sandwiches, while Chad Carey of the Monterey plated pulled pork on grits.

A few chefs who worked their way through Biga owner Bruce Auden’s kitchens through the years were on hand, including Mark Bliss of Bliss, who was serving up Nancy Fitch’s French toast with duck sausage and berries, and Zach Lutton of Zedric’s Healthy Gourmet to Go! with his seafood tamales, which he promised were lard-free despite their rich flavor.

Mark Bliss enjoys a glass of sparkling wine.

Of course, with so many chefs in one restaurant, some shop talk was inevitable. Jesse Perez offered Aurelia’s Chorizo hash while telling inquiring patrons that his Arcade Midtown Kitchen should be open by the second week of February.  Andrew Weissman served up a Thai Laab Salad and mentioned that Minnie’s Tavern, his new place in the Josephine Street space that once house Liberty Bar, would be open around the same time.

Other participants include Blanca Aldaco, Jason Dady, Luca della Casa, Lisa Filip and Steven McHugh.

A perfect day for the patio.

From the home team of Biga and sister restaurant, Auden’s Kitchen came everything from fried chicken to a series of salads, spreads and charcuterie. Meanwhile, Biga’s pastry chef Lilla Bernal offered a dessert area that had everything from personal creme brulees to cookies left everyone, including Emma, with a smile.

The Monterey’s pork and grits.

Emotions ran high for the entire Dirmeyer family, all of whom were on hand for the event. The same was true for the Biga family, including Perny Shea and Auden, whose voice broke as he thanked everyone for helping to make a different in Emma’s life.

All of the proceeds from the event will go to support Emma. Beyond the chefs and restaurants donating time and food for the event, a great many organizations donated items for a silent auction as well as food, wine and spirits. A few even held their own fundraisers; one was Groomer’s Seafood, which donated 10 percent of its sales Friday to Team Emma. The final amount from the event won’t be known for several days, but donations are still being accepted through Culinaria, which can be reached by clicking here.

Biga chef Bruce Auden (right) talks with former employee Zach Lutton, now owner of Zedric’s Fresh Gourmet to Go!


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Biga, Culinary Community Host Benefit for One of Their Own

San Antonio’s culinary community will step up to the plate later this month to help a member of the team at Biga on the Banks, and his family, as they face a difficult time.

Biga’s executive sous chef Daniel Dirmeyer has been an integral member of the Biga Team for 10 years. He writes all the special events menus and executes them, and serves as co-chef Martin Stembera under chef and owner Bruce Auden.

Dirmeyer has five children. His 8-year-old daughter, Emma, has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and is undergoing radiation in the coming weeks, five days a week.

To help Dirmeyer, his wife, Laciee and Emma’s four siblings, Biga will host a benefit to aid them financially and in spirit.

“We will be hosting a benefit brunch, food-station event at Biga on Sunday,  Jan. 20, from noon-3 p.m.,” said a Biga spokesperson. Biga on the Banks is at 203 S. St. Mary’s St.

A stellar line-up of San Antonio chefs, as well as others from out of the city, have committed to help and will man their own stations including Mark Bliss, Chad Carey, Luca de la Casa, Gabriel Ibarra, Zack Lutton, Diana Barrios Trevino, Jason Dady, Lisa Filip, Andrew Weismann, Brian West and Steven McHugh.

Ultimat Vodka will be sponsoring the Bloody Mary bar and there will be wine. Henry Brun and the International Trio will donate their musical talents to the cause. Biga staff and others will be donating their time.

The all-inclusive cost per person is $125.  Please make checks payable to Culinaria, and mail them to Biga on the Banks, attention Perny Shea. The address is 203 S. Saint Mary’s St., San Antonio, TX 78205. Or click here to purchase them online with a credit card.

Only 300 tickets are available. The benefit hosts encourage you to buy as many tickets as you can or help with a donation if you are unable to attend.

For more information visit Team Emma’s Facebook or call Perny at (210) 225-0722.

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Auden’s Kitchen Conjures Welcome Comparisons of Home

Marinated grape tomato and watermelon salad

Sampling the menus around the city for the past few days during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week has been a great way to taste the wide variety we have here. By Friday evening, I was hankering for a bit of comfort food, so I headed off for Auden’s Kitchen for three courses of food that reminded me of home.

The menu was perhaps a little bit fancier than Mom would have made, but the spirit in the approach of Bruce Auden’s staff was similar.

Take the salad that started the meal as a perfect example. It was made of marinated grape tomatoes and watermelon tossed with greens  (and reds, if you count the radicchio), feta cheese and bits of crisp pancetta. The greens  were so fresh that they reminded me of the lettuce we would pick from our backyard garden. The balsamic in the dressing added a sweet touch, which also echoed Mom’s. Several slices of ripe avocado on top added a creamy touch.

