Celebrity chefs and Houston Ballet dancers star in epic Midtown dinner party

“Ballet dancers and a foodie dinner does seem like an unlikely pairing,” one guest mused upon entering Artisans Cuisine & Savoir fare on Sunday.

Unlikely or not, Houston Ballet’s annual “Raising the Barre” has proved a winning move for both long-time patrons and gastronome alike for the past eight years. And 2018 was no exception.

More than 160 dinner-goers packed into the cozy Midtown restaurant, just a short jeté from Houston Ballet’s downtown headquarters. Among them, honorees Kristy Bradshaw, a former ballet dancer, and Lindsey Brown, power culinary publicist, modeled the foil.

Shrunken crab cakes, Beef Wellington and sightings of Chris Shepherd – Brown’s beau and the James Beard Award winning chef/owner behind Hay Merchant and One Fifth Steak – excited the spring-chic crowd.

“I know everyone is eager to eat,” ballet mistress Barbara Bears said during the brief, pre-feast presentation. “But we’re within $5,000 of reaching our goal.”

Before the four-course meal concluded, co-chairs Elizabeth and Charlie Leykum and Elisa and Cris Pye hit their mark by raising more than $80,000, thanks in-part to a matching gift from the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts.

And somewhere between amuse bouche and the grand finale, four Houston Ballet soloist/star chef pas de deux put on quite a show.

Each team made the rounds through Berger & Johnson Design’s blooming, candlelit space. Monica Gomez and Underbelly Hospitality’s Nick Fine took the first spin with plantain-crusted rice fritters. Next, Harper Watters and Uchi’s Chris Davies presented hama chili yellowtail.

“You could have a second career in the kitchen,” one diner told Hayden Stark, who enthusiastically introduced his and Artisans executive chef Jacques Fox‘s Tournedos H Stark, a.k.a. surf n’ turf.

Later, Tyler Donatelli and Fluff Bake Bar’s Rebecca Masson circled with their re-imagined key lime pie.

Though attendees with kitchen-view seats burst into applause throughout the evening, a few cheers erupted as departing guests collected oatmeal creme pie dessert roadies.

Encore, encore.

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