Seder: A Cup for Elijah

Categories: News

Photo by Rebecca Seigel
Traditional Seder plates will be set at tables around Houston next week.

Passover Seders are unique to each family, though parts of the ceremonial meal -- including embarrassing the youngest person at the table with the singing of the four questions -- are constant. Hebrew songs and readings, the central plate of bitter herbs, and the cup reserved for Elijah are among the trappings of almost every Seder. If you find yourself without a place to celebrate the feast, Houston's synagogues are a welcome alternative. Honor the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt by reading from the Haggadah and drinking four cups of wine during Seders held on April 14 and 15.

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UPDATE: Video of Brawl at Houston Chacho's Goes Viral, Reminds World We're Classy

Categories: Food Fight, News

Photo from VoicePlaces
This past Thursday, April 3, a bystander shot footage of three women at the Chacho's on Westheimer engaging in a physical altercation with management and staff at the restaurant. Eventually, a Chacho's employee pinned one of the women to the ground, while the other two circled around, yelling wildly for him to stop. One of them was carrying an infant in her arms.

The video has now been shown on websites and news outlets across the country, gathering thousands of views. It's unclear exactly what caused the situation to escalate into such madness.

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Houston Bands Together to Aid Woman Injured at SXSW

Photo courtesy Mark's American Cuisine
Come out on April 13 to raise money for Gracie Nguyen's medical expenses.
On March 13, pastry chef Gracie Nguyen, 23, was badly injured in the crash at the SXSW music festival in Austin that left four people dead and another 21 people hurt. Nguyen was in the hospital in Austin for about a week, until she was able to be moved out of the ICU and back to Houston for rehabilitation and recovery.

Nguyen is a single mother, student and pastry chef at Mark's American Cuisine, and because of her bubbly personality, she's made a lot of friends in the Houston restaurant industry. These fine folks are banding together to host a fundraiser at Big Star Bar on Sunday, April 13, with all of the proceeds going directly to Nguyen's medical care.

The event is spearheaded by Joshua Martinez of Goro & Gun and Adam Dorris, formerly of Revival Market, who are bringing back the "Ghetto Dinner Series" for one night only. The hugely popular pop-up dinners, which took place a few years back at Grand Prize, were served on paper plates with plastic utensils, but featured interesting, quality ingredients prepared by local chefs.

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Damian Mandola Arrested in Hill Country for Second Time in Three Days

Categories: News

Photo courtesy Hays County Clerk
Damian Mandola was arrested again on Saturday evening.
It's been a bad weekend for Carrabba's founder and restaurateur Damian Mandola.

On Thursday, he was arrested in Hays County near Trattoria Lisina, a restaurant he owns in Driftwood. According to police records, the 61-year-old was booked into the Hays County Jail on April 3 after he was spotted driving recklessly in a golf cart and then broke into the Duchman Family Winery to allegedly steal a bottle of wine. He was released later that night after posting $5,000 bond.

On Saturday, Mandola was back at Duchman, where he proceeded to threaten Duchman Winery employees with a hammer before fleeing; he was later apprehended and arrested again by Hays County police.

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Damian Mandola Charged With Burglary in Hill Country

Categories: News

Courtesy Hays County Sheriff's Department
Damian Mandola has been charged with burglary of a building.
Restaurateur Damian Mandola has been charged with burglary of a building at a winery adjacent to his Hill Country eatery, Trattoria Lisina. The 61-year-old founder of the Carrabba's restaurant chain was booked into the Hays County Jail on April 3, and was released after posting a $5,000 bond.

This isn't the first time Mandola has received unwanted attention since moving to the small town of Driftwood; in 2009, Jeff and Patty Maddux, neighbors of Mandola and his wife, Trina, accused the Mandolas of having their three Swiss mountain dogs killed. The Madduxes believed the dogs were slain because one of them accidentally crushed the Mandolas' beloved poodle, Peppermint. (And people think Driftwood is just a sleepy little town!)

The Mandolas denied the accusations about the dogs.

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UPDATE: HISD Culinary Students Put Their Skills on the Line

Categories: News

Photo courtesy of Cooking up Change
HISD will compete in Cooking up Change for the first time on April 12.
UPDATE: The Westside High School culinary team won the Houston District Cooking up Change competition this past weekend. Barrosha Boykin, Santiago Castaneda and Andrew Winkle prepared a chicken chili sandwich with fajita chicken strips, black beans and chili powder and a sauce made of tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and red and green bell peppers on a whole wheat roll; they called their main dish the "Lonestar Chicken Chili Sub." The team also made a parfait of toasted rolled oats, honey, fruit cocktail and vanilla low-fat yogurt, as well as a side dish of grilled carrots and zucchini.

