CollaborEIGHT Dinner Series Features Two Powerhouse Chefs in The Woodlands

The last CollaborEIGHT dinner prior to the pandemic brought together two powerhouse chefs in The Woodlands, Chef Austin Simmons of TRIS and Cureight, and relative newcomer to the area, Chef Stefano Ferrero of Zanti Cucina Italiana, for a remarkable evening of spectacular food and atmosphere.

Jo Anne and Troy Johnson

Butter Poached King Crab

As Chef Austin stated when the meal began, “If you leave here hungry tonight, it is your fault.” I think it is safe to say, no one left hungry and not a single person could consume another bite by the time the evening concluded. As is the format for each of the CollaborEIGHT dinners, both chefs present four courses served with wine pairings. The meal began with a refreshing Shellfish Ceviche with Shrimp Cracker by Chef Austin that was absolutely sublime! The Langoustine Caviar Risotto paired with “Artesis” Cotes du Rhone Blanc by Chef Stefano was out-of-this-world and another highlight of the evening. There was no shortage of meat either as Chef Simmons, recently named “Best Chef” by the Houston Press and who has become a local expert in the field of meat aging and exceptional cuts of beef, showcased his knowledge and skills.

The savory Dry Aged Beef on Truffle Ravioli by Chef Austin, and Braised Beef Cheeks by Chef Ferrero left guests needing to adjust their belt buckles. Each course delivered titillating flavor combinations that delighted the taste buds. The obvious respect and mutual admiration between the chefs was a wonderful complement to the outstanding display of food and technique.

Chef Austin puts the finishing touches on his Dry Aged Beef on Truffle Ravioli

Braised Beef Cheeks

“While The CollaborEIGHT Dinner Series helps highlight many well-acclaimed chefs to our guests at TRIS, our team benefits the most from these events,” stated Chef Austin. “Providing an eight course dinner experience to a large crowd is always a big task, that we achieve working as a team. We all see these collaborations as an opportunity to learn from each other in the kitchen.”

Jonathan Hitchcock; Alejandro & Majo Pelaez; Elvira Graham; Lonny Soza; Matt & Christin Allphin; Silvia Gonzalez; Pedro Cajiga; Santiago Pelaez, Zanti Founder & CE0; Haydar Kustu, Director of Business Development & Marketing, Black Forest Ventures/TRIS

Chef Austin looks on as Chef Stefano prepares the Langoustine – Caviar risotto for service.

Chef Stefano Ferrero, originally from Piemonte, Italy, has fond memories of cooking with both his father and grandmother prior to attending and graduating with a degree in gastronomy from SPAI University of Lugano where he had the opportunity to work with distinguished chefs from different backgrounds. Chef Ferrero comes to The Woodlands as Head Chef at Zanti, the namesake of Founder and CEO Santiago Paleaz. Chef Ferrero and Zanti Cucina Italiana are already making their mark on The Woodlands culinary scene in spite of opening only a year ago, and were thrilled to be invited to collaborate with Chef Austin.

Pistachio Profiterole

Key Lime Tart

Do not miss the opportunity to attend a CollaborEIGHT dinner when they resume, although I have a hard time imagining how it could top the collaboration between Chef Austin and Chef Ferrero.

Chef Austin Simmons and Chef Stefano Ferrero

For more information or to make a reservation at TRIS or Cureight: triswoodlands.com; cureightwoodlands.com, and for Zanti Cucina Italiana:  zanticucina.com.

Article by: Janelle Romano

Stylish Servant Leaders

Welcome to The Book The Woodlands’ first men’s fashion editorial! Autumn is upon us as The Book launches and that means it is time to add some depth to your wardrobe with layers. Look for variety in detailed textures, prints and pops of color to break up the usual monochrome closet.

For this edition, Interfaith has chosen four men who have served our community to model the top fall trends. Combined comfort with style has been a key trend in men’s pants and will continue rolling into 2020. Nothing makes a better statement than flattering, well fitted pants—slim is in! Rest assured that “not-too-baggy” and “not-too-tight” can be achieved comfortably with just the right amount of stretch in your trousers and jeans.

Stylish Servant Leaders

 

MIGUEL

Miguel Lopez serves as the Executive Director for the Lone Star College Small Business Development Center. He is a proud veteran, having served in The United States Marine Corp as a machine gunner (1986-1990). He has been involved in and served in leadership roles with numerous non-profit organizations throughout his years in the Woodlands, Texas where he has been a resident for 25 years. Miguel is a former Vice President of The Woodlands Lions Club, as well as an Ex-Officio of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce and the Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce. He has also held leadership roles on the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber, South County YMCA, March of Dimes and South County Community Clinic among others. He recalls his kindergarten teacher spending an extra 15-30 minutes here and there with him to learn English, that is when he first felt the power and results of someone giving back and assisting him. Miguel also finds it easy to get involved when there are so many in our community and county who also want to help and give back. Miguel’s advice for someone who is looking to get involved with a group or non-profit; “find something you believe in, something you are passionate about…then immerse yourself in it.”

 

WILL

Will Murphy spends his days listening, understanding and focusing on client’s needs as Private Wealth Financial Advisor and Managing Director of Investments at Wells Fargo’s Private Bank. His mission is to develop and implement strategies to help his clients grow, manage, preserve and transfer their wealth focusing on the four cornerstones of wealth: Investments; Liability Management; Non-Portfolio Risk Management; and Trust and Estate Planning Strategies.

