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UST's Taco Tasting Raises $35,000 for Scholarships

By Brenda Cooper, University of St. Thomas
5/15/2013 (5 years ago)
University of St. Thomas (

UST's Taco Tasting Raises $35,000 for Scholarships

In what was the largest event ever contracted at the Saint Arnold Brewing Co., the University of St. Thomas Alumni Association exceeded its goal and raised nearly $35,000 for scholarships at the 2nd Annual Two Saints and a Taco Tasting on April 18.

Celebrity judges (back row) Chris Shepherd, owner and executive chef at Underbelly; Seth Payne, former Houston Texans defensive tackle and SportsRadio 610 host; and Neil Doherty, chef at Sysco, selected Bocados as their winner, with owners Lily Hernandez '84 and Terry Flores '86.

Celebrity judges (back row) Chris Shepherd, owner and executive chef at Underbelly; Seth Payne, former Houston Texans defensive tackle and SportsRadio 610 host; and Neil Doherty, chef at Sysco, selected Bocados as their winner, with owners Lily Hernandez '84 and Terry Flores '86.

The sold-out event signed up 450 people, 100 more than last year, and alumni, faculty, staff, board members and friends enjoyed taco samples from 10 restaurants. Guests also enjoyed dessert, a photo booth, live entertainment and the full line up of the Texas' oldest craft brewery.

The taste-test competition was serious as restaurants brought out their best tacos to offer samples; guests and professional judges alike took careful notes of their favorites to vote. No one left hungry.

The winner of the popular vote was Torchy's Tacos, a first-time participant in the Taco Tasting. Judges Neil Doherty, chef at Sysco; Seth Payne, former Houston Texans defensive tackle and SportsRadio 610 host; and Chris Shepherd, owner and executive chef at Underbelly, selected Bocados for the winner of the celebrity vote, crediting the homemade tortillas of the eatery owned by alumni Terry Flores '86 and Lily Hernandez '84. Restaurants earned bragging rights and a "Chihuahua Bling" Trophy, handmade by Kelli Kickerillo '03, a member of the UST Board of Directors.

Participating restaurants also included 100% Taquito, El Tiempo Cantina, Haven, Hearsay Gastro Lounge, Maria Selma, Tacos A Go-Go, TQLA and the 2012 champion Escalantes Mexican Restaurant. The Chocolate Bar provided dessert, with a special gift of chocolates molded into the UST Alumni Association logo.

The samba group Morena Flor with alumna Yvette de Leon '03 provided live entertainment, and a larger-than-life Latina puppet mingled with guests.

In addition to ticket sales and sponsorships, the Alumni Association raised about $7,000 through 30 auction packages all with a saint, beer or taco theme.

The money raised will benefit the UST Alumni Association Annual Scholarship Fund, with scholarships to be awarded to continuing students.

The host committee was led by Jennifer Mengis, MLA '11, chair; Drew Wilson '02, co-chair; and Maggie Gonzalez Stroud '07, vice chair.

Mengis called it a "resounding success!" She said the event grew this year because of the addition of a second room at the venue, the Investor's Pub, and because people had such a good time last year.

"Everybody wanted to experience it again and share it with their friends," Mengis said.

"It's the kind of event where you can feel good about having a great time, because what you're giving is going to a good cause and you're having fun doing it," she said.

Mengis, who attended St. Thomas as an undergraduate in the 80s and is the vice president of the Alumni Association, said the event fulfills the association's mission of being a liaison between the University and the alumni and raising scholarship funds for students.

Michele Malloy, chair of the University's Board of Directors, joined the host committee because she enjoyed the fun, successful event last year. She also wanted alumni to know that non-alumni care about the work they are doing.

"It was another terrific event this year where alums, faculty and board directors came together to help raise needed funds for student scholarships and enjoy each other," she said. 

Mengis said she's looking forward to doing it again.

"I'm definitely looking forward to next year's event to enjoy some great tacos, drink some great beer and raise more money for students," Mengis said.


The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houstonís only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers.


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