Chad Houser isn't talking like a chef lately. The long time toque at Parigi uses terms like board members and ROI, and discusses the legal matters of incorporation and trademarking. His new lexicon is borne out of his new position with Cafe Momentum, and he sounds a lot more like a CEO than someone who wields a paring knife to pay the bills.
Last week Houser announced he'd be leaving Parigi to become the executive director at the nonprofit group. And if you think he'll miss being a chef at the popular neighborhood restaurant, think again. This guy's excited about the new opportunity.
"It became obvious I needed to put some skin in the game," Houser said when asked why he made the transition. The chef had spent the last year hosting pop-up dinners with some of Dallas' most prominent chefs, trying to raise the $400,000 he needed to open a nonprofit restaurant aimed at reforming at-risk youths.
The events made use of newly trained restaurant employees drawn from nonviolent adolescents with challenging backgrounds. Houser realized that his preaching to these kids about positive changes and "walking the talk," as he puts is, was just paying lip service to his greater idea. If he really wanted Cafe Momentum to be as successful as it could be, he had to involve himself completely.
"Volunteers can only take you so far," added Houser as he described the lawyers, cooks, board members and other people who help out while managing day jobs. "The one thing we've been missing is an executive director that's devoted to operations full time."
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Houser will assume his new position in September, but he's hardly waiting on the sidelines for the start date. He's working out the details on four different offers for spaces that will house the future restaurant, and also working with vendors and other businesses to forge partnerships that will push his endeavor forward.
Will he miss being a chef? Maybe. But his enthusiasm moving forward is infectious. While the standalone restaurant is still a ways off Houser is diligently working with his team to continue to raise funds to further their goal.
Their latest effort leverages Bolsa Mercado in Oak Cliff to offer take-home meals cooked by some of Dallas' top chefs including Tim Byres (Smoke/Chicken Scratch), Randall Copeland (Boulevardier/Restaurant Ava), Jason Maddy (Oak), Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare (ACME F&B/Good To Go Taco/Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House), Jack Perkins (Maple and Motor) and more.
The three-course dinners for two run $20-30, and will be available for purchase Thursday afternoons until they are sold out each week, with the proceeds benefiting Cafe Momentum. When the group reaches their goal, Houser will get to pick up a sautee pan again, but this time, instead of cooking for Oak Lawn locals at Parigi, he'll be firing sautees with a much higher purpose in mind.