The Murphy’s moved to The Woodlands following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Bringing a strong educational background, advanced training and a commitment to ongoing professional development, Will and Nicole made a home here raising their 2 children, Madelyn and Billy. The Murphys are mainstays in the philanthropic community, as they both actively sit on Boards, attend, chair events and support numerous organizations including Interfaith of The Woodlands, HOPE: The Will Herndon Research Fund, The Woodlands Christian Academy, Beyond Batten Disease Foundation, and Texas Children’s Hospital. When not in The Woodlands, the Murphy’s enjoy their little piece of Heaven in Watercolor, Florida where they summer and spend holidays.

IAN

Ian J. Ramirez is an internationally trained opera singer who has sung across the globe from Portland, Oregon to Stuttgart, Germany. He has sung with Opera Stuttgart, Portland Opera, the Marlboro Music Festival, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, and Musica Sacra of Cincinnati, among others. From opera to operations, Ian serves as the Venue Director of Madera Estates, a Spanish and European inspired luxury wedding and event venue located in Conroe, Texas.

In his spare time, Ian operates a private voice studio, sings as tenor soloist in The Woodlands United Methodist Church choir, and serves on the boards of Interfaith Young Professionals and the International Live Events Association Houston Chapter. A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Ian graduated summa cum laude from the University of Cincinnati, College‑Conservatory of Music, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in music. He has received awards from the National Opera Association and a Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission. In 2018, Ian was named the Man of the Year through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year campaign, as well as PR Luxury Media’s Do-Gooder of the Year. Most recently, he was named in Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

BRET

Bret L. Strong is the founder and managing shareholder of The Strong Firm P.C. which was formed in 2004.  He has been a resident and an active community leader in The Woodlands, Texas for over 30 years. Bret spent 11 years with Shell Oil Company in the areas of contracting, finance, and information services prior to becoming licensed in the legal field and establishing his practice in The Woodlands in 1996.  Bret and his team at The Strong Firm P.C. are proud to collectively support many wonderful charities and organizations in The Woodlands community including Interfaith of The Woodlands, Leadership Montgomery County, Yes to Youth – Montgomery County Youth Services, Montgomery County Community Foundation, Education for Tomorrow Alliance, CASA of Montgomery County, Meals on Wheels Montgomery County, The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce as well as involvement in numerous local schools fundraisers, sports and athletic events. Bret is proud to remain strong in The Woodlands community.

On Miguel

Cotton Cashmere Cable Crew Neck Sweater $128

Unbutton Down Shirt $88

Italian Brushed 5-Pocket Pant $148

On Ian

Satin Tuxedo Bowtie $78

Tuxedo Shirt $168

Capstone Italian Wool Tuxedo Jacket $550

Jetsetter Stretch Italian Wool Tuxedo Pant $300

On Will

The M-Flex Golf Polo $68 

The Tartan Golf Windbreaker $108

Highland Tour Golf Pants $128

The Clubhouse Stretch Belt $78

On Bret

Premium Shirt Made With Liberty Fabric $128

Jetsetter Stretch Italian Wool Blazer $400

Selvage Stretch Jeans $198

Colored Edge Belt $68

Many thanks to Will Murphy, Ian Ramirez, Bret Strong and Miguel Lopez for being an example of gracious giving and selfless service in our town. And much appreciation to our menswear retailer and ad partner, Bonobos at Market Street, for styling and creating the looks on our models. Bonobos is focused on delivering well fitted clothing while staying current with the fashion and accessories trends. Our local Guideshop offers personal styling to help fit and build the perfect wardrobe. If what you are looking for is not currently carried in the store, have it shipped for free directly to your door. From suiting to golf attire, Bonobos is sure to please the most style conscious man for all seasons.

Happy shopping!

Fashion Editor: Elvira Graham of fashionrowe.com
Photography by: Katy Cox

 

Lasting Legacy of David Vetter

David’s life has not been forgotten as his legacy lives on in his hometown of Shenandoah and neighboring community The Woodlands. Not only has he been an inspiration in science and medical progress, but David Vetter touched hearts of people all over the world with his courageous spirit amidst unimaginable challenges. His impact far outreaches our community affecting lives throughout the United States and beyond.

Delivered into a “bubble,” or isolator, at birth in 1971 to protect him from illness, David was born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease (SCID) which left him without an immune system to fight off even the smallest of sicknesses. Only the 6th “germ-free delivery” in the world at the time, a common cold or virus could have taken his life. Loving parents, David and Carol Ann, knew their child needed to have normal life experiences and so the isolated area, or bubble, grew with him. He lived, learned, ate meals alongside family and played – all within his bubble. He became very close to his medical team who spent a great deal of time with David, including the late Dr. William T. Shearer, who led his care team and blazed trails for pediatric immunology. David’s life was spent inside the germ-free zone, however, human interaction was so important to him. “He showed such affection and love for his family and others. He had a huge capacity for loving and caring,” his mother, Carol Ann Demaret says.

David Vetter endured a life filled with obstacles, but he always looked on the bright side and found joy in his close bond with his family, including his older sister, Katherine. David cherished connections with others and made even the smallest interactions special. “One year at Halloween, he wanted to give out candy instead of dressing up, so he’d reach in his gloves which extended outside his space to give candy to other children,” says Carol Ann. His world was expanded when NASA designed a customized suit resembling a space suit protecting him so he could venture outside of his enclosed unit. Previously displayed in The Smithsonian, his famed suit and David’s brave story continue to be remembered by so many.

