Women Empowering Women Featuring Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis, author of the New York Times bestseller “Girl Wash Your Face”, brought her inspirational message of empowerment to the sold-out crowd at the Interfaith of The Woodlands’ Women Empowering Women luncheon on February 1st at The Woodlands Resort. Donning a “love for you” t-shirt, Ms. Hollis, had the audience cheering and dancing to her message of self-acceptance and celebrating one’s God-given gifts.  

The Women Empowering Women luncheon, presented by CHI St. Luke’s Health, was the 6th Annual event hosted by the Interfaith Community Clinic, that serves as a medical home for many Montgomery County families. “The enthusiasm for this year’s speaker was remarkable, and very quickly we realized we would have the opportunity to share about the clinic to a whole new audience in addition to our current supporters,” Missy Herndon, President, and CEO of Interfaith Community Clinic. 

Ms. Hollis championed the Interfaith Community Clinic, rallying the 730 guests to contribute to support the clinic’s efforts, and led by example donating back her entire speaking fee to the cause. As a result, the event raised $325,000, shattering the previous luncheon record.  

Rachel Hollis, photo courtesy Derrick Bryant

Junior League of The Woodlands – Rene Romano, Louise Blanchard, Jenny Shirley, and Shonna Spear

WEW Committee: Darin Mittlestaedt, Georgianna Syal, Emma Simms, Missy Herndon, Anita Phillips, Michelle Kink, Dr. Sakina Davis, Jessica Kemp-Park Not Pictured: Kelly Hull, Lee Fackler

Ella and Jo Anne Johnson

Michelle Kink, Jordan Coronado, and Leslie Hogan

Presenting Sponsor CHI St. Luke’s Health with Clinic Director, Anita Phillips

Guest Singer, Cannon Brand entertains audience during coffee and desserts.

Ladies of Southwestern Energy wear T-Shirts honoring Hollis

 

The Interfaith Community Clinic, established in 1996, is a nonprofit Health Care Center providing medical and dental care as well as counseling and patient service assistance to the uninsured and underinsured in Montgomery County. The Interfaith Community Clinic staff, comprised of experienced professional medical and dental volunteers, see over 10,000 patients annually for preventative care and minor illness treatment.

George’s Coffee Club

It was just a couple of years ago, over coffee, that a unique local organization began. Roger Galatas, Tom Cox, and Jeff Harris—who all worked closely with founder of The Woodlands, George Mitchell—agreed that the history of The Woodlands and the vision of George Mitchell’s master plan for it should be respected and continued. So that day in 2016, enjoying conversation and a cup of joe, George’s Coffee Club was formed with the intention of sustaining the core values of the town through education.

“We shared the view that there was not a source of information [for Mitchell’s vision that] anyone could easily access and rely on. And there needed to be,” says Galatas, President of George’s Coffee Club. The 501(c)(6) nonprofit entity seeks to share factual information about George Mitchell’s significant leadership and contribution in developing The Woodlands.

They would know—each of the founders of the organization, as well as many of their members, personally worked alongside Mitchell, and they understand exactly how he was motivated and what his specific vision was for the new town. With a desire to keep the community informed and to encourage the next generation to uphold the values of The Woodlands, George’s Coffee Club has grown from the three founding members to fifty-five active members. “We recognize as time goes by, we need young people to carry this on,” Galatas says.

An original member of George’s Coffee Club and current Steering Committee member, Karen West also enjoyed the privilege of working for Mitchell, beginning in 1984 in the legal department of his company. “This community has been my primary focus as a professional and as a resident for over 30 years, so it is important to me for us to continue to honor the man who founded this outstanding community and to communicate his vision accurately,” she says. “We thought it was important to keep his legacy alive and to educate newcomers to the area about him and his contributions to this community.”

Galatas met Mitchell early in 1979 and went to work for him later that year as the Senior Vice President of The Woodlands Development Corporation, becoming the President in 1986. “In my judgment, the single most important factor in the success of The Woodlands is its founding developer, George Mitchell. His vision, tenacity, compassion, charitable nature and willingness to take financial risk all combined in this successful community,” Galatas says. He explains that Mitchell wanted to address “regional sprawl” and build a community with quality-based initiatives where residents could live, work, play and learn.

