We're hiring! See our employment page for more details >>>

Houston's hottest chefs and ballet stars play together in the kitchen

We all know that Houston Ballet dancers can bust a move. The question is: Can they cook?

It's this pickle that was on the plate at the fifth annual "Raising the Barre" dinner Sunday at Brennan's of Houston. So much so that demand for seats blew the lid off expectations, engendering Houston Ballet young professionals to snatch all 180 tickets within three weeks of being available for purchase. That's a good problem to have, thought party chairs Ting and John Bresnahan and Crystal and Randy Wright.

The Ballet Barre throng that this season is led by chairmen Hannah Lonergan and Mary Nichols Patton — always chic, always poised — savored once again the delicious five-course choreography that happens when ballerinas and cavaliers play in the kitchen alongside top local toques.

The second floor of the restaurant was packed solid with spirited chit chatter as Hell's Kitchen winner and Corner Table chef Ja'Nel Witt passed a trio of apps inspired by principal dancer Yuriko Kajiya's provenance. With a nod to the Land of the Rising Sun, this duo offered Japanese togarashi tuna tartare, blistered shinto peppers and tempura takos  — yes, with a "k" and not with a "c." Champagne? Arigatoo gozaimasu.

Act two included the collaborative efforts of soloist Soo Youn Cho, from Korea, and Coltivare chef Ryan Pera, who became friends with the Bresnahans soon after the couple moved from Virginia to Houston six years ago. As a special favor to Ting, Pera participated for the first time in this fundraiser and created a Gulf Coast Bo Ssam — smoked oysters, crispy pork belly and kimchi wrapped in a soft lettuce leaf.

The following courses included a butternut squash ravioli thanks to chef Olivier Ciesielski and first soloist Jared Matthews, Texas red snapper and crawfish over mascarpone grits courtesy of host chef Danny Trace and demi soloist Christopher Gray and a tangy sweet finish in the Meyer lemon tart crafted by Rebecca Masson with soloist Allison Miller.

Applause was well deserved for this soirée that raised $84,000 to support ballet programs, performances and community engagement ventures. Doing their duty were Harry Cullen, who won a vintage 2002 bottle of Dom Pérignon in the silent auction, and Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, bidding $7,500 during the live auction on a similar dinner at home with the evening's culinary team. With a $12,000 bid, Linsay and Jeremy Radcliffe won a private dinner for 12 in the James Beard House in New York City.

Balletomanes in the crowd alongside artistic director Stanton Welch, executive director Jim Nelson and sponsor BB&T's representatives Heather and Tom O'Connor and Courtney and Bill Toomey included Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Divya and Chris Brown, Christine and Chris Transier, Beth and Nick Zdeblick, Mary and Ben Patton, Annette and Anthony Brissett, Erin and James Stewart, Jaquel and Jeremy Andrews, Gina and Devinder Bhatia, Margaret and Brian Bravo, Mary Rebecca Dick and Jakeen and Garfield Johnson.