David chose to live life to the fullest and grasped every opportunity presented to him. A student in Conroe ISD, teachers would visit his home or Texas Children’s Hospital weekly for his education. Occasionally, a teacher would bring a small group of students to visit David and teach a lesson as though he was in a classroom setting. “I felt that everybody had something unique to offer David. He was very inquisitive and enjoyed visitors,” Carol Ann says.

Not long after David’s death in 1984 at age 12, Texas Children’s Hospital approached David’s parents about an idea to create The David Center, honoring their son, with the hope that children born with compromised immune systems would have a place to be treated. They agreed and in addition, approved the preservation of his cells for research. “I didn’t realize the importance at the time, but I trusted that it would be for generations to follow. They are still testing David’s cells,” she says.

Javier Chinen, M.D., Ph.D., Chief of The David Clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, became involved with the clinic even before it expanded to Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands in 2016. “It is not a secret that part of David’s legacy has been its essential role in the public awareness of SCID. This awareness has promoted the research leading to the inclusion of SCID in the U.S. newborn screening panel for inherited diseases,” he says. The David Center and The David Clinic are within the Allergy and Immunology division at Texas Children’s Hospital where Carol Ann is a regular volunteer.

Carol Ann began advocating for SCID newborn screening in Texas after joining the Board of Trustees for the Immune Deficiency Foundation following David’s death. “My prayer when David passed away is that the bubble had burst for all time,” she says. And that prayer has been answered over the years. Texas followed many other states adding SCID to the panel in 2012 with early diagnosis of key importance. Now, every state has added the SCID to their newborn screening panel. Today, children with SCID do not live in isolation, and families often turn to stem cell transplantation for treatment with gene therapy in current development. “At Texas Children’s Hospital, we are part of these worldwide efforts and actively receive infants with SCID for diagnosis and treatment,” Dr. Chinen says.

During David’s life, the media protected his last name and he was referred to as “David.” So, in 1990, when David Elementary opened honoring his name, the community rallied around the family and took it a step further in commemoration. David’s Dream Run and David Day have been meaningful traditions at the school for 26 years. A community-wide 5k event, organized by the David Elementary PTO, David’s Dream Run raises crucial funds for The David Center and The David Clinic.

Tamara Herod, Committee Chair for David’s Dream Run and David Elementary School parent, says, “This event is mostly about teaching our students the importance of helping others and honoring David’s life. I believe they will carry the compassion and awareness they learn from this event with them throughout their lives.” David’s Dream Run rallied 1,000 participants for this year’s race and raised a record $43,000 going to The David Center and The David Clinic. Walls adorned with the students’ artwork line the clinic halls and demonstrate the David Elementary School commitment to teach their students kindness, compassion and service. “This event has raised funds that advanced our research in SCID. We are very thankful for the community support of the research focused on improving the care of SCID patients,” Dr. Chinen states.

Each year on the day prior to the run, Carol Ann visits the students at David Elementary. The day has lovingly been named David Day, when Carol Ann speaks about David’s life as well as how the fundraising event helps others. “They ask so many questions from his favorite color to many other things. I always want to end on a positive note. I don’t want the children to be sad about David. I think the children will carry the spirit of David throughout their lives,” Carol Ann says.

Residents in The Woodlands continue to be touched by David’s memory in various ways – whether they are driving down David Memorial Drive in his hometown of Shenandoah, having a child attend David Elementary School, participating in David’s Dream Run or visiting Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands where The David Clinic resides. “I’m overwhelmed by the community’s continued embrace and support of David’s memory,” Carol Ann says, “He would be pleased to know his sacrifices were not forgotten. His gallant life and death have meant something to the world.”

Article by: Mindy Jones

Fair Trade Market

Think of a product you purchased recently. Do you know where it was made, or by whom? Did you know everyday purchases can have a positive impact on the world? When we buy fair trade products, we are profoundly benefiting the lives of artisans and farmers around the globe who operate under fair trade principles while making their wares.

Fair trade products are handmade by artisans and farmers who are producing beautiful, high-quality goods including bags, jewelry, home goods, candles, scarves, ornaments, olive oil, coffee, chocolate, spices and a variety of items. Every product is unique and not mass produced. The purchase of a fair trade item allows one to form a link with the person who made it. The goods usually feature a handwritten nametag and sometimes even a picture of the artisan themselves. The Fair Trade Federation regulates the fair trade movement in North America; it creates opportunities intended to alleviate poverty by strengthening and promoting only organizations that are fully committed to complying with fair trade principles. The Federation ensures that farmers and artisans are compensated promptly and fairly for their hard work; it also safeguards the rights of children, respects their cultural identity, and promotes environmental stewardship.

Kristen Welch is a blogger and published author who has been a fair trade pioneer in our community. Ten years ago, she founded Mercy House, which funds a maternity home in Kenya, which rescues pregnant girls from extreme poverty through partnerships, teaching them sustainable, fair trade practices. Later, she opened Mercy House Global Market, a nonprofit fair trade retail store with two locations in The Woodlands. Here she is educating people about the differences between a fair trade product and something they purchase from a big box store.

“We see fair trade as a way to come alongside people without giving them a handout, it is more of a hand up, giving them an opportunity, by providing them jobs so they can solve their own problems,” commented Welch. When we purchase products that are made according to fair trade principles, we are empowering women and minorities, by purchasing affordable, high‑quality products. We are cutting out exploitative intermediaries who hold an unfair advantage over the vendors, thereby increasing the margins earned by these social enterprises, supporting their families and the wider community.