Not only was Mitchell a well-respected oil-and-gas businessman and real estate developer, but he was also a generous man. “His charitable nature was one of the things that made him stand out from other businesses,” says Galatas. He remained active, sometimes fussing at businessmen for chopping down trees, even after he sold The Woodlands in 1997 because it was a project he embraced wholeheartedly. One of the most significant gifts Mitchell imparted was the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, in honor of his wife and her passion for the arts.

Monthly meetings of George’s Coffee Club focus on foundational values from The Woodlands’ origin, including education, health, transportation, and the arts. Speakers discuss Mitchell’s initial involvement, contribution and vision, and they associate the specific amenity with how The Woodlands has evolved through the years as well as how it relates to future plans for the community. Speakers have included Congressman Kevin Brady, Conroe ISD Superintendent Don Stockton, Debra Sukin, Josh Urban, the general manager of the San Jacinto River Authority, CEOs of Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center as well as other leaders in the community. “One speaker we enjoyed this year was Mr. Mitchell’s son, Todd Mitchell, who spoke about how important The Woodlands was to his father and what he envisioned for this community,” West says.

The Woodlands opened in 1974 as a new hometown community and brought a solution for regional growth outside a large metropolitan city. Many who live and work here may not realize that the amenities, beauty, and organization they enjoy today were strategically planned for them in its inception. Nurturing the past and sustaining the community’s values for our future embraces George Mitchell’s distinct outlook: creating a quality suburban town with a unique concentration on human appeal, not just development.

George’s Coffee Club is honoring the man and the origin of this town by teaching the community about our history and aligning its future through education, thereby inspiring continuity in realizing the dreams George Mitchell had for The Woodlands.

For more information, please visit the George’s Coffee Club website at georgescoffeeclub.org

Sustainable Fitness, Attainable Goals

Now that the new year has arrived many of us are falling in line with the goal and intention setting that litters our social media feeds.  From diet to fitness, it’s easy to get caught up in picture-perfect ideals – aiming to mold our bodies, and maybe even our lifestyles, to look like the highlights of an influencer’s Instagram story.

There’s nothing wrong with having aspirations and goals.  They’re necessary for personal development and growth, but following a plan that isn’t a fit for your needs can lead to burnout, discouragement, and the abandonment of your pursuits.  The last thing you want to do when embarking on a fitness journey is set yourself up to feel further behind than you did when you first began.

The Woodlands is saturated with gyms large and small, boutique fitness studios, groups and clubs that all have their own way of helping you achieve your goals.  When it comes to deciding where you’re going to spend your time and energy here are some things to consider:

Community

This one gets overlooked, but it’s a critical half of the equation for success:  whether it’s a motivating and encouraging instructor or trainer, a friendly and knowledgeable front desk person, a fellow client, or a combination of all three, whom you surround yourself with has a big impact on your ability to see a goal through to the finish line.  If the instructor’s style of motivating doesn’t suit you, or you don’t feel confident coming forward with a question about your membership, or the participants in your class or fellow gym attendees create an environment that makes you feel belittled rather than inspired, it might be time to reconsider where you’re putting your effort.

Find a community that encourages, motivates, inspires, and challenges you to pursue your physical goals.  That type of positive energy will work its way into other aspects of your life and ultimately make getting to the gym or studio not just something you want to do, but something you feel like you need to as well.

Method + Results

There might be a few hundred ways to get your heart rate up, tone your muscles, and increase your flexibility.  Discover something that works for you in all three categories and you’ll be in your best shape in no time.  When trying out different fitness methods in the pursuit of building a sustainable fitness routine ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I see myself doing this 3-5 times a week without getting bored or overly fatigued?

  2. Do others who work out here just do this, or do they incorporate other methods into their lifestyle?

  3. If I dedicate myself to this method for the long-term, am I going to achieve the results that I’m after?

If the answers to these questions work well into your overall picture of what you’re trying to achieve for your lifestyle, it’s likely that the fitness method you are choosing is one that you will be able to stick to.  The results you garner will be more than enough to keep you motivated, and you’ll feel a good return for the time, energy, and resources you invest.

My hope for you in 2019 is that you discover a supportive environment that inspires you to achieve your goals, and sets you up for a level of success that will follow you for the rest of your life.

