The 2013 Houston Culinary Awards were held on Sunday at the Houstonian Hotel, with Hugo’s taking home the coveted Houston Classic award for best restaurant in business for ten years or more, while The Pass & Provisions beat off tough competition from Eleven XI and the Sparrow Bar to take Best New Restaurant.
This was the 17th annual awards ceremony and the event now attracts considerable attention. This year’s ceremony was attended by 350 representatives of the city’s bar and restaurant industry. It was followed by a cocktail party at the Okra Charity Saloon; naturally first-class food, coffee and wine were served at both.
The Houston event aims to celebrate the endeavors of people working in all sectors of the food industry, from gourmet restaurants to food trucks. It also celebrates fresh talent, providing students at chef cooking schools with something to aim for. The winner of this year’s Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year award was Lyle Bento from stylish Creole cooking outlet Underbelly.
The overall winner in the Chef category was Brandi Key of the Coppa Ristorante Italiano, famed for its delicious fritto misto, carpaccio, carbonara and burrata. She has recently opened a second restaurant, Coppa Osteria. One of her rivals, Kevin Bryant of Eleven XI, was catering for the event itself, but it was Key who took away the biggest compliments. The Best Pastry Chef award went to Heath Wendell from artisan bakers Slow Dough, while this year’s Service Person of the Year was Mathew Hunt from sushi restaurant Uchi Houston.
As well as winning the Classic award, Hugo’s took home a prize for outstanding bar service, while the Pass & Provisions was also a double award winner – its owners Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan were proclaimed Restaurateurs of the Year. Meanwhile, Max’s Wine Dive received the award for Outstanding Wine Service in what was perhaps the most fiercely contested category.
The formal awards ceremony was followed by a rather less formal list of favorites, each picked from a list of seven nominees whittled down from a longlist of as many as 35. There was also a special award for Brock Wagner of the Saint Arnold Brewing Company, who was acclaimed as a Legend of Houston Restaurants.