The chef Chad Houser employs juvenile offenders to work at his Café Momentum in Dallas. Since 2012, the nonprofit has not only served delicious food but also given lost youth a chance to redirect their lives.
These kids want to do good in life so Chad’s mission is to show them the best life possible.
“When you give them a little bit of confidence and tell them they are good, they begin to believe in themselves, stop doing things like criminal acts and going back to jail,” Chad says.
Café Momentum is a culinary training facility where youngsters work at five stations – from washing dishes to waiting tables. It is also a place to learn social skills and home to those 62% of Houser’s workers who are homeless.
450 kids have been trained by Chad Houser in six years. Only 15% of them returned to jail.
Chad grew up in Texas where Sunday dinners are essential family events. He says that food has always been more than just eating for him. It was about family, and about love.
“I grew up believing food was about more than just nurturing the body; it also nurtures the soul,” he says.
He has always cooked from the heart. For 17 years, Chad had been working in different cafes and facilities and finally opened his own restaurant.
It was 2011 when Houser occasionally got into ice-cream competition at Dallas Farmers Market as a mentor. He worked with eight young men in detention and taught them to make ice-cream.
That experience made Houser realize how much he had stereotyped them. “I was wrong. They were so eager to learn and so enthusiastic to do something that they could be proud of.”
After the competition, the winner boy just came up to the chef, got down on his knees and screamed, “Sir, I JUST LOVE TO COOK. I want make food, give it to people and put smile on their face.”
Chad realized that the guy won’t find a job because he would return in the same district, same street, school and gang. And to the same stereotypes. And it wasn’t fair.
“Somebody has gotta do something about it,” Houser thought.
That’s when he made that life-changing decision. Chad was thinking for a year asking himself what he could do, how could he help the kids see how great they were.
After Chad built Café Momentum some people laughed at the idea and did not believe those kids were able to return to normal life. Houser broke the prejudices. He realized it when a visitor approached him and said, “You know, those could be my children! The dishes are marvelous!”
That is what Chad Houser calls momentum.
Featured image: Instagram