Smith studios   credit ralph smith oedgd6

The dinner will be served in gorgeous Ralph Smith Studios.

Image: Ralph Smith

Everyone started out somewhere. What you might not know is some of our favorite chefs—many of whom have been cranking out a staggeringly impressive number of meals for Hurricane Harvey victims—call *17 Restaurant, located inside the Alden Hotel (now the Sam Houston Hotel), their old stomping grounds.

In the spirit of giving back and the chance to reunite in one kitchen again, Otto Sanchez, executive pastry chef at La Table decided to put together a dream team of *17 alumni from the halcyon days of 2004 to 2009 for a one-night-only dinner. It will take place on Sunday, October 1 and will raise money through charity Southern Smoke, which is shifting its non-profit resources during this time of crisis to assist those in the Houston hospitality community hit hard by Harvey. Co-chairing the special event are Rebecca Mason of Fluff Bake Bar and Ryan Pera of Agricole Hospitality.

The evening's festivities take place at Ralph Smith Studios at 5226 Elm Street. The space—as well as wine and beer from Miner Family Wines, Victory Wine Group and St. Arnold Brewing Company—are all donated. Tickets are $150 per person, with all proceeds from the dinner and silent auction going towards Southern Smoke.

As Pera surmises, “It’s amazing how accomplished the crew from *17 has become, from opening their own restaurants to working in some of the most prestigious kitchens around the world. It's great to see that everyone feels the same way about our roots in Houston and *17 as I do. It was a crossroads for me, my first executive chef position, and a crossroads for many of them as well.  We're going to show the city that we appreciate all she's done for us."

Who's involved? Here's the list, packed with a who's who of Houston gastronomy:

Stefan Bowers 

  • *17: Line Cook
  • Now: Owner/Executive Chef, Rebelle, Feast and Battalion, San Antonio

Berenice De Araujo 

  • *17: Line Cook 
  • Now: Culinary Director, John Fraser Restaurants: Dovetail, NIX, Narcissa, The Loyal, New York City  

Shaun Thompson Duffy 

  • *17: Sous Chef 
  • Now: Owner/Baker, Culture Breads, Spokane, Washington 

Garrett Eagleton

  • *17: Line Cook 
  • Now: Private Chef, New York City  

Gabe Goddell 

  • *17: Line Cook 
  • Now: Assistant Culinary Director, Kitchen Bistros, Denver 

Tracie Hartman 

  • *17: Sous chef 
  • Now: Executive chef of the Beauchamp Athletic Nutrition Center at Baylor University 

Rebecca Masson

  • *17: Pastry Chef 
  • Now: Owner, Fluff Bake Bar, Houston

Stew Navarre 

  • *17: Line Cook
  • Now: Corporate Chef, Food Services of America, Seattle 

Kimmo Meronen 

  • *17: Line Cook 
  • Now: Chef de cuisine, Lolita, Portland, Maine 

Ryan Pera

  • *17: Executive Chef 
  • Now: Chef/Owner, Agricole Hospitality - Coltivare, Revival Market, Eight Row Flint, Houston 

Otto Sanchez

  • *17: Pastry Chef 
  • Now: Executive Pastry Chef, La Table, Houston 

Joseph Stayshich 

  • *17: Sous Chef 
  • Now: Culinary Director, Adair Concepts, Houston

Justin Yu 

  • *17: Line Cook 
  • Now: Chef/Owner Theodore Rex, Better Luck Tomorrow, Houston 

Ernesto Villareal 

  • *17: Intern 
  • Now: Executive Sous Chef, The Grove, Houston  

*17 Restaurant Harvey Benefit Dinner, October 1. Cocktails will be served at 5 p.m., dinner will be served at 6 p.m. Ralph Smith Studios, 5226 Elm St. Price: $150 per person. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit  

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