Gelena Scally- Gelena “G” Scally has lived in The Woodlands for five years where she owns and operates boutique fitness studio DEFINE: The Woodlands. She is passionate about connecting with her community by helping them achieve their health and fitness goals.

Crew in The Woodlands

Long known as the domain of male Ivy Leaguers, the sport of rowing has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years as training programs and facilities have become more widely accessible. You’ve probably seen the boats gliding across Lake Woodlands: long, skinny things with two, four, sometimes eight rowers pulling lengthy oars in unison so gracefully, it looks easy.

It is not easy. Rowing at the competitive level is described as a footrace that begins with a 500-meter sprint, settles into running as fast as you possibly can for 1,500 meters, and finishes with another 500-meter sprint.

Enthusiasts praise rowing for the full-body benefits. Back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, shoulders, biceps, lungs—they all get a workout. Balance, core stability, body strength and cardio endurance are the much-desired benefits. Not to mention the camaraderie of a team, Saturday regattas, and the possibility of a lifelong pursuit.

The Woodlands Rowing Club was first on the scene in 1989. Jim and Dee Hotop took over as directors after moving to The Woodlands in 2011. Dee suggests the only true requirement for potential rowers is the ability to swim. Though rowers are trained to stay in the boat, on occasion swimming is necessitated.

“We’re proud of our all-ages, all-levels program. There’s a place for everyone at The Woodlands Rowing Club,” Dee Hotop says. They should be proud! The club is 29-years-strong and still growing its recreational, competitive, and masters programs. Rosters for TWRC off-campus PE programs for CISD students and summer camps are also increasing. For rowers wanting to compete, Hotop stresses, “We don’t turn anyone away. We’re always looking for new talent. Always looking to grow our teams.”

It’s a commitment, for sure. Junior teams practice year-round, five days a week, with regattas some Saturdays. The results, however, cannot be ignored. TWRC has produced collegiate rowers for the likes of University of Texas, University of Massachusetts and West Point.

“Still, we’re very careful with our athletes. We want them happy and healthy,” she stresses. “It’s how we help them reach their goals. That’s our purpose. If we win races and acquire scholarships in the process, that’s great, but we help our members and students in so many other ways, too.” Ways like tenacity, confidence, teamwork—and fun.

Parati Competitive Rowing is the newest rowing club in The Woodlands. Mike and Jan Rosman established Parati in 2012 as a highly competitive, juniors-only club. In just six years, this club has qualified a staggering 39 boats to compete at the US Rowing Youth National Championship, including two bronze medal wins in 2018. After all, their motto is “paratus enin vitae,” which is Greek for ‘prepared for life.”

Students (grades 8–12) interested in rowing may take advantage of a free learn to row session at Parati. If hooked and ready to excel, they are invited to join a first-year novice team. JV and Varsity teams follow.

Jan doesn’t sugarcoat the commitment. “The training is rigorous: six days a week, forty-eight weeks a year; but that’s what it takes to develop world-class athletes.” Balance, however, is also key. “We’re together a lot, so we make it fun with lots of social activities and community service. Hard work is easier when you’re in the company of friends,” Jan stresses. “The whole development of our kids is our passion, our calling, our heart.”

That dedication is the bedrock on which collegiate rowers are built. Parati athletes have gone on to crew for the University of Texas, Duke, MIT, Boston University, Dartmouth, Villanova, Berkley and the Naval Academy, to name a few.

Both clubs gush over the contribution Woodforest Bank has made to their success. In 2017, Woodforest funded a boathouse at Northshore Park to be shared by The Woodlands Township, The Woodlands Rowing Club and Parati to store their equipment inside.

Rowing is a fulfilling sport that offers a full-body workout. Whether you’re looking to join a team or just do it on your own time, The Woodlands is a great place to discover a new passion.

Legacy of Caring

In 1975, Don Gebert and his family arrived in Texas, sight unseen, to help an oil and gas businessman build a new town. This businessman was George Mitchell, founder of The Woodlands, who 45 years ago made a commitment to create a community, not only with master plans for neighborhoods, schools and a city center, but with heart and soul. He wanted to include the spiritual side of life. He had dreams to build a more loving and caring community.

