Houston restaurants raise money for scholarships

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HOUSTON, TX – It’s not often you see a gathering of Houston’s greatest restaurants together under one roof. Let alone a gathering of the country’s best vineyards. It only happens once a year. And if you’re lucky enough to catch it when it does occur, you’re in for a treat.

“I wanted to do something that no one likes,” Peli-Peli Chef Paul Friedman explains, “like, if I tell you, ‘chicken livers,’ most people say, ‘no,’ and they walk right by. So I wanted to show them they can eat something they thought they would never eat that they ended up eating and said, ‘oh my God, this is amazing.'”

Welcome to a little event known around these parts as, ‘Zest in the West.’

“We raise money for the West Houston Leadership Institute,” says Jeannie Bollinger of the West Houston Chamber of Commerce. “We raise money for scholarships.”

And as everyone in this town knows, the best way to raise money is by firing up the grill, popping the top on a bottle of wine and inviting 800 or so of your closest friends to come on by.

“This is a very good event,” Marcelo Marini of Marini’s explains. “This is probably the fifth year that we are involved. We are helping all the young people that want to become a leader in this city.”

But Chew on This: the scholarships provided here aren’t just any scholarships, they’re guaranteed to benefit folks right here at the West Houston Leadership Institute.

“This is a ten month program,” Bollinger explains, “half a day a month for an entire year, and they must make an application, then the board of the West Houston Leadership Institute reviews the applications and then we select recipients for the scholarships. Usually they’re going to be our non-profit organizations because they don’t have as much money as some of our businesses do.”

So eat drink and be merry. And just in case you missed it this year, it will be back again next year. You know, if you can wait that long.