This is a reposting of my article on the Dallas Observer’s City of Ate blog from this morning.
As food writers, critics, bloggers, instagrammers and otherwise overly food-obsessed folk, it’s often easy to get wrapped up in the idea that food is somehow more important than it is. Yes, food nourishes our bodies. Food can be delicious, comforting and even healing. Food can be beautiful and often it makes us feel good.
But when is food more than just food?
The answer is when it’s prepared and served at Café Momentum.
After three years, 40 pop-up dinners, a ton of hard work and almost too many inspiring success stories to count (it’s around 160), Tuesday morning the brick-and-mortar location at 1510 Pacific became home to Café Momentum, restaurant.
In short, Café Momentum is an organization that provides mentorship, support, culinary, job, and life-skill training to at-risk youth and former juvenile offenders in the Dallas area. Today, it’s a non-profit restaurant and training facility. The goal of Café Momentum is to break the cycle of crime and help these young people reach their full potential.
Inside the restaurant, you’ll find clean, white walls, wood tones and muted blues and gray. Much of the décor is a physical representation of community and giving, from the sponsors’ names on each table, to the mismatched donated china, glassware and flatware, to the enormous “Steel Momentum” sculpture donated by Sean Gregory Metal, and the Thankful Plate Project dishes, which display powerful messages of appreciation for all to see. The kitchen will feature an all-star team of mentors: Chef de Cuisine Eric Shelton, Executive Sous Chef Justin Box and desserts by pastry Chef Sarah Green. Interns handed out mocktails and bites to the crowd while we waited for the official ceremony to begin.
Chad Houser, Café Momentum’s Co-founder, Executive Director and Chef, was the first to address the crowd inside the 85-seat space Tuesday morning. He spoke about both the tangibles and the intangibles that Café Momentum represents. The numbers: the over seven million taxpayer dollars Café Momentum has saved so far by reducing recidivism – 11% in the program versus 47% overall. Then he talked about the open kitchen and what it represents, the Thankful Plate Project and how “something as simple as a wonderful meal can change the life of an at-risk youth.” A fact that many people in the room understood first-hand.
Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke of the “haves” versus the “have-nots” being one of the biggest problems facing the City of Dallas. In his mind, ‘we can’t get to the future we want for Dallas if we don’t fix it.’ He made it clear that Café Momentum is one organization working to do just that. The mayor also spoke of the universal love of food (as mentioned above), the renaissance of Downtown Dallas and the importance of changing lives – “the human side of things.”
Then, Kourtny Garrett of Downtown Dallas, Inc. talked more about that downtown renaissance. She mentioned that Café Momentum is one of 35 new restaurants currently in development. Stay tuned…
Lastly, former juvenile offender and current Café Momentum intern Tamarrion Washington told us a bit about his journey, for which he received some well-deserved applause.
The event concluded as a full house of media, Café Momentum staff, interns and board members cheered while watching Mayor Rawlings cut a huge baguette held by Garrett and Washington, with Chef Houser beaming proudly beside them.
Café Momentum will open to the public beginning Thursday, January 29, and will serve dinner only, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Catering by Café Momentum is Mayor Mike Rawlings-approved. Learn more about Café Momentum, and make a reservation at cafemomentum.org.