Innovation Awards

Meet the Finalists: Leaders From BuzzBallz, Revolving Kitchen, Golden Chick, and Cafe Momentum

Innovation Awards finalists in food and beverage share thoughts on new products, new markets, and the spark that drives them.

Leading up to our second annual Innovation Awards event on Jan. 21, we’re sharing excerpts from interview Q&As with the 51 finalists, one category at a time. Today, we feature our four Innovation in Food and Beverage honorees.