Smoked pork tenderloin with braised red cabbage

Two thickly cut slabs of pork tenderloin arrived atop a bed of braised red cabbage flavored with applewood-smoked bacon, providing an appealing pair of ways to enjoy pork. As good as the smoked pork was, tender and moist, with a demi-glace adding flavor, the cabbage was the real star of the plate, upstaging even the crispy potatoes, which were good, if not memorable. The size of the vegetable servings were also generous, prompting another memory of home.

A ginger peach cobbler arrived warm and showcasing a harvest of fresh peach slices. Dumplings swimming in a thick, sweet, buttery sauce held it all together. This dish was perhaps the closest to Mom’s, though I could have wished for a little more ginger in the mix. I doubt anyone would have even remembered the ginger, however, when spooning up that first taste of firm peach and silky sauce.

Ginger peach cobbler

A glass of house wine was included with the Restaurant Week price. I chose the Sauvignon Blanc and was rewarded with a New Zealand-style explosion of passion fruit flavor with a brightly acidic base. The food may have been a little sweet for the wine, but it was a treat on its own.

Auden’s Kitchen offered an extra bit of comfort Friday night by showing a movie in its courtyard. Those not afraid of the heat, and that included a few kids, enjoyed “Labyrinth.” The series continues next week just after dark.

“Labyrinth” on the patio screen.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week, however, continues only through this evening. That leaves you with one last chance to try a multi-course lunch for $15 or dinner for $35. For a list of participating restaurants, click on the Culinaria ad above.

Auden’s Kitchen
700 E. Sonterra Blvd.
(210) 494-0070


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Eric Nelson Plants a Garden of Flavor at Work

Eric Nelson's herb garden at Zachry.

Eric Nelson knows that the freshest herbs you can cook with are the ones you grow yourself.

Eric Nelson

So, the corporate executive chef for Zachry did what he needed to do to make his job easier: He put in a herb garden in an upraised bed just outside the home office on Logwood.

About two dozen herbs in all were planted, including five types of mint, four types of basil, three oreganos, Provençal lavender, onion chives, two varieties of thyme, two parsleys, two sages, lemon grass, a bay leaf tree, aloe vera and mint marigold.

Now, the herbs are a regular feature at the Crossing Cafe at Zachry, where six food stations offer gourmet treats to employees as well as guests.

The herbs are used as “décor on all catering tables, for buffets, in most all dishes served in the café and catering,” says Nelson. “We have a very wide variety that we can use in any shape or form.”

Nelson's Original Baja Fish Taco

Nelson puts his oregano to good use in his Original Baja Fish Tacos, which he demonstrated recently at the Pearl Farmers Market. The dish originated in California, where the chef grew up before heading to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., where he met his wife, Laura.

He found work in restaurants in La Jolla, Calif., Irving, Texas, and Beaver Creek, Colo., before the couple decided to come to Laura’s hometown of San Antonio in 1996. He became the executive sous chef at La Mansión del Rio under Scott Cohen before beginning to work at Zachry.

At the construction firm, Nelson overseas all of the company’s catering needs, whether in-house or at the company’s two off-premise ranches.

Eric and Laura Nelson serve fish tacos at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Nelson offers some advice for home gardeners who want to put in their own herb beds: “Make sure you have the right soil and proper drainage (rock and sand layers). Make sure it is the size you need, a little herbs go a long way.”

His garden at Zachry is “completely organic,” he says. To help keep the plants healthy, “we use mint marigolds to fend off the bugs (bugs do not like their smell) and nematodes, if you get grub worms.”

Planting an herb garden is not new at restaurants. Nelson had one when he worked at La Mansión. But the chef says he had an inspiration that dates back further: “I remember Bruce (Auden) from the old Biga had herbs growing all around the old house that he used in the restaurant. Sometimes when you drove by in the morning, he would be out there drinking his morning coffee, watering all his herbs.”

Now, most mornings you’re likely to find Nelson doing the same as he tends his own garden before the day’s work in the kitchen begins.

(Photographs provided by Eric Nelson.)

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Bruce Auden Nominated for Beard Award

Bruce Auden

The finalists for this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards were announced Monday, and Bruce Auden is on the list of the best chefs in the Southwest.

The chef and owner of Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s St., faces fierce competition this year from Paul Qui of Austin’s Uchiko. Qui was the recent winner of “Top Chef,” which filmed its season in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.

Other nominees in the category include: Kevin Binkley of Binkley’s Restaurant in Cave Creek, Ariz.; Bruno Davaillon of the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas; Jennifer Jasinski of Rioja in Denver; and Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s in Houston.

No one else from San Antonio was on the finalists list.

Another name that might mean something to “Top Chef” fans was Edward Lee of Louisville, Ky.’s 610 Magnolia. Lee was nominated for best chef in the Southeast.


