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Chef Robert Del Grande @ Best Cellars Celebrity Dinner


Tim Keating, Dean Fearing, Robert Del Grande
Photo by © Michelle Watson/

Even with the best of chefs, country club food is more often than not, well, country club food. But on Tuesday night, the River Oaks Country Club kitchen soared to remarkable heights thanks to the talents of Robert Del Grande, Dean Fearing and Tim Keating.

The celebrity chefs manned the stoves for the second annul Best Cellars Celebrity Dinner, sponsored by the Nashville-based T.J. Martel Foundation. 

Kudos as well to ROCC chef Charles Carroll, a master in his own right, for the scrumptious hors d'oeuvres that preceded the seated dinner.

RDG's Del Grande wowed the 300 guests with his Gulf snapper with crab and shrimp chowder. Fearing, representing his namesake restaurant in Dallas, followed with killer Lockhart quail. And if there was any room left, the cocktail-attired crowd feasted on the slow-braised Angus beef short rib and char-crusted strip loin prepared by Keating of the Flying Fish Café at Disney's BoardWalk Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

As the finale, ROCC's Darrin Aoyama prepared a yummy double chocolate and coconut bar with passion fruit curd and coconut-lime ice cream. (Treadmill time, please.)

The dinner was accompanied by carefully selected wines at each table where wine hosts, who had opened their cellars, uncorked some of their best vintages for the paying guests. Heading up that major task of lining up wine hosts were Franelle Rogers and Brent Sloan. They were just part of the evening's leadership team that included dinner chairs Jeanie and Jim Janke and Laticia and Dennis Lord, representing the Nashville music industry.

The room was peppered with country music stars, as is tradition with Best Cellars dinners that are held around the country. Katie Armiger, Gary Morris, Jeff Bates and Julie Roberts were the headliners, though the only one to perform was Morris, who also jumped in to assist with the live auction that was conducted by Storme Warren, Nashville-based television and radio host.

It was the local talent that happily entertained the departing crowd. Reviving The Barbwires ensemble, the three chefs (a la the three tenors?) whipped up their toe-tapping country tunes that had a few guests dancing in the aisles, as there was no dance floor.

By night's end, the benefit had raised more than $203,000 for the Physician Science Program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. On hand to ensure that all went accordingly was T.J. Martell Foundation CEO Laura Heatherly, in from Nashville for the event.

Helping raise the research funds were major underwriters Tricia and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, plus Houston Texans place kicker Neil Rackers, Julie Brown, Scotty Arnoldy, Karen Mayell, Gina and Dr. Devinder Bhatia, Cathy Brock, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Caroline and Gary Kenney, Betty and Jesse Tutor, Darlene and Cappy Bisso and Susan and Mike Plank.


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Café Annie opened in 1980 and received critical acclaim including a James Beard award for Chef Robert Del Grande. In 2009 Café Annie moved to our current location under the moniker RDG + Bar Annie, honoring the initials of its founding Chef and the restaurant that revolutionized Southwest cuisine.
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