“Mr. Mitchell was visionary enough to see that building a new town physically was not enough. You have to have people who care, people who believe, people who know how to dream, people who want to build a more loving and caring community,” Gebert says. Including religious life was a significant piece within the original design of The Woodlands, and Mitchell needed someone to carry it out.

As a Lutheran minister, Gebert had been working in inner city Philadelphia, collaborating across racial and socioeconomic divides in the 1960s. When Mitchell approached him for The Woodlands position, Gebert was Associate Director for The Philadelphia Foundation, the largest philanthropic body in the area, which was dedicated to helping the needy and improving lives. He was both a pastor and a missionary along with his wife, Barbara. His life was devoted to others, and that wasn’t going to stop when he moved to Texas.

The Woodlands, in its infancy stage, only had around 100 families residing in the small suburban area. Gebert had been carefully recruited to be the connection for religious communities within The Woodlands, to incorporate the spiritual aspect into the community. In preparation for this, Mitchell and his team had created the nonprofit, The Woodlands Religious Community, Inc., in 1973, which Gebert later renamed Interfaith of The Woodlands.

“Interfaith has been one of the key points of The Woodlands in my opinion,” George Mitchell has remarked.

Gebert decided he needed to get know people. He hopped on his moped and visited residents one by one, sometimes following moving vans to find and greet the newcomers. With those conversations, he recorded ages, special needs and religious preferences for everyone who lived in the community. The residents were a key component of getting programs started. “So many people wanted to help. I don’t deserve all of the credit. The pioneers who lived here believed we could do something that had never been done before—they deserve the credit,” Gebert says.

In his 10 years of service to Interfaith, Gebert helped 16 churches start their congregations and attain sites for their worship services. Religious faiths of all kinds became members of Interfaith, and giving back to help others was something they all could do together. Because Mitchell helped fund his new town with Housing of Urban Development (HUD) resources, there were plenty of opportunities for neighbors to help neighbors. Many of the programs he founded with the help of steady volunteers are still in existence today, with a much larger reach due to expansion: The Villager, Interfaith of The Woodlands Directory, Interfaith Child Development Center, the Interfaith Employment Project now operating as Workforce Solutions, assistance for seniors adults and so many more.

Revered Gebert often shares, “Everything that started on the human side in The Woodlands in the early days was started by Interfaith.”

Ann Snyder, Executive Director of Generosity and Schools at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, devoted over 12 years as President and CEO of Interfaith beginning in 2003, but her work with the nonprofit began many years prior as a volunteer, followed by serving as a board member. When she became President, her goal was to ensure that Interfaith stood with a solid foundation. During the first part of her leadership, she had two important goals: to visit every member congregation and to have a conversation with every staff member. “People gave a lifetime to the organization, and it was important they know how valuable they were,” Snyder says.

As The Woodlands grew in the business arena, the nonprofit began connecting with corporate entities and creating a board of directors with expertise, knowledge and heart. It was during this time that Interfaith gained a significant amount of support among corporations and leadership in the town. “I think we helped open the windows for all that was good about this organization. It was not me, it was a team,” Snyder says. When she reflects on Interfaith’s 45th anniversary, she says, “It’s the foundation of The Woodlands. Mr. Mitchell wanted a community that embraced diversity. It’s for everyone.” During Snyder’s tenure, many important programs were initiated, such as childcare at Lonestar College, expansion of the Interfaith Child Development Center, job training and the management of the Interfaith Community Clinic.

Missy Herndon, current President and CEO of Interfaith, began volunteering with the organization before beginning her career at Interfaith in 2013. When she was named President in 2016, she had prior experience with the organization, both as a volunteer and on staff as Director of Programs and Services, which brings important perspective for leadership. Hurricane Harvey became one of Herndon’s first and most significant challenges when Interfaith was tasked with organizing Montgomery County’s massive relief efforts, which provided aid and support for more than 28,000 people. “There was no better example of how the community steps up to help each other,” she says. Led by a rock-solid group of staff from Interfaith, more than 12,000 volunteers stepped forward with confidence and dedication to Interfaith’s colossal goal, demonstrating its strong support system. “The number of people serving last year during Hurricane Harvey was staggering,” says Gordy Bunch, Chairman of The Woodlands Township Board of Directors. “Interfaith is a full-time, engaged community partner.”