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Auden, Dady Among James Beard Award Semifinalists

Bruce Auden

Two San Antonio chefs, Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks and Jason Dady of Jason Dady Restaurants, are among the semifinalists for this year’s James Beard Foundations Awards, which honor excellence in the food service industry.

The Esquire Tavern, 155 E. Commerce St., is also a semifinalist in the category of Outstanding Bar Program.

The finalists will be announced March 19, with the awards handed out on May 7.

Auden is a semifinalist in the category of Best Chef in the Southwest for Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s St. He has been a finalist in the category several times in the past.

Paul Qui of Austin’s Uchi and “Top Chef” contender is also among the semifinalists, as is Maiya Keck of Maiya’s in Marfa, Bruno Davaillon of the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, Manabu Horiuchi of Kata Robata in Houston, Anita Jaisinghani of Indika in Houston, Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s in Houston, and Teiichi Sakurai of Tei-An in Dallas.

Dady, meanwhile, in a semifinalist in the category of Outstanding Restaurateur, which covers all of his food ventures, including Bin 555, Tre Trattoria, Two Bros. BBQ Market and the DUK Truck as well as the recently closed Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills. Another Texan on the list is Nick Badovinus of Flavor Hook in Dallas.

Jason Dady

Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin and Grant Gordon of Tony’s in Houston are on the semifinalist list of Rising Star Chef of the Year.

Stephan Pyles of Stephan Pyles in Dallas and Sustenio in San Antonio is among the semifinalists for Outstanding Chef.

Outstanding Pastry Chef semifinalists include two from Texas: Julieta V. Adauto of Orange Peel Pastries, Cakes & More of El Paso and Philip Speer of Uchi.

Another Texas semifinalist is Café on the Green at Four Seasons Resort in Irving for Outstanding Wine Program.

The foundation has also announced that Charlie Trotter of Chicago will receive its Humanitarian of the Year Award while Wolfgang Puck will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

For the full list of semifinalists, click here.

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Stephan Pyles to Bring His Southwestern Cuisine to San Antonio

Chef Stephan Pyles talks with guests at a reception for Éilan, the development that will house his new restaurant.

Celebrity chef Stephan Pyles is bringing his “new millennium Southwestern cuisine,” as his website calls it, to San Antonio.

The chef, who, along with Bruce Auden and others, helped popularize the regional cuisine, will open a restaurant later this year at Éilan, the new Tuscan-influenced hotel and living complex that is being built off La Cantera Parkway, north of Loop 1604.

Pyles was in town Tuesday sharing his signature sweet-hot Passion Chile Margarita — made with passion fruit, jalapeño and agave nectar, plus tequila, of course  — with a host of invited guests, including a few who braved the heat to look at the new facility, which will feature a 186,000-square-foot hotel, a series of condominiums, various dining areas, a dance studio run by someone from TV’s “Dancing with the Stars,” shops, office space and more.

Pyles' Passion Chile Margaritas

He says he’s glad to be joining the city’s culinary scene, which he thinks has taken off in the last couple of years. “There’s some really good cooking here,” he said. “There’s a real renaissance going on.” He singled out Auden and chef Jason Dady, the latter of whom offered a team from his various restaurants, from the Lodge Restaurant of Castle hills to Bin 555, to serve a series of ceviches to the guests.

Pyles' pizza oven is in a kitchen that has yet to be built.

Ceviches displaying Pyles’ penchant for bold flavors will be a centerpiece of the eponymous new restaurant. In fact, there will be a ceviche bar with freshly made examples for all to try. Bronzini with fennel and vanilla, sea scallop migas, lobster with avocado and guayaba, a 21-ounce cowboy rib-eye with red chile onion rings, and coriander-cured rack of lamb are among the many items currently on his menu.

The new restaurant will seat about 120 plus more on the patio. That’s a little less than the Dallas flagship, but the kitchen will be the same size. There will also be a private dining area for parties that offers a 21st century take on the chef’s table. Instead of sitting in a kitchen corner, near the chef while he works, the guests will be able to watch all of the kitchen action on closed-circuit TV, which allows them to see the action of preparing a meal up close.

Jace Heady of Bin 555 prepares ceviches.

Pyles said his cooking has evolved over the years to include new ingredients from his global dining adventures. Recent trips to Spain and Peru have brought new flavors into play, as have the spices of the Middle East. He’s headed to South Africa and Mozambique soon, so who knows what lies in store when Stephan Pyles the restaurant opens here at the end of the year.

“As long as the flavors are big and bold,” he said, in keeping with his Southwestern roots.

Though construction is far from complete on the restaurant, the wood burning-style pizza oven has been delivered.

