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Michael Barnes

Ovation Awards, Molly Awards and Apis Restaurant

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The right kind of entertainment at the Ovation Awards.

The right kind of entertainment at the Ovation Awards.

BUSINESS: Drummers drew guests into the dreamily decorated hall. Then the paired emcees kept the audience at the Hyatt Regency Austin on their toes, while the hotel’s ambitious staff served Asian-spiced dinners, including a winning vegetarian option. (Word to the wise: The vegetarian plate is often the superior choice at big galas.) Yet folks were here for the Ovation Awards, given out by the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce. The top honor, recognizing Lifetime Achievement, went to William Wang, founder and CEO of Vizio. Silicon Labs picked up the Business of the Year laurels, while Global Entrepreneur went to Jialiang Wang. Beloved food truck Chi’Lantro nabbed the Emerging Business Award, and the Asia Foundation snagged the honors for Community Group. Was pleased that Jamie Amelio, profiled in these pages and founder of Caring for Cambodia, was selected as Community Leader. Among the other winners: Rashed Islam, Sung Je Lee and three Economic Engine businesses: Ruvati USA, Whorton Insurance and Ticket City. What a great event! It didn’t need the unrelated entertainment.

Yewon Kim and Myung Sook Lee at the Ovation Awards.

Yewon Kim and Myung Sook Lee at the Ovation Awards.

MEDIA: It’s not really about the keynote speaker. Even though, guests for the Molly Awards, which benefit the Texas Observer, were riveted by the immigration speech from Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas. It’s not about the celebrity emcee, this year actor and activist, Kathleen Turner,  who has played awards namesake Molly Ivins. It’s not even about the Bernard Rappaport Philanthropy Award, which went to Don Carleton and the Briscoe Center for American History, the repository for the statewide magazine’s archives. No, the annual awards at the Four Seasons Hotel are always about the astounding, nonpartisan investigative journalism recognized and rewarded at the entertaining event. Esther Kaplan, editor of the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, won for “Losing Sparta,” which appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review and followed the closing of a perfectly good factory in that Tennessee town. Honorable Mention went to BuzzFeed’s Alex Campbell for “Battered, Bereaved & Behind Bars,” covering women who are given long prison systems for not protecting their offspring, even as they themselves are battered; and to the Chicago Tribune’s Duaa Eldeib, David Jackson and Gary Marx for their five-part series, “Harsh Treatment,” on the abuse of minors in Illinois institutions.

Sung Lee and Esther Lee at the Ovation Awards.

Sung Lee and Esther Lee at the Ovation Awards.

FOOD: When Matthew Odam gives a new eatery a score of 9.5, you pay attention. Taken from his review in the Statesman: “Swimming holes. Willie Nelson’s ranch. Opie’s Barbecue. Spicewood is known for several things. Fine dining hasn’t historically been one of them. Apis Restaurant and Apiary could change that. Bowie native Taylor Hall opened the restaurant in February on a six-acre piece of property that backs up to the Pedernales River. The kitchen merges classic and modern approaches for a contemporary Texas restaurant with a vibe of understated elegance. It isn’t just a hidden gem on the road from Austin to Marble Falls — it’s one of the best restaurants in the Greater Austin area.” Go to story: https://shar.es/12aKGq