Charity takes on different faces, and new charities inspire new faces. The faces of Dallas Chef Chad Houser’s charity are the faces of the formerly incarcerated youth he serves. The faces of those that serve you.
Café Momentum’s motto is simple: “Eat. Drink. Change lives,” their official website said.
Café Momentum provides a journey through a 12-month paid post-release internship program for young men and women coming out of juvenile facilities in the Dallas area. Their interns cycle through the different positions in a fine-dining facility. The program subjects its interns to a series of lessons taught in the kitchen, with the resident pastry chef and on the floor of the
restaurant as a waiter or waitress. For an intern, Café Momentum’s full rotation takes a year, and at the end of the program, their interns’ recidivism rate is 18% compared to the state’s average of 48%.
Café Momentum is something different.
In Texas, it is the first of its kind. While other programs that serve formerly incarcerated youth exist, and even programs that submit formerly incarcerated youth to work experience, none combine the two to such acclaim.
Thousand Oaks, however, hosts nothing quite like this. What one can take from Houser and Café Momentum is a sense of positivity and encouragement — he is able to take those in his area he knows need help and provides them with an adult environment to foster change.
“[I] take kids out of jail and teach them to play with knives and fire,” Houser said.
He claims the restaurant is an embodiment of second chances and a careful blend of Texas’ five main food groups: Smoked, BBQ’ed, biscuits, gravy and greens, and Houser has the menu to sponsor that ideal.
The menu changes constantly with only one ingredient standing staple (the smoked fried chicken,) and offers myriad variations on three five food groups. And, yes, even a vegan option is always included.
One of the greatest takeaways from Café Momentum must be its origin. It all started when Houser and one of his associates visited a local farmer’s market. Houser saw the need for Dallas residents to feel at home when he and a Board were conducting an ice cream contest and they came to the realization that the culinary students putting on the event do not have as much of a need for the contest as other Dallas residents. Then, somebody suggested cooking as a pastime for those at a juvenile detention hall.
It was during the next farmer’s market when the new content was unveiled that Houser and his team then saw more potential from the youth than ice cream.
Houser and his team saw an opportunity for growth and took it.
Their program evolved into what is now Houser’s Café Momentum, a not-for-profit organization that serves as both a fine dining restaurant and a life-changing experience for the youth it served.
“Don’t thank me, I am not the one who deserves the credit,” Houser said when being questioned by The Lancer staff, “It’s all about [the interns.] I am so proud of them and what they’re doing.”
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VIDEO » CAFE MOMENTUM » OFFICIAL WEBSITE