Houston’s Biggest Fall Foodie Event Raises Over $275,000 in Proceeds for the American Cancer Society and Hope Lodge Houston

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4th Annual Corks and Forks Honors VICTORY Houston, Journalist Shelby Hodge, Architect Shafik Rifaat and 3 Year-Old Giovanni Albelice, Tripling Donations in Record-Setting Evening

Mary Grace Gray-Event Chair, Shelby Hodge and Shafik Rifaat- Event Honorees, and Tiziana Triolo-American Cancer Society Development Manager

Over 400 guests gathered at The Ballroom at Bayou Place on Thursday, October 3rd, for Corks and Forks 2019. The event benefited the American Cancer Society and Hope Lodge Houston, southeast Texas’ first and only no-cost, high quality residential facility exclusively for cancer patients who travel to Houston for treatment but have limited resources for lodging. Hope Lodge Houston will be one of the country’s biggest Hope Lodge facilities and will open in early 2020. 

During the four-hour evening, guests enjoyed the live musical stylings of David Caceres, as KHOU’s Deborah Duncan emceed the event. Attendees placed bids on silent auction items, while auctioneer Alan Helfman led the live auction. Up for grabs were a range of donations from sponsors, including Astros tickets, exclusive restaurant tastings, vacations, jewelry, and even a 5-day trip to Italy.

Corks and Forks, otherwise known as Houston’s premiere fall foodie event, also boasted a culinary competition between fourteen of the city’s top restaurants. The award-winning chefs competed for both a culinary crown, selected by celebrity judges, and a Vignette Award, selected by attendees. In attendance were Joe Cervatez of Brennan’s of Houston, Stephen Conklin of La Table, Uchi’s Chris Davies, Liberty Kitchen’s Lance Fegen, Giancarlo Ferrara of Amalfi Ristorante Italiano and Bar, Ristorante Cavour’s Maurizio Ferrarese, Verdine’s Stephanie Hoban, Toulouse Café and Bar’s Emmanual Hodencq, Thomas Laczynski of Ouzo Bay, Le Colonial’s Hassan Obaye, Alex Padilla of The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, Frank’s Americana Revival Chef Colin Shine, Jeffrey Taylor of Steak 48, and Bisou’s Laura Taylor.

Celebrity judges Mai Pham, Greg Morago, Whitney Mercilus, Kate McClean and Tony Vallone awarded Giancarlo Ferrara of Amalfi the top honors. Ferrara delighted both judges and guests with his Capesante in Padella con Crema Di Zucchine e Tartufo: sea diver scallops pan-seared in olive oil and sea salt, served with baby zucchini mousse, pioppini mushrooms, and black truffle cream sauce. His Sfogliatella Napoletana dessert was also a guest-favorite, and featured shells filled with ricotta cheese pastry cream, semolino, and candied orange, served alongside vanilla bean sauce.

Brennan’s of Houston Executive Chef Joe Cervantez took home the Vignette Award, after impressing guests with his Tasso and Grits Dumplings, served with NOLA-style barbeque shrimp.

Beyond the culinary competition and auctions, Corks and Forks spent part of the evening honoring special guests PaperCity Journalist Shelby Hodge, and Architect/UH Professor Shafik Rifaat. The event also honored VICTORY Houston, a volunteer branch of the American Cancer Society, whose award was accepted by long-time member Bebe Falik. Corks and Forks’ final honoree was 3 year-old Giovanni Albelice, who was diagnosed with Leukemia at just 18 months old. Albelice is still undergoing treatment. His parents spoke to attendees about the importance of giving.

Corks and Forks and its contribution to ending cancer as a major health concern was possible due to the event’s generous volunteers, donors, sponsors, and participants, as well as Event and Committee Chairs Mary Grace Gray, Tiziana Triolo, Sherri Zucker, Tracey Cleckler, Jeri Sonnier, Gabriella Dror, Rachel Boyd and Katherine Orellana Ross.

About Houston Corks and Forks

Houston Corks and Forks is a fundraising event hosted by the American Cancer Society, and has taken place in Houston for four years. The goal of the event is to raise critical funds to support the American Cancer Society's continued mission to eliminate cancer as a major health concern. To learn more, visit houstoncorksandforks.org.

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Tracey Cleckler
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