Chef Chad Houser, co-founder and head cheerleader of Cafe Momentum, quietly announced today that he will leave his job at Parigi Restaurant next month to become the executive director and executive chef of the nonprofit he and Parigi co-owner Janice Provost founded last spring.
Cafe Momentum teaches culinary skills — and, by extension, life skills and work ethics — to disadvantaged and troubled youths through frequent pop-up dinners around Dallas. The kids, many of whom have absent parents or lack positive adult role models, work in the kitchens alongside prominent chefs to prepare and serve dinners to guests whose tickets and donations support Cafe Momentum. Cafe Momentum operates in conjunction with the Youth Village Resources of Dallas but has filed to become its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.
Houser told me a few months ago that his goal was (and is) to find a permanent location for Cafe Momentum, and to offer the charity fundraiser dinners more frequently so he can boost the number of kids who participate. Tonight, Cafe Momentum is holding another one of its pop-up dinners, this time at Central 214, where Graham Dodds is the chef. These dinners are not heat-and-serve, Easy Bake Oven affairs, either. The menu tonight, for example, includes red snapper with artichokes, grapes and ajo blanco, which the kids and the chef prepare, plate and serve together.
Houser says, “Cafe Momentum reminds me why I fell in love with cooking in the first place. It’s familial. It nurtures souls and bodies. Regardless of their background, when these young men come into Cafe Momentum, they speak the same language: food. I’m very grateful to Janice for being such a supportive partner and friend, and to the Cafe Momentum board for believing in me.”
Houser is the Real Deal, too. He’s genuinely one of the nicest, most caring guys you’ll ever meet. When he speaks about CM and “his kids,” it’s hard to keep from tearing up.