“Everything has a special story,” said Lisa Rose while describing some of the beautiful quilling crafts inside Hands of Faith, a nonprofit fair trade store located in the Lord of Life Lutheran Church. Rose is the Chair of the Hands of Faith Committee, and she leads the volunteer-only store that works with crafters and producers in over 30 countries. “Fair trade is a way of helping people in a way that is sustainable, giving them a skill and a sense of pride in being able to create something that someone would like to buy, not just because it is supporting a good ministry but because it’s an item people actually want to purchase,” she added.

Another store in The Woodlands is The Trading Co., a fair trade shop operated by The Woodlands Church. Caroline Shook, a store representative and active member of the congregation, emphasized the importance and honor they feel being able to serve the community locally and internationally through their store. “We want to make sure that the fair trade vendors we work with have the core beliefs that we share, that they are faith-based, that our missions align. We want to love the artisans even if we don’t have direct contact with them,” Shook remarked.

These local options allow one to buy with purpose, to give back, by shopping for gifts or themselves. “I think people primarily are compassionate; they want to be a part of making a difference when purchasing things that help people. They just don’t necessarily know how to find them or source them,” mentioned Welch. Every purchase makes a difference because, through the collective efforts, it fuels entrepreneurship and provides stability and well-being to entire families and their surrounding communities. Every time one picks a fair trade item, it is a step towards the eradication of global poverty, and we contribute to increased global equality.

Article by: Ana Beatriz Priego

Houston Advanced Research Center

Nestled behind a thick layer of trees on Research Forest and Gosling, originally intended by The Woodlands founder George Mitchell to be an area of technology and research, the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) now solely dedicates itself to sustainability challenges and providing research analysis on energy, air and water with the consistent focus of helping organizations thrive while maintaining an environmentally sound strategy.

In 1982, Mitchell founded HARC with a segment of the nonprofit focused on sustainability and environmental themes, a particular passion of the successful oil and gas businessman. Almost twenty years later in 2001, HARC’s entire mission was restructured to look solely at sustainability issues and analysis based on related topics. Lisa Gonzalez, President and CEO of HARC, says, “Everything we do, whether it’s energy or water, we always try to bring in these three perspectives: economy, community and environment.”

HARC approached the development of their new building centered on those three fundamental viewpoints in 2016. The new, ultra environmentally conscious building unlike any structure in the Greater Houston area was a concept its leaders recognized as something exceptional, yet quite attainable. “It aligns with our sustainability goals as a research organization,” says Mustapha Beydoun, Vice President and COO of HARC, “If a nonprofit organization can operate this kind of building, then it’s certainly possible for any sized company to do this.”

With the guidance of architects and engineers from Gensler, CMTA, Walter P Moore and Vogt Engineering, they designed HARC’s new headquarters to be energy-efficient from the slightest detail to large-scale technologies delivering significant impact. To begin with, an ecological assessment was performed on the 3.5-acre site to preserve plant species and animal habitat, which meant only developing on 30% of the total property. No irrigation is necessary on site due to native, water-smart plants which thrive there and bioswales, vegetative areas that filter water and pollutants away from the building while maintaining habitat. The price for their water bill? Minimal. Most homeowners pay more for their residential water bill than this 18,600 square foot commercial space and property.

The only U.S. Green Building Council certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum facility in The Woodlands, HARC has an even greater goal: to become Net Zero Energy in 2019, which means producing more energy than is consumed over the course of the year. Its 250 Texas-manufactured solar panels are helping lead the way as is the geothermal heating and cooling system which uses 37 deep wells underneath the modest parking lot, all without the use of natural gas. “There are a lot of systems operating behind the scenes that make it highly efficient and on the path to Net Zero. We wanted this to be a model for other commercial development projects around the region,” Gonzalez says.

Not only are they fully engaged in conserving energy and water themselves, but information abides through every system and plug outlet. If the coffeemaker or a specific computer is using more than its share of energy, it is investigated and solved with energy-efficiency as top priority.

Dirk Kestner, Director of Sustainable Design at Walter P. Moore and structural engineer for the project, says, “HARC took a holistic approach to the definition of “Net Zero” and looked not only at the impacts associated with operating the building, but also minimized the environmental impacts caused from the materials and processes used to make the building. Very few owners take such a comprehensive approach.”

The interior is just as significant as the structure itself. Ample daylight above the tree line tames the need for much artificial light. Walls of windows display a beautiful nature scene rather than buildings or concrete. As an employee, it would not be unusual to see a grey fox, a bobcat, or a hawk as you go about your day. Minimalistic in design, green-conscious materials are utilized and functional workspaces are evident, such as doors that double as writing boards and adjustable desks for standing or sitting.

The building and its unique “green” attributes have not gone unnoticed. HARC’s headquarters won the prestigious 2017 Urban Land Institute Award which identifies commercial developments that stand out in the greater Houston area. Beating out Moody Gardens for the top nonprofit choice, HARC’s structure hopes to be an educational tool fostering community outreach as well as a model to inspire other organizations to make the same bold, environmentally responsible progress. Cost-effective from design to implementation, HARC strives to keep a comfortable workplace while working toward its Net Zero goal. “It’s not that we’re giving anything up to be this efficient. It’s the exact opposite. We’re enhancing the work environment, and people are happy,” Beydoun says.

