D/FW Chefs Head West for Food Summit

Take a 2 1/2 hour drive west of Fort Worth, and you’ll get to Buffalo Gap, population 463.

The population doubled Saturday night as 500 out-of-towners strolled the grounds of Perini Ranch Steakhouse for the second day of the 14th Annual Buffalo Gap Food and Wine Summit.

“It’s not a festival. It’s a summit,” said Lisa Perini as she watched guests arrive. “We want people to learn.”

Cultivating the appreciation of fine wine and food through education and industry discussion was the focus of the summit when it started 14 years ago and remains so today. The education happens during a Friday dinner, events Saturday morning, afternoon and a “street party” in the evening.

It’s why chefs, wineries, industry experts and guests return year after year. Dallas-Fort Worth had a very big presence this year with 14 restaurants.

Matt McAllister at FT33 in Dallas has been part of the event for a decade now. He enjoys the intimacy of it and the one-on-one conversations with guests who come to sample foods that stretch past his menu at the restaurant. At the Mexican-themed party Saturday night, he served guests Heritage Pork Posole Verdi.

“People are truly interested in the food and experience,” said Courtney Luscher. She and chef/husband Brian C. Luscher own The Grape Restaurant in Dallas. This was their first year to be invited to the summit.

“I love it. I’m a big fan of Lisa and the ranch,” said Courtney who works as general manager and sommelier at The Grape. “It’s an honor to be with your comrades and all the people around the city you cook with. And we get to do something different than what we normally do, and that’s fun for us.”

The fun atmosphere of the Saturday event is also a draw. The chefs and restaurants cook and serve as the sun goes down in the west Texas sky, and the crisp temperatures of an April evening keep sweat to a minimum as smokers and grills cook the meat.

“It’s definitive Texas,” said Mike Micallef, president of Reata Restaurant in Fort Worth. Reata is another perennial invitee to the summit.

And, it was the yearly experience that gave Micallef and his general manager Russell Kirkpatrick the idea to bring a similar event to Fort Worth five years ago.

“This was the inspiration for the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival. The majority of restaurants here are from Dallas-Fort Worth,” he said. “So, if tickets here sell out in six minutes, why wouldn’t it work in a Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival?”

Both events raise money to support students interested in the culinary industry. For the Buffalo Gap Food and Wine Summit, proceeds support graduate fellowships for students studying viticulture or enology in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University.

It’s just another example of how Tom and Lisa Perini continue to use their influence to put the Texas food and wine industry on the map.

Together they have dined their way around the world, but their passion continues to be the Perini Ranch Steakhouse in tiny Buffalo Gap. It’s the place where Tom Perini, a chuck wagon cook found success.

“Everyone has respect for Tom Perini. He’s the real deal,” said Micallef. “If there’s a father of Texas cuisine, it’s Perini.”

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