MasterMinds 2011

Foodways Texas is among our three winning arts groups.

In the third year of its MasterMind Awards, the Houston Press had a lot more work to review. Nominations poured in from readers willing to help us determine who we should recognize for cutting-edge work in the local arts and creative scene.

In addition, our review panel came up with some of its own groups and individuals whose works we've looked at through the year. And, of course, there was some overlap.

Once again, we can't offer the world, but we are handing out $2,000 to each recipient with no strings attached. And the recognition that they have achieved something significant for and in the Houston community.

Foodways Texas is determined to preserve the Texas food history and culture. (L-r) Randy Evans, Robb Walsh, Bryan Caswell and Chris Shepherd.
Jeff Myers
Foodways Texas is determined to preserve the Texas food history and culture. (L-r) Randy Evans, Robb Walsh, Bryan Caswell and Chris Shepherd.
Executive Director Marvin Bendele is busy collecting oral food histories for Foodways Texas.
John Anderson
Executive Director Marvin Bendele is busy collecting oral food histories for Foodways Texas.


VIDEO See bios of 2011's three winners.
BLOG MasterMinds, One Year Later: Opera Vista
BLOG MasterMinds One Year Later: Reginald Adams and MOCAH

Last year, we recognized Opera Vista, which used the money to help pay for its annual March festival. And the recognition helps in grant applications, its Executive Director Joe Carl White tells us.

Another recipient, Reginald Adams, founder of the Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston, credits his MasterMind Award as boosting more than MOCAH's bank account. "Every penny counts with the work we do," he tells us, "so the money was certainly appreciated and well used. But the money itself didn't make as much of an impact as much as the recognition." Adams says that after the award ceremony last year, MOCAH signed several large contracts for arts projects with community organizations such as Neighborhood Centers, Inc., the Greenspoint Redevelopment Community and Sparks Parks.

Our third winner from last year, the SoReal Cru, used its award money for rent, which kept it open in hard times. Since then, the dance studio has increased in both the number of students and the classes it offers.

We wish the same level of continued success to this year's three winners — who'll receive their $2,000 checks in a ceremony at our third Artopia celebration on Saturday, January 29, at Winter Street Studios (2101 Winter St.). The winners:

Foodways Texas, a new organization dedicated to preserving the food history of Texas.

Catastrophic Theatre, founded by its artistic director Jason Nodler. In 2010, Catastrophic Theatre premiered — to considerable acclaim — Bluefinger: The Fall and Rise of Herman Brood, a play about a Dutch rock star/artist/poet whose life ended in suicide in 2001.

Nameless Sound and its director David Dove. Nameless Sound is a nonprofit exploring new ways to teach music in public schools and out in the community.

Foodways Texas

Along the rural backroads of southeast Texas, about 100 miles outside Houston, Kenneth and Judy Anderle own and operate a small farm, cultivating and processing sorghum cane and, ultimately, producing sweet sorghum syrup. By Judy's estimation, the Anderles are one of three or four families in the state who still use the old-fashioned method for making the syrup.

"You just gotta watch your seed," says Kenneth Anderle, who is featured in a new documentary by filmmaker Keeley Steenson. "You just gotta go out there and judge it and taste it every now and then. It's a lot of work."

The documentary, Good, Better, Best, was commissioned and promoted by Foodways Texas, a group of Texas food writers, chefs, restaurateurs and food academics, created during the summer of 2010, who want to preserve and promote Texas food history. The film, one of the first tangible things that the group has produced, is at the heart of what the group can and wants to do.

"I think about my mother. If she knew about things like these sorghum producers, that would be great," says Houston chef Chris Shepherd, who runs the popular Catalan restaurant on Washington Avenue and has been involved with Foodways Texas since its inception. "She knows she can go into a store and buy sorghum, but she doesn't know that she can get a better product that's being produced right here in Texas."

Shepherd continues, "There are all these little guys doing amazing things like that, and a lot of people don't know about them. I'd like to see those things that are being lost be recognized for what they are."

That fear of loss is, in part, what caused Robb Walsh, the Houston Press's former food critic, to found Foodways Texas. Walsh had for years worked with another group, the Southern Foodways Alliance, which operates out of the University of Mississippi and tries to preserve the food history of the Deep South. Walsh gave lectures and led "food tours" and wrote papers — some of which eventually became cover stories in the Press. Some of his work involved correcting past inaccuracies such as accounts that left African Americans out of the origins of Southern food histories.

The same problem — little accuracy in capturing the state's diverse food history — existed (and exists) in the larger picture of Texas food history, including, for example, the creation story involving Texas barbecue. One largely circulated and accepted tale goes like this: A wealthy rancher out in West Texas by the name of Bernard Quayle (or Barnaby Quinn, depending on who is telling the story) started roasting cattle and hogs and such over open pits. The rancher's brand was his initials — B.Q. — with a bar underneath. "Thus, the 'bar B.Q.,' Walsh writes in his book Legends of Texas Barbecue, "became synonymous with fine eating — or so the story goes."

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My Voice Nation Help

Still waiting for poke salad and woodpecker eggs on ya'lls menu.

Jason Nodler
Jason Nodler

Thanks, Houston Press! It's an honor to be in such great company.

David Dove
David Dove

I'm thrilled for Nameless Sound to be recognized with your Mastermind award. Nameless Sound is an organization truly unique to Houston (and an organization who's development is directly connected to its city's culture). I'm very proud of the efforts/participation/contribution of everyone in our community (students, musicians, audience, staff, board, members, supporters, etc). I never expected this honor. I'm very happy to receive it.

There are a few inaccuracies in the story that I would like to clear up.

Sprawl (the band that I was in from '88 to '94) was not anything close to a "noise" or improvised music band. Houston at that time had a pretty healthy "noise" scene. (I use "noise" for the lack of a better term. Houston's experimental sounds have always resisted easy categorization, reflecting a certain quality about much of our city's culture.) I would say that I was trying for something that was musically a bit different (something that I was only hearing locally from my few collaborators). Our early efforts at improvisation did exist in the context of pretty wide-ranging experimental music activity in Houston that did have a history. (Maybe it was too wide ranging to ever be called a scene.)

These details about sub genres may not mean a whole lot to most of your readers, but the clarity is important to me. I would hope that my friends and colleagues in the "noise" scene don't think that I would purposefully misrepresent that history and context in my interview

A couple of other things to clear up might be less significant. I probably wouldn't bring them up, but since I'm at it......- I don't have a former student in band called Yucatan. Juan Garcia lives in the Mexican state of Yucatan. He plays in the Yucatan Symphony and teaches creative music to impoverished children in small villages. - I'm not originally from San Diego, but Orange County (It had a MUCH more serious punk rock scene!).

Thanks so much for the attention and recognition. It’s greatly appreciated.David DoveFounding Director - Nameless Sound

Marvin Bendele
Marvin Bendele

Thank you Houston Press!! We're very excited to be a 2011 Mastermind and look forward to putting that grant to good use. I did want to mention our affiliation with the University of Texas. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Toni Tipton Martin and Elizabeth Engelhardt, we are honored to be an affiliated institute of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, housed in the Community Engagement Center at the University of Texas, Austin. Please see our website for more details -- Foodways Texas is a statewide organization with over 100 members (and growing) that seek to preserve, promote, and celebrate the diverse food cultures of Texas. Thanks again to the Houston Press for this wonderful honor. I look forward to Artopia this Saturday.

Marvin BendeleExecutive DirectorFoodways Texas


Jeff's photo (Foodways Texas) should reference Chris Shepherd, not Chris Henderson, although I'm sure Henderson is a likable guy as well.

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