“We want it to be a center of community activities, especially those that tie back to Mr. Mitchell’s legacy of sustainability,” says Gonzalez. HARC opens its doors to organizations like The Woodlands Township and Master Naturalist, a welcome place to hold educational community events related to sustainability and the environment. Groups such as Girl Scouts, environmental organizations, builders and others are invited to tour the facility. Referred to as a “living lab,” HARC not only desires to provide their research capabilities, but to inspire more people and organizations to think about the impact they can have in their communities by providing education and real-time information. “The goal was to deliver a building that embodied HARC’s commitment to holistic environmental stewardship and that would serve as a teaching tool,” Kestner says, “I’m very pleased with the outcome.”

With almost 3,000 visitors since its opening, HARC’s goals were never one-sided. Education and outreach along with maintaining a sustainable workplace headed towards Net Zero Energy is the only path that makes sense, “For us it was an important mission. We need to walk the walk,” Gonzalez says.

Article by: Mindy Jones

From The Woodlands to Broadway

Straight from suburban Houston to New York City, Mallory Bechtel began living her dream on the Broadway stage at the youthful age of 18. And she always believed she would be there, because she simply loved the art of musical theater. “For me, because I started out so young – I don’t remember not considering Broadway as an option,” Bechtel shares.

Raised in The Woodlands, Bechtel experienced a traditional childhood and education, but at a young age she began taking classes at a local theater company, Class Act Productions. She performed in shows in the heart of Houston at Theater Under the Stars in elementary school through their youth program, Humphrey’s School of Musical Theater. “I have always loved singing. All of my idols were on Broadway – that’s what we listened to in the car,” she recalls. As a professional actress and student, young Bechtel spent countless hours training with instructors, attending rehearsals and auditioning while still attending The John Cooper School, and would participate in her school productions when she was able. “They were always willing to work with me, to help me pursue my dreams,” she says.

Chairman of Performing Arts at The John Cooper School and Bechtel’s high school theater teacher, Mary Rotella, believes that Bechtel’s professionalism and humility made a huge impact on her success. Watching her grow as an actress, Rotella says, “Mallory is interesting in that she is pretty low-key and takes things in stride, but she is intense in her approach. She’s a smart actress that pays attention to detail and understands the importance of authenticity when acting.” Continuing to be involved as both a student and performer at school, Rotella recalls it was important for Bechtel’s overall well-being. “With her talent and credits, Mallory could easily have been intimidating to her peers, but she was always supportive and encouraging. She truly lifted her fellow actors up and helped them to reach their fullest potential on stage,” remarked Rotella.

Her first love was singing, and she always seemed to connect to singing as a character in musical theater productions. She recalls that acting and nailing auditions didn’t always come easy to her, however, Bechtel was willing to work hard to improve in those areas. As she continued fine-tuning her skills with the help of Houston area instructors and theater venues, her status as a triple threat with unique talents in singing, dancing and acting sent Bechtel on her way to making her dream a reality. “Houston has such a great theater scene. I feel lucky to have grown up so near it,” Bechtel says.

Bechtel had the vision of making this her career, but she never dreamed she would be quite so young when she entered the Broadway scene via Tony award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. At 17, she auditioned to be a vacation understudy for the lead role of Zoe and was offered the job. However, the opportunity never arose to perform on stage as the understudy. But in 2018, just after high school graduation, Bechtel was thrilled to accept the full-time role of Zoe at New York City’s Music Box Theater.

The two-show days can be tiring, but she is kept energized by her fellow actors who have so much passion for what they do. She claims it has been exciting working alongside such amazing talent. “It’s always fresh, always new. People are always changing it up. It’s just what I love to do so the best part of it is getting to do it every night,” states Mallory.

Dear Evan Hansen began with quite the buzz when it debuted in 2016 and was a Tony Award winner for Best New Musical in 2017. It has continued with a strong fan base and began conversations of meaningful themes presenting both an entertaining and emotionally complex musical. “It’s about a teenager dealing with anxiety and depression which is very relevant right now. I feel very lucky to be a part of a show that has helped a lot of people,” she says. Following much hype and success, the show began touring in the fall of last year, making the award-winning musical available to far greater audiences. After completing her performance in Dear Evan Hansen ending her contract this summer, Bechtel has chosen to pursue other outstanding opportunities after her success with the musical and her debut on Broadway.

Raw talent alone didn’t get her to where she is. She only realized her dream of making it to Broadway by devoting countless hours and effort, not to mention the support from her family including her parents and three siblings. “They never doubted me. And they did force me to do things that maybe I didn’t want to. They are very supportive. I’m grateful for that,” Bechtel says.

Her plans for the future? “For actors, it’s hard to say. I would love to stay in New York, but it depends on what comes along.” No matter what lies ahead, Bechtel has paved her way with plenty of hard work and grit, and it seems she’ll continue in that direction. There is no easy route, she claims, but her passion for music and theater made the ride more enjoyable. Bechtel’s motto for pursuing any dream is revealed in her own path, “Put the time in. Take advantage of every opportunity. Keep putting yourself out there.”

Article by: Mindy Jones

Dr. Adrienne Blessing

A “blessing” to the community, Dr. Adrienne Blessing moved to The Woodlands in the early ‘90s, and nearly 30 years later she feels blessed to call The Woodlands home again. Educational pursuits took Blessing across the country, first to the University of Miami for her undergraduate degree and later to Drexel University in Philadelphia for a graduate degree in business, but she couldn’t escape the pull of Texas, of home. Her answer? Return to the area for medical school at The University of Texas, Houston.