Pyles hasn’t decided who the chef will be, but he did say it will be somebody who has worked for him and knows his style of cooking. We can also expect to see more of him in town on special occasions, much in the same way it has been good to see John Besh drop in on Lüke on the River Walk.

Éilan will offer residential housing as well as a hotel.

Johnny Hernandez is also mentioned as one of the chefs who will be on the Éilan scene with a variation on his La Gloria restaurant.

The first phase of the development is well under way, according to David Leff of Wereldhave USA, a Dutch-based developer that also has projects in San Diego, Dallas, Austin and Washington, D.C.

The main building is a hotel that will feature 165 rooms as well as 10,000 square feet of meeting space. A fitness area and a spa, open to both hotel guests and residents of the complex, will also be included. The developers want to have a market as well, but details will not be announced until someone has signed a lease.

One of the office buildings at Éilan.

Corky Ballas, who partnered with Cloris Leachman on “Dancing with the Stars,” will be opening a dance studio in Éilan.

“We have 539 living units,” Leff said; those include one-bedroom, two-bedroom and studio units, and they will be completed after the hotel. Two office buildings are also under construction.

The entire Éilan project covers 120 acres. In case you’re curious, the project’s name is derived from the French word for “ ‘élan,’ meaning vigor, liveliness and distinctive elegance,” according to the press material.

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Texas Food and Wine — What a Sensational Pair

Chef Kelly Casey (with pastry bag) of Hudson's on the Bend in Austin plates her dinners.

It wasn’t about the prosciutto-wrapped quail, so juicy and tender with each bite. It wasn’t about the cocoa powder and raspberry flavors that mingled so beautifully in each sip of the Inwood Estates Tempranillo-Cabernet blend.

It was, however, about how the lush red fruit flavors of the 2007 Fall Creek Meritus joined with slices of Texas beef tenderloin marinated in coffee and chipotle to reach new  gustatory heights.

That was the point of the first Edible Texas Wine-Food Match, held Friday at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin.

Five chefs, narrowed down from a field of more than 35, were competing to see who could make the most successful pairings of Texas ingredients with Texas wines.

It was clear to both the celebrity judges’ panel and to the audience who did that best: David Garrido of Garrido’s in Austin.

Susan Auler (left) of Fall Creek Vineyards and celebrity chef Jacques Pépin enjoy the Edible Texas Wine-Food Match.

The chef, who once worked for Bruce Auden at the original Biga, took home the $5,000 grand prize as well as the People’s Choice Award. The centerpiece of his meal was the already-mentioned beef tenderloin with the Meritus,  but he also presented a crispy oyster with habanero-honey aïoli partnered with the Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2010 and a pastel de calabaza, or zucchini cake, with lemon crema and spicy caramelized pecans served with the Sister Creek Muscat Canelli 2010.

Patrick James “P.J.” Edwards of San Antonio’s Bin 555 won a second place commendation from the judges for his meal, which started with a crudo of Gulf Coast group with cured Poteet strawberries and Becker Vineyards Provençal Rosé 2009. It was followed by roasted lamb loin with herb-glazed turnips and porcini-raspberry soil, which was presented with the Becker Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. A Grapefruit “Dreamsicle” with vanilla semifreddo and the Becker Vineyards Clementine 2010 rounded out his meal.

Organizer Marla Camp

Other chefs in the competition included Peter Smith of the JW Marriott in San Antonio as well as Kelly Casey of Hudson’s on the Bend in Austin and Josh Raymer of Navajo Grill in Fredericksburg. Each presented small plate versions of his or her entire menu to the crowd.

Chef Josh Raymer of Navajo Grill's Prosciutto-Wrapped Quail alongisde a Fredericksburg Market Salad with Pickled Peaches.

The local ingredients included a number of treasures worth seeking out at farmers markets as well as grocery stores: Pure Luck cheeses, Round Rock Honey, quail from Diamond H and Texas Quail farms, Shiner Bock, Broken Arrow Ranch Venison, Bluebonnet Hydroponics lettuces, and Texas olive oil. Alongside Casey’s blue cheese cheesecake were figs from her own trees.

Other Texas wines poured included Messina Hof’s Riesling and Riesling “Angel,” Perrisos Viognier and Petite Sirah, Stone House Scheming Beagle Port, and Flat Creek Muscato, Estate Syrah and Port.

Kelly Casey's Hopelessly Blue Cheesecake with her homegrown figs.

The judges included celebrity chefs Jacques Pépin and John Besh as well as Mozzarella Company found Paula Lambert, François Dionot of L’Academie de Cuisine and Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Proceeds from the evening, planned by Marla camp of Edible Austin and Terry Thompson-Anderson of the Texas Food and Wine Gourmet, will benefit the not-for-profit Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, which is being planned for Fredericksburg. The goal is to raise all of the money needed to operate the center before it opens in October 2013.


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