This team will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete in the national competition on June 9. The Westside High School team representing Houston ISD will compete against the winning teams from Los Angeles and Orange County, Calif., Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla., Winston-Salem, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., Wichita, Kan., and Little Rock, Ark.

You may not know it, but the Houston Independent School District has an incredible culinary arts program, and on Saturday, April 12, seven teams of culinary students from four HISD schools will compete in Cooking up Change at the local level in hopes of advancing to the national contest in Washington D.C. The local competition takes place at Rice University and is open to the public, beginning with tastings from noon until 1 p.m., followed by the judging. According to Ray Danilowicz, HISD's food services executive general manager, the competition requires students to create their best dishes following national school lunch standards, and this is the first time Houston schools have taken part.

"It's going to feature culinary students from ten large school districts from around the country," Danilowicz says. "And what it's designed to do is to get culinary students involved in cooking meals that conform to the type of meals that are served in school lunches, conforming to national school lunch standards, which means they have to meet very, very rigid nutritional guidelines. They have to be the type of meal that can be cooked in school cafeterias with limited equipment -- you know, follow basic steps with [the] type of ingredients that are available in the program."

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Four Houstonians Make Final Beard Awards Cut

Categories: News

Photo courtesy James Beard Foundation
The James Beard Foundation has released its short list of nominees for awards in all categories, including media. The long list for awards was announced in late February, but now it's been whittled down, and we still made the cut.

Congrats to Hugo Ortega of Hugo's, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly and Justin Yu of Oxheart on their nominations for Best Chef Southwest. They join two other chefs, Kevin Binkley of Binkley's in Cave Creek, Arizona, and Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin, meaning three out of the five nominees are Houstonians.

This is Yu's first time as a finalist; Shepherd and Ortega have been finalists in the past.

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Houston Pastry Chef Injured in SXSW Crash

Categories: News

Photo courtesy Mark's American Cuisine
Gracie Nguyen with chef Mark Cox at Mark's.
On March 13, a drunk driver barreled into a crowd of concert-goers at the SXSW music festival in Austin, killing two people and injuring another 23 people. One of those injured is the pastry chef at Mark's American Cuisine, Gracie Nguyen.

Nguyen, 23, was in Austin for the music festival, and 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens attempted to flee from police and drove through a barricade into a crowd that included Nguyen. He's been formally charged with capital murder. Nguyen remains hospitalized at University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin with fractures to her skull, left leg and right knee.

A fundraising page to help cover her medical expenses has been set up by her friends and family.

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Shooting at Adair Kitchen Shocks Galleria Residents and Workers

Categories: News

Photo courtesy Adair Kitchen
The chalkboard inside Adair Kitchen bears a message of support for a wounded colleague.
Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, March 11, two workers were shot while leaving their jobs at Adair Kitchen , which is located at 5161 San Felipe.

According to the police report, the victims, 31-year-old Estela Renteria, a cook, and 20-year-old Jose Isabel-Amador Vasquez, a dishwasher, were approached by two men with pistols as they were getting into their vehicle to leave. The men robbed and then shot the two victims before fleeing on foot.

Vasquez was grazed by a bullet, but Renteria was shot in the head and remains in the hospital in critical condition. She is expected to survive.

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Kevin Naderi to Face Off at Iron Fork Against...

We have secured a second chef for the third annual Iron Fork competition at this year's Menu of Menus Extravaganza. This brave fellow will be competing against Kevin Naderi of Roost in a secret-ingredient cooking challenge moderated by Randy Evans of Haven to determine which of them is the Iron Fork master.

Here are some hints:

  • He was born in Manhattan...Kansas.
  • He has worked with Lucky Dog Rescue to raise money and foster homeless dogs.
  • He never went to culinary school. Instead, he started as a line cook at the Aquarium at Kemah.
  • He served as the private chef for country singer George Strait.
  • He's an avid fisherman, and that comes through in much of his Gulf Coast-influenced cooking.
  • His last meal would probably be a rib eye, pounded out, chicken-fried, with mashed potatoes and gravy on it.

  • Any guesses?

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