Fast forward a few years which included a fortuitous blind date, Blessing found herself finishing up her residency at Memorial Hermann in Houston with an amazing husband, Jordan, and expecting her first child. It was at that moment that she became determined to return to The Woodlands for the amenities and treasured environment she hoped to now share with her new family. The perfect opportunity soon presented itself in the form of a job offer with Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital. Adrienne and Jordan now reside in Creekside Park Village and have two beautiful daughters. She has established a successful medical practice at Houston Methodist and has been able to rekindle friendships from her childhood as well as establish new ones.

She attributes the prevalence of values such as compassion and caring for others, as well as the abundant sense of community she experienced growing up in The Woodlands, as key factors in her decision to return. Blessing had an idyllic childhood that included attending Sally K. Ride Elementary followed by Collins, Knox and culminated with her role as a Highlander cheerleader at The Woodlands High School.

A self-described animal lover, Blessing will not hesitate to stop traffic to help a turtle or assist a lost dog to find its owner. Her hope is that her daughters will learn by her example that all living things should be treated with kindness and compassion; these lessons that were instilled by her parents but were reinforced by the individuals and the environment in The Woodlands. “People have such a compassion for others here, outside of their family. I have seen it in many areas but most notably through my involvement in Junior League of The Woodlands, as well as serving on the Giving Goes Glam and HOPE – The Will Herndon Fund Committee,” she shared.

Blessing feels that they are in the perfect place to raise their daughters. Citing author Esther Wojcicki’s book, How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results, she shares Wojcicki’s belief, “It’s important to show our kids that the most exciting and rewarding thing you can do is to make someone else’s life better.” That is the spirit of The Woodlands and we are fortunate the Blessing Family is home in The Woodlands.

Article by: Janelle Romano  |  Photography: Derrick Bryant

The Woodlands Arts Council

When conceiving The Woodlands as a master-planned community, its founders envisioned a place where art was highly valued. They succeeded in creating a vital and robust presence of artistic expression in the area. The vehicle that provides support for the arts and sustains the founders’ goal is The Woodlands Art Council, Inc. (TWAC), a not-for-profit corporation, whose primary objective is to provide cultural enrichment through several community events that promote the performing, visual and literary arts, primarily through The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival and in the schools with numerous projects and scholarships for those students interested in pursuing art studies.

TWAC strives to create a better community through the arts. Dr. Maria Holmes, recently appointed as President of TWAC Board of Directors, believes that by experiencing the creative arts in the community, the quality of life is enhanced for all residents. “It creates another way for people to build community, it’s another way for citizens to have purpose and meaning in their hometown, no matter the age, heritage, or where their original home is; it brings us all together,” Holmes stated.

The Council establishes and supports meaningful art and cultural programs throughout The Woodlands, including youth mentoring and support programs, student art scholarships, art programs in kids’ schools, interactive workshops for seniors and retirees, special needs programs and sponsorship of public arts. TWAC continues to grow and gain recognition by coordinating The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival and the Art Bench Project.

The Art Bench Project

The Council is responsible for twenty Art Benches that have been commissioned and installed throughout our community, in partnership with The Woodlands Township as well as with the funding and vision of art patrons who sponsor each bench. Designed by local, national, and international artists, the Art Benches are permanent outdoor collections around The Woodlands Mall, Town Green Park and Hughes Landing. Currently, Phase IV of this project will feature three new Art Benches that will be located along The Woodlands Waterway.

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival is an annual and premier attraction. It is one of the top-ranked fine arts festivals in the country. The festival is made for the community by the community, and all the proceeds go back into the local arts, impacting the community while benefitting upcoming local artists.

“The festival is very competitive,” said Kelly Batterson, Event Director of the 2019 Festival. There are 800 to 1,000 artists that submit applications each year providing the community with the most beautifully creative art to select from. The review and final picks are made by a blind jury. The art pieces are judged solely on merit. Art teachers, art professionals, community members and volunteers constitute the jury and collectively choose over 200 artists for each festival. “It is a well-thought-out process, a fine-working machine,” added Batterson.

The members of The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival Committee worked hard to deliver a wide variety of artistic mediums including paintings, pottery, glass pieces, photography, jewelry, digital, furniture, clothing and much more. The attendees at the two-day outdoor festival were able to meet the artist, discuss and learn about their work, hear their stories and their artistic perspectives. That was possible because, as part of the festival’s requirements, the artists have to be present in their booth for their exhibition, making the experience for the visitors more dynamic and personal.

In 2019, TWAC added a new feature to the festival called, Spotlight on Mexico. This gave an element of freshness to this year’s 14th event. Holmes mentioned, “We want to have a more global presence in our arts festival. Each year, we are going to select a country and bring attention to their arts, their food, and music providing education of other cultures to our citizens.” An interactive living museum was set up inside the main gate of Town Green Park, capturing the richness and beauty of Mexico in every art form. Asociación Amiga was in charge of curating the exhibit; they are a nonprofit formed by female Latin American entrepreneurs with a broad sense of commitment for the community. Diana Ontañon, President of the organization said, “Art has no language, barriers or frontiers, the Spotlight on Mexico was a way of sharing our authentic Mexican culture and artifacts, and representing our country the best way possible.”

The festival is a family event; everyone enjoyed the artists’ displays, live music performances and exquisite food offerings. Younger attendees participated creatively in The Woodlands Children’s Museum special exhibits. “We have a little something for everybody, making or having art is the main focus. We are proud of it; we love our mission and want to cultivate it,” concluded Batterson. The next Arts Festival is scheduled for October 17th–18th, 2020.