Member congregations continue to be heavily involved in the success and longevity of Interfaith, with their volunteer assistance as well as financial support. 63 religious institutions work together as member congregations in the name of service to create unity amid diversity, which was one of the original mottos in the early years. “My dream was to wipe the slate clean. We could have a religious community where everyone who was different, was precious,” Gebert recalls. That value has remained and been strengthened over the years, with a focus on helping others a major tenant of religions of all kinds.

Today, under Herndon’s leadership, Interfaith continues its dedication to impacting lives through compassion and service. Nearly 35,227 individuals were served in 2017 through the nonprofit’s crisis assistance program, and Interfaith helped 1,000 seniors remain in their homes by providing assistance in all areas of life. “Our hometown is better off for having Interfaith. It has been an integral part of our community for over 40 years,” says Bunch.

From helping a few neighbors to helping hundreds of thousands, Interfaith has continually created services that meet the needs of the people in The Woodlands. Everything seemed to begin by helping just one parent, one senior citizen, one struggling family. The programs arose out of real necessities, and its staff and volunteers brought those programs to fruition. As the support from the community grew, Interfaith was able to provide more assistance to more people.

Don Gebert remains in awe of how far it has come since the first day he arrived in Texas. Knowing all the obstacles they faced in the beginning, he still calls it a miracle 45 years later.

Interfaith’s hope for the future is the same as it was 45 years ago. “Our priority will always be serving people. Our goal is to never say no. We are the connection where people of all faiths, from all economic and educational backgrounds, from the spiritual, corporate and civic communities, neighbors and individuals, are able to come together in the name of service,” says Herndon.

Annette Palmer

Some of artist Annette Palmer’s earliest memories are from the days just after her baby sister was born. Since children were prevented from visiting hospital floors back then, Annette and her older sister would stand on the lawn underneath their mother’s second floor room and catch the love notes she dropped down to them from the window.

Communication. Emotion. Distance and separation. Letters written between friends, family, lovers—even these she finds in flea markets, written by strangers whose stirring words having outlived them. Those are the subtleties that have always been the source of her creativity.

Born in Falkirk, Scotland, Annette found inspiration at every turn: the architectural drawings of her father, the subdued hues of coastal Scotland, and the letters, of course—from her mother, her friends, her teen-age pen pals— dozens of them, all over the world.

Annette studied art through high school and attended the Edinburgh College of Art. Figural and fashion drawing had become her focus, as well a young Englishman named Bob Palmer, who’d come to Edinburgh as an offshore worker for BP. After graduation she began working as a children’s clothing designer. She and Bob Palmer married. The expressive exchange in the letters they sent back and forth over the North Sea further shaped Annette’s muse.

While living in Singapore on a BP assignment, Annette began designing her own line of women’s clothing and successfully operated her company, Cancan, for years. After a brief assignment in Dubai, the Palmers were sent to Houston and settled in The Woodlands twelve years ago. With son, Ross, and daughter, Faith, approaching high school, Annette began working as an art teacher at The Woodlands Prep and Esprit International School. For several years she even taught an adult painting class in her studio. She coordinated art exhibits for Hubbell and Hudson Kitchen and St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital, showcasing dozens of local artists.

In recent years, with her children grown, Annette has slowed her pace outside the studio. Inside the studio, however, she’s been hard at work on a multi-media series of acrylic landscapes and seascapes with textured and reflective surfaces.

“I paint with sponges, scrappers, pallet knives, paint brushes, shoe brushes, household cleaning brushes,” she chuckles at her unconventional techniques. “I love reflective surfaces: silver and gold leafing, foil, flecks of mica, paper. I sometimes use pieces of fabric I have left from Cancan—reflective in a different way.”

And somewhere on each piece in this brilliant, bountiful collection is the written communication that so moves her. Snippets of old love letters, for example, shape stars in the sky, or waves in the ocean, or birds in flight.

“I’ve always been inspired by written communication; because it never goes away. These days we text, then delete the messages. I believe something significant is lost in that process,” she says. “There’s something about taking the time to sit and write a letter that frees our consciousness, our feelings, and we express ourselves with much greater warmth and honesty.”

