Something between Cinderella and Sweeney Todd, the Fifth Annual Butcher's Ball is a must-attend weekend for meat lovers concerned with ethics and sustainability. This collaborative festival is a blow-out event featuring 50 Texas culinary talents, but despite the big names in cooking, this one is centered around farmers and ranchers no longer behind the scenes.
This will be a drive for Austinites, as the weekend takes place at Rockin’ Star Ranch in Brenham, about an hour and 45 minutes directly east of the Capital City. It’s a compromise with Houstonians, who also have to drive about an hour and 15, and who make up the majority of the lineup. Visitors from either city can enjoy a road trip out to the country venue, or relax on a $50 round-trip bus, including drinks and snacks. Eat your heart out, Greyhound.
The event kicks off on Saturday, November 12, with a hayride, a farm-to-table dinner prepared by a dozen chefs, and music by unbounded pedal steel player Will Van Horn and the metal-bluegrass Fiddle Witch. The opening bites and following five courses are prepared by pairs of Texas chefs:
- “Fireside bites” and bread: Ara Malekian of Harlem Road Texas BBQ and Sasha Grumman of Sasha’s Focaccia
- First course: Alex Au-Yeung of Phat Eatery and Kevin Bryant of Roma
- Second course: Cullen Holle of Country Sunshine and PJ Edwards of Meadow
- Third course: Jane Wild and Sarah Heard of Foreign & Domestic
- Fourth course: Dylan McShan of Easy Wind Catering and Tony Luhrman of El Topo
- Fifth course: Karla Espinosa of Mad and Alyssa Dole of LuLoo’s Day and Night
Sarah Heard is the only Austin chef on the Saturday lineup, while Dylan McShan travels the farthest, from Marfa. Half of the Saturday chefs are from Houston, and most of the others are from surrounding cities.
The ball itself, on Sunday, is the main event. Most of Saturday's featured chefs are competing for the "Golden Cleaver," alongside 14 other Texas chefs. Jo Chan of Chan Hospitality is visiting from Austin, along with Jack Matusek of Raw Republic Meats. The “best bite” will be determined by guest voting. There will also be non-competitive programming, like live fire cooking, butchery demonstrations, and panel discussions about sustainable sourcing.
Throughout the weekend, the ingredients are the star of the show. They’re all coming from local Texas makers, such as Marfa Meats (as famous as most ranchers get), Good Thyme Farm (just north of Austin), Whitehurst Farm (local to Brenham), and more.
All proceeds from the weekend will go to Urban Harvest to support its farmers market program, which allows more than 100 local vendors to sell in Houston year-round on Saturdays. The market has lasted 18 years so far, and grown from just 7 vendors, now sourcing goods from a maximum of 180 miles away.
There are several options to buy tickets to Butcher’s Ball Weekend events, including just the ball ($175), just the dinner ($200), and a package of both ($350). There is also a kid's cooking class on Sunday for guests 6 to 17. All tickets are available on Eventbrite.