Bohemian Nights at Frontera Audubon
by Chef Stefania Trimboli-Wright • photos by Tam Corbette Lopez
On Thursday May 12th, the Texas Chefs Association was found grilling over some open fires at the 5th Annual Dine on the Lawn presented by and benefitting the Frontera Audubon in Weslaco, Texas. This little (big!) urban nature preserve is 15 acres of native beauty, providing a home for birds, butterflies and other wildlife who thrive in the habitats of its Tamaulipan Thornscrub forest, orchard butterfly garden, wetlands, and ponds.
As you enter the preserve, you see a Spanish Mediterranean style house, the Skaggs House, that was built in 1927 for early Weslaco residents, C.L. “Lester” and Florance R. Skaggs who were bankers and citrus growers.The house serves as the Visitor’s Center and is a Texas Historic Landmark. This unique, non profit nature preserve attracts enthusiasts from all across North America and parts of Europe.
On this particular night, the evening was settling nicely, the lights were strung, a beautiful masterpiece made of bay laves and colorful ribbons hung from the branches, a henna artist was setting up her blankets and pillows, and the chefs were sizzling, drizzling and chopping away at their stations. Musical guest, Chris Marshall was setting up and the auction items were being brought in.
Participating members of the Texas Chefs Association included Chef Dustin Stair of The Gardens at Brookridge, Chef Stefania Trimboli-Wright of Rio Grande Grill, Honey’s Cakes, University Draft House, and Culinary Instructor Chef Claudia Jean of Donna High School brought her students to volunteer, which taught them some valuable work experience.
The chefs all put their own unique twist to Texas cuisine.
“A rustic, yet elevated style of cooking is what the RGV Chefs Association has become known for, and we love sharing that with Frontera’s supporters,” RGV Chefs Association Vice President Dustin Stair said. Dustin is inspired by cajun and creole flavors and made a starter of Texas Cheese spread with garlic whipped cream cheese with roasted jalapenos and bacon on toasted bread and a Creole rubbed Chicken with Dirty rice and Pontchartrain sauce topped with local grilled purple okra. He also made a beef and mushroom farfalle pasta with spinach, tomato and a garlic cream sauce.
Chef Stefania Trimboli-Wright infused Italian and Texas with a grilled polenta cake topped with 18-hour smoked pork shoulder with a coffee barbeque sauce, a fresh salad made of local wild cherry tomatoes, sorrel, purple basil and topped with grilled local sweet corn. On the side, some local orange and yellow carrots grilled with a perfect char and drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. University Draft House brought a solid, very flavorful green tomatillo chili and Honey’s Cakes served up the perfect sweet ending with some beautifully decorated citrus cupcakes with buttercream flowers and filled with blueberry preserves.
The Texas Chefs Association is an organization that works to connect, build and educate chefs. The local Rio Grande Valley chapter is constantly volunteering and participating in fun and exciting events like this one. It provides a great creative outlet for chefs outside of their day to day job. It serves a purpose in the community as well as to the individual chefs who have access to valuable tools to further their education. TCA provides their members with networking tools and professional advancement opportunities to help them further their goals within the food service industry.