Article by: Ana Beatriz Priego  |  Photography: Derrick Bryant

Farm Fresh Foods

The farm-to-table restaurant culture is bursting onto The Woodlands culinary scene with wholesome food and the freshest local products in high demand. 

Food lovers are savoring the inventive fusion of local and seasonal goodness from the abundance of quaint bistros and cafes that are popping up all over The Woodlands area. Whether you’re in the center of town or keen to explore the wider countryside that surrounds us, a healthy, farm fresh bowl of goodness awaits.  

From boutique cafes to the more established culinary names in the area, all of these restaurants embody the belief that healthy food can be delicious and flavorsome. They pride themselves on using only locally sourced ingredients and the freshest seasonal products.

And what’s more, these eateries continue to build on a cause close to our hearts too – community involvement. As well as sourcing as many products from the nearby area as they can, many of these homegrown diners know what it means to give back to the community by using small, local businesses to handcraft much of their décor. These restaurants also aim to be as environmentally conscious as possible by composting and recycling.

Each of the cleverly crafted menus will help you on your way to becoming a seasoned health foodie, while respecting the community and environment that allows us to enjoy the healthiest fare to our hearts desire.  

Here is our list of the top farm-to-table and ranch-to-fork fare in The Woodlands area that will satisfy any palate and keep you coming back for more.

TRIS 

TRIS sits in the heart of The Woodlands and is the definition of fine dining incorporating the ranch-to-fork philosophy. Executive Chef Austin Simmons and his talented team at TRIS treat loyal customers and new guests with the perfect experience through upscale food and drink, artful service and finely tuned hospitality. 

Whether you’re looking for a casual business lunch or a high-end dinner, you can rest assured that you are in good hands at TRIS with an artfully crafted menu featuring some of the finest cuisine in Texas.

TRIS honors its passion for true ranch-to-fork fare by partnering up with Unique Meats, a family-owned business and premier provider of exotic meat from the best ranches across South Texas. The team at Unique Meats pride themselves on the quality of their meat, which starts with free-range ranches where the deer are raised on grass and free of steroids and medications. Unique Meats ensure their meat is delivered humanely from the field direct to the table.

TRIS now has a new exclusive steak program with HeartBrand Ranch,  a beef company specializing in bringing 10-year-old beef to consumers. Heartbrand Ranch, recently featured in Texas Monthly and The Wall Street Journal, is carving out a market for cuts from more mature animals. The ranch, headquartered in Harwood, Texas, is an Akaushi cattle ranch dedicated to breeding superior beef. TRIS was one of only a handful of restaurants nationwide to receive a portion of the first 10-year-old cow and is now proud to be bringing Woodlands consumers an exclusive steak experience.

Try: Chef’s Burger. Two smashed Akaushi Wagyu patties, bacon jam, American cheese, iceberg lettuce, English muffin

The Wheel Kitchen

Serving up farm fresh food since October 2016, this charming eatery is set on a lush area of farmland on the outskirts of The Woodlands and has become a top favorite on the farm-to-table scene.

Serving and catering for both breakfast and lunch, the menu items feature only homemade, organic or farm-raised ingredients. It’s easy to feel right at the heart of the real food movement here with plates that change with the seasons and beautifully crafted dishes bursting with the freshest local products. 

Try: The Wheel Buddha Bowl. Seasonal roasted vegetables, a spinach blend, organic brown rice, quinoa, roasted chicken breast and an herbed chia yogurt sauce.

True Food Kitchen

With a philosophy that food should make you feel better, not worse, True Food Kitchen ‘celebrates a passion for better living’.

Featuring a passionate team of chefs, restaurateurs and a doctor of integrative medicine, the True Food philosophy envisions healthy, fresh food that packs a whole lot of punch without ever sacrificing an ounce of flavor and taste.

The central Woodlands location offers an extensive menu that caters for all lifestyles including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.

Try: The Ancient Greens Bowl. Miso sesame glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow pea, grilled Portobello, avocado, hemp seed. With your choice of any protein. 

 

Flower Child

A vision of ‘healthy food for a healthy world’, Flower Child burst onto the fresh food dining scene, opening their Lake Woodlands location in April this year.

Flower Child offers dine in and takeout options, with a promise to nourish mind, body, and soul.

Beautifully crafted plates and organic drinks made from scratch help bring the concept of a happy plate to life. Using only farm fresh ingredients from close to home, the restaurant aims to cater to all tastes from paleo and vegan to kids and just plain hungry!

Try: The Glow Bowl. Spicy sweet potato noodle, bok choy, zucchini, onion, jalapeno, shiitake mushroom, coconut milk and sunflower butter.

Herb & Beet

Head on over to Herb & Beet’s new Sawdust location for a true taste of Texas. Its handcrafted menu changes seasonally to offer the best of the area’s produce all year round.

This fast-casual restaurant has partnered with dozens of local farms to bring the freshest farm food to The Woodlands area. With a three-tiered focus on food roots, sustainability and staff appreciation, Herb & Beet honors its environmentally friendly approach from the ground up, from its expansive patio garden to its efficient kitchen equipment. 

Try: Hickory Smoked Cobb Salad. Crisp romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, avocado, house smoked bacon, tomato, blue cheese crumbles, deviled egg, and smoked poblano dressing

The Kitchen

Another popular choice in The Woodlands culinary scene is The Kitchen. Formerly known as Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen, the restaurant first began serving meals to Woodlands diners back in November 2010.

Kick back in a relaxed, casual setting as The Kitchen brings its executive chef Austin Simmons’ culinary vision to life. Offering hot and cold sandwiches, live oak wood grilled meats, burgers and farm fresh vegetables, The Kitchen also offers a 65 item salad bar and eight homemade soups daily. 

Try: Oak Grilled Mahi Mahi. Ginger soy glazed, butter whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus, arugula and cilantro.

Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar

A firm fixture in The Woodlands Village of Creekside Park, Fielding’s Local Kitchen + Bar, is a popular restaurant known for its quality of local-sourced ingredients. Working with 44 Farms in the Houston area, as well as small wineries and craft brewers, the restaurant is the epitome of farm-to-table creativity. 

The impressive, ever-changing menu features steaks that are hand cut and beef that is dry-aged on the property. The kitchen makes its own pasta and bakes all of its breads and pastries daily. 

The restaurant also pays homage to the environment from which it receives its array of succulent ingredients, having been built using as many repurposed and energy efficient materials as possible. Part of its bar is made of reclaimed whitewashed wood and all booths and bar stools are recycled leather. They even have a filtering water system for cooking and drinking water.

Try: 12oz 44 Farms, Texas
Prime Ribeye. Dry-aged 40 days. 

Bellagreen

Hailing itself as ‘the greenest restaurant in Texas’, Bellagreen is an American bistro for the new age. Every item is made from scratch in their kitchen, located on Research Forest. Bellagreen aims to deliver the most flavorsome tastes as possible by using the freshest and finest local ingredients. The kitchen is more than happy to modify items on an individual basis to align with any dietary choice whether it’s gluten or dairy free, to vegetarian, keto and paleo.  

Bellagreen also reinforces its Green Philosophy by focusing on reducing its ecological footprint through water-saving devices and alternate power sources. By practicing exactly what they preach, Bellagreen’s green practices keep them in harmony with the environment. 

Try: Honey-Fried Goat Cheese & Arugula Salad. Baby arugula, fresh jicama, almonds, raisins, shaved carrots & mango, tossed with mango ranch dressing & topped with parmesan cheese & a honey-fried goat cheese medallion.

Day Trips

Following years of careful civic planning in accordance with George Mitchell’s original vision, The Woodlands has everything residents need. Unless a job or special event draws us outside peripheries, we’re just fine right where we are to live, work and play. On occasion, however, a change of scenery is good for the soul. For those with a yen to explore our stretch of the greater Houston area, there are nearby locales that clear the mind, entertain the kids and satisfy the palate.

Less than an hour’s drive from The Woodlands, nestled in one hundred acres of rolling Willis, Texas countryside is a farmhouse J.C. Hill built for his family in 1885. Time and the elements had taken a toll on the place when the Bradbury Family purchased the house and land in 2017 with a vision for restoration, expansion and repurposing. The result is Historic Hill House and Farm, an enchanting Bed and Breakfast featuring first-rate service, accommodation and recreation.

The main house, the barn house and two cottages offer seven well-appointed rooms and suites for overnight booking. Upscale farmhouse in design and comfort, these rooms offer true repose. Dining here is an equal treat. The talented and passionate culinary team at Hill House serves fine country fare three times daily to guests in the same dining room, incidentally that same room has been hosting friends and family for over one hundred and thirty years.

Active families enjoy time by the swimming pool at Hill House, fishing from a massive pond, hiking, jogging, biking and wildlife watching among its ample acreage. Inside the pool barn, an activity room equipped with board games, lawn games, crafts and puzzles are yours for the taking. And for those seeking a more tranquil escape, there is massage, painting and photography lessons and enough distance from the real world for midnight stargazing.

Hill House is a perfect location for family reunions, book clubs, yoga, writing or corporate retreats. A recent restoration of the Hill’s historic barn has added a dreamy venue to the property; 7500 square feet of climate-controlled country-chic ambiance. Not surprisingly, Hill House has additionally become a sought-after wedding location.

Roughly the same distance from The Woodlands, halfway between Conroe and Plantersville on Highway 105 is a similar escape. Named Melrose House when it was constructed in 1854 by Richard Willis, this humble yellow farm-style home and its grounds quickly became a central location for social gatherings in Montgomery County. During the Civil War, resident and local surgeon Dr. John Irion treated patients here, and Sam Houston is rumored to have been a frequent guest.

Several subsequent owners renamed the place for their use as a private residence. When the Weems family purchased the property in 2012, the goal was to restore the original social aspect of the historic property. Following renovation, the estate was reopened to the public as the Hodge Podge Lodge, a delightfully rustic Bed and Breakfast and event venue.

Current owners Jeff and Mistie Angelo recently acquired the dream and took it up a notch, adding a pergola, an open-air pavilion and other wedding and event accoutrement to the grounds. The greatest challenge, and pride for Jeff, a ‘retired-refired’ entrepreneur, was the addition of a commercial kitchen and restaurant inside the historic house without compromising its delicate original features. The Eatery at Hodge Podge Lodge has become a celebrated addition to the gourmet dining scene in Montgomery. Head Chef Rick Adams along with Jeff Angelo (also a chef) created The Eatery’s nicely balanced menu of hearty entrees, light salads and sides. Locally sourced produce and meat, and dishes made daily from scratch are hallmarks of the operation’s excellence.

Whether in need of a location for a girl’s weekend getaway, a nearby escape for the family, or a beautiful environ for time alone to read or write, the Hodge Podge Lodge fits the bill.

Article by: Karen Carroll

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