Love to hate it or hate to love it, meat is a Lone Star obsession. Texas is undoubtedly a state that loves it in any form—we have roadside smokehouses and an abundance of mom-and-pop spots serving homemade game sausage. Though it’s nearly impossible to taste all our meaty delicacies, the Butcher’s Ball Festival makes it more accessible. The annual November festival brings a world of Texas flavors together for two days of cooking and camaraderie.
Founded in 2016 by Houstonians Elaine Dillard, Jonathan Beitler, and Jason Kerr, the trio created the Butcher’s Ball to highlight businesses that support sustainability and ethical farming and ranching practices.
“I grew up watching my grandfather as a cattle rancher. Over the years, I recognized that, gradually, chefs paid more to work directly with the farms and ranches for better quality, healthier products, so we created this event as a platform to make those resources readily available to all,” Dillard said in a statement.
After a two-year hiatus (for obvious reasons), next month marks year five for the festival. The Butcher’s Ball is the state’s most prominent culinary and educational event, bringing together dozens of farmers, ranchers, chefs, bartenders, and culinary experts for a conference at Rockin’ Star Ranch just an hour outside of Houston.
This year, the festival is dubbed a “multi-sensory, open-air experience” featuring meat and produce raised by 19 local farmers and ranchers and cooked by some of the state’s most talented chefs. Over 50 acclaimed chefs from Greater Houston, San Antonio, rural Texas, Austin, and Hill Country will attend. However, the majority of them are coming from H-Town. Thirty chefs from the Houston area will be present, from James Beard Award semi-finalist Alex Au-Yeung of Phat Eatery, Chef Sasha Grumman from season 18 of Top Chef, and pitmaster Ara Malekian from season 2 of BBQ Brawl.
The festival spans two days and kicks off Saturday, November 12, with a hay ride around the ranch property, followed by an intimate farm-to-table dinner prepared by 12 Butcher’s Ball chefs. The multi-course meal will include cocktail pairings plus select wine and beer. The night will conclude with live music and an exclusive afterparty.
Sunday is the big bonanza: guests can access over 40 tasting booths, butchery demos, panel discussions, and drink sampling. The Golden Cleaver Competition will also come back, tasking festival-goers with the people’s choice award for the best bite of the day. This year’s competition boasts a versatile lineup. Of the competitors, all three previous Golden Cleaver winners (Houston area chefs, we might add): Willow Villarreal (Willow’s Texas BBQ), Tony Luhrman (El Topo), and Justin Manning (C&J Barbecue) will all participate.
Proceeds from the festival will go towards the Butcher’s Ball’s beneficiary, Urban Harvest, a nonprofit organization helping to nourish the Houston community through community garden programming and farmer’s markets. “It [the Butcher’s Ball Festival] has helped build relationships and increase commerce so that the farmers and ranchers can continue to prosper, and the chefs can source the best quality ingredients for the restaurants. When we learned about the mission of our beneficiary Urban Harvest, it just aligned perfectly,” Dillard said of the partnership.
Tickets for the festival are on sale now. The farm-to-table chef dinner is $200. The all-day festival is $175, which includes access to more than 40 tasting booths, butchery demos, panel discussions, and beverage sampling. Guests can also purchase ticket packages for the weekend starting at $350. Package add-ons include kids cooking classes for $40 and roundtrip transportation from Brenham and Houston or Austin for $50.
Visit the official website for more information and tickets to the Butcher’s Ball Festival.