Since 2017, The Glade Gallery in The Woodlands has exhibited four collections of Annette’s work: “Between the Lines,” “Between the Lines 1.5,” “Home from Home” and “Love Letters.” Her “Across the Miles” collection was showcased at The Jung Center in Houston earlier this year.

With clients the world over, Annette Palmer’s creative life is thriving. Rows of completed canvases line the floor of her sunlit studio. Paintings in various stages of completion rest on easels. As we sit together, a re-homed cat saunters across our table, a rescue dog lies at my feet.

“My studio is where I’m happiest,” she says. “It’s all about love here, about eternal hope, and bridging that uncertain distance between us.” And I totally get it.

Annette’s newest collection, “Pause, Rewind, Play,” opens November 1, 2018 at Glade Gallery.

“This collection explores lost means of communication through mixtapes from the Gen-X era.” She says this with excitement that is at once proud, humble and enchanting, the manner of an artist fully realized.

Follow Annette Palmer’s art and inspiration at annettepalmerart.com and on Instagram at annettepalmerart
Photo credit: Derrick Bryant

2018 Letter from our Editors

As we wind down 2018, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for your partnership in The Book The Woodlands. The Book was created to highlight the incredible people, businesses, and happenings in this amazing community we call home, as well as raise necessary funds for the programs and services of Interfaith of The Woodlands. Your partnership truly makes a difference in fulfilling Interfaith’s mission to serve our neighbors who come to us in their time of need.

Interfaith of The Woodlands has been able to make a huge impact in our community in 2018 with the help of your ad partnership. We are happy to share your ad in part benefited:

· 35,227 individuals for crisis assistance

· 29,406 seniors through transportation, activities and Holiday gifts

· 2,745 children for school supplies

· 18,823 neighbors for food assistance

· 3,777 individuals for clothing vouchers

Your support is appreciated not only for what it helps us achieve but also for the generosity it reflects.

Thank you again for investing and believing in Interfaith for the past 45 years as we work together “To build a more loving and caring community through service.”

We wish you a beautiful holiday season and a blessed 2019!

Missy Herndon, President & CEO Interfaith of The Woodlands

Janelle Romano, Managing Editor The Book The Woodlands

Hope for the Holidays

Hope for the Holidays, a festive, Christmas-themed musical variety show benefiting Cassidy Joined for Hope, was held on December 15 at the College Park High School auditorium. The heartwarming event featured talented soloists Gary Lynn Floyd, Michelle Brown, J.R. Smith, David Troth and Alyssa Smith, as well as ballet and ballroom dancers, choir performers and improv students. The spectacular event raised over $20,000 to be used toward speaking/awareness events and preventative measures to break the silence of teenage suicide and mental illness.

Hope for the Holidays was the lifelong dream and vision of its producer, Jodie Schrier. Ms. Schrier has more than three decades of dance and theater experience, and she has always aspired to produce a show combining all of her passions. Her dream came to life with a profound purpose and meaning on the stage for Hope for the Holidays.

“Never could I have imagined that the loss of precious Cassidy would one day be the trigger to launch [this show],” shared Jodie Schrier. “And yet it makes perfect sense: ‘beauty from the ashes.’ Cassidy’s spirit lives on through the Cassidy [Joined] for Hope Foundation. Lives are impacted. Hope is spreading. I am so thankful to the Hess family for allowing me to play a small part in their journey. I am humbly reverent.”

Kim Hess had this to say: “Jodie Schrier’s years of hard work, planning, prayers, tears, heart and love came to life on stage for all of us to enjoy! She used her vision, her talents and her 20-year dream for something so much bigger than all of us—to bring hope to this community during a time when we need it the most.”

Dancers from Boni’s Dance & Performing Arts Studio Inc performed the Parade of the Toy Soldiers, a Rockette-inspired number, as well as the Waltz of the Flowers. Bonnie Schuetz, owner of Boni’s Dance & Performing Arts Studio Inc, was the program’s choreographer along with Danielle Brasher Rapp. Schuetz was also the production sponsor for the presentation.

The spectacular production was a family affair, as the Christmas Waltz was performed by Blaire Schuetz-Coakley, Taylor Schuetz and Alyssa Smith. Rae Moses and Debra Beam Moses were the Hope for the Holidays show directors, and the role of Santa was played by Jodie’s father, Clyde Domengeaux. The event co-hosts were Dori Barber and Mark Hayter. Nicole Robinson Gauthier served as the Master of Ceremonies and Valerie Labonski was the technical director.

The love, talent and heart of all of the enthusiastic performers energized the audience and left them inspired and filled with Christmas spirit. As Kim Hess stated, “Hope for the Holidays was absolutely amazing. Our children, our neighbors, our teachers, our pastors, our friends—our community—came together to shine a light in the darkness while reminding each other that there is always hope!”

 

Cassidy Joined for Hope is a nonprofit focused on teen suicide awareness and prevention through the schools and community established by the Hess Family. Their beautiful daughter, Cassidy, tragically lost her life in 2015 to suicide at 16 years of age.

TRIS: Chef Austin Simmons, Cureight-or of Experiences

Gone are the days of having to drive into Houston for your foodie fix. If you are looking for an amazing dining experience, look no further than TRIS (formerly Hubbell & Hudson) on The Waterway. The experience at TRIS is so outstanding, in fact, that it should not be reserved for special occasions, but rather become part of your regular restaurant rotation.

Chef Austin Simmons, born and raised in Texas, graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Austin. He was trained under Dean Fearing, James Beard Award winner, and later John Tesar at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. At a mere 24 years old, he was named the head chef at Hubbell & Hudson. Now, with the transition to TRIS, Chef Simmons has clearly established his culinary voice and is working on his legacy.

The restaurant, named after his daughter, is profoundly personal. Chef Simmons beams when he talks about his wife and young daughter, Tris, and his priority to carve out time for them in spite of his very demanding, chaotic schedule. Chef Simmons’ passion and purpose are driven by every personal interaction he has with a guest. “The best food comes from what you are passionate about,” stated Chef Simmons.

Food from the Soul

It is the busiest time of year in the restaurant business, and Chef Simmons is elevating the expectations of not only his food but of himself and his staff. Chef Simmons stated, “I try every day to come in 1% better than the day before.”

Reimagining favorite dishes and creating extraordinary cuisine out of ordinary ingredients are Chef Simmons’ trademarks. The food at TRIS highlights global, modern flavor, but stays true to the cuisine. Chef Simmons is not about chasing trends, but rather about the seasonality and diversity of the menu. Featuring local ingredients whenever possible, Chef Simmons has created an elevated dining experience that is approachable—not pretentious.

Clearly, his vision is working. TRIS, which opened in September, is always busy; Chef Simmons’ collaborative dinner series, CollaborEIGHT, sold out before TRIS even had a chance to advertise. What’s more, in this year’s Truffle Master competition, Chef Simmons’ grilled cheese beat out those of over 20 other chefs (including from teams headed by Michelin Star-winning chefs). Of course, Chef Simmons’ truffled grilled cheese is anything but ordinary.

It is evident by watching his attention to detail that he cooks from the soul and from the heart, and that feeling comes across on every plate. That same intention is put into every dish, from appetizer to entrée—proven by the fact that the delectable crab appetizer outsells everything on the menu 5 to 1.

The People Business

The food at TRIS is outstanding, but what really makes the experience unforgettable is the amazing service. “We are in the people business—food is merely the vehicle,” remarked Chef Simmons. In an industry where turnover is the norm, Chef Simmons is focused on recruiting and retaining top talent. He hires the right people and then invests in them.

Both the front and back of the house are highly skilled, expertly trained and put the customer first in every aspect. A key component is Chris Perry, the general manager who is constantly striving for perfection. TRIS is the only restaurant of its caliber on Open Table where the service is consistently rated as high as, or higher than, the food.

In order to keep innovating and to continue the development of his team, Chef Simmons designed a collaborative dinner series called CollaborEIGHT, which as was mentioned earlier, sold out before TRIS even began advertising. This collaborative series brings in locally and nationally acclaimed culinary talent and offers an eight-course dining experience for the guests—while also keeping things new and fresh for the chefs. The most recent CollaborEIGHT dinner featured Chef Manabu “Hori” of Kata Robata and an ingredient with which Chef Simmons has already demonstrated significant expertise: the truffle.

The diversity of the new menu at TRIS and the reasonable prices allow for a wider appeal, but the key lies in the quality and consistency of each plate. In spite of the remodel and new menu, TRIS has not raised their prices and remains remarkably affordable. The happy hour menu is composed of many lunch and dinner favorites, available for a steal.

A Truly Memorable Experience

For a truly spectacular experience, don’t miss Cureight, open only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Named one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants by Texas Monthly, Cureight is the only chef-tasting concept in North Houston. A restaurant within a restaurant, the concept features an eight-course meal, paired with wine, crafted by Chef Simmons. Cureight is even beginning to draw foodies from Houston to—wait for it—The Woodlands. The food is designed and prepared right in front of the guest, and it is Chef Simmons’ creative playground.

With TRIS and Cureight achieving consistent results, Chef Simmons is expanding to create superior culinary experiences on a larger scale. Simmons recently served over 650 individuals for a corporate event, while elevating favorite dishes and remaining true to the vision of food with soul. He hopes to be known as the leading provider of curated events and experiences.

“This is a performance-based business, and we are only as good as the last guest we waited on or meal we served,” stated Chef Simmons. It is no wonder then that many of the guests are recognized and treated as family by the team at TRIS. As Chris Perry remarked, “People come back because they know, regardless of when they come or what they order, [that] it is going to be good.”

Whether you visit TRIS for lunch, happy hour or unadvisedly wait for a special occasion, Chef Simmons and TRIS will definitely create a memorable experience that you will treasure.

Fairytale Pumpkin Pasta & Quail

  • 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup shallots, sliced
  • ½ tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 thyme sprigs 
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 3 lb Fairytale pumpkin, peeled, seeded, diced
  • 3 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 ½ lbs Pappardelle or Tagliatelle Pasta 
  • 8-16 small semi-boned quail (if desired) 
  • Brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger for garnish

Yield: 8 servings

Cook the Quail 4 minutes on each side under a press on a flat-top with rosemary and thyme. Season with salt and white pepper. 

Melt 3 ounces of butter in a large 1 ½ gallon pot, over medium-low heat.

Add the shallots, garlic, thyme (tied in a cheesecloth sachet), salt and pepper.

Sweat the vegetables for 10 to 15 minutes, do not caramelize.

Shallots should be translucent but still, have a little crunch.

Add the pumpkin, and mix well. Add the stock, and bring up to a simmer.

Simmer until the pumpkin is fully cooked, about 30 to 45 minutes,

Remove the thyme, transfer the mixture to a blender, and process, in batches.

Add the remaining butter, in portions, to the soup, while blending.

Cook pasta at al dente, add to the sauce in a saucepan and reduce the sauce into the pasta until thickens. 

Garnish with brown butter, toasted pumpkin seeds, chervil leaves & candied ginger.

 

Photography Courtesy:  Derrick Bryant Photography.

Holiday Sparkle

It’s the most wonderful time of the year with cooler weather, holiday decorations and festive cheer. Holiday parties also fill our calendars, and chances are, figuring out what to wear can be daunting. I am sharing my three favorite trends that I plan on taking with me on the holiday circuit!

  1. Plan on heading to the office party right after the work day is over? Start the day in a work-approved sweater and pencil skirt. When the clock strikes 6, perk up your work outfit with the tried-and-true holiday accessory—sparkle! Festive earrings, hair accessories, belt and shoes all add to the holiday spirit.

LAYZER SLOUCHY RHINESTONE BOOTS | MACY’S

EMBELLISHED BOW BARRETTE | J.CREW

FARAH BELT | INTERMIX

 

MULTICOLORED BEADED SANDALS | ZARA

  1. Red is the instinctive color of choice for the holidays, but combine it with velvet and you have a time-honored and chic look.

ASHBURY WIDE-LEG VELVET PANTS | NEIMAN MARCUS

SASHA VELVET JUMPSUIT | MACY’S

  1. The every day, cross-body bag has made its way to the evening. Typically we tuck in the beautiful chain and use the bag as a clutch, but now we can celebrate no more lost purses and still be hands-free with the evening bag, plus strap. Sling it over your shoulder or go for cross-body style!

KATE METALLIC STRIPE WALLET ON CHAIN | SAINT LAURENT

KYMMY RHINESTONE SATIN CLUTCH | DILLARD’S

 

Photography Courtesy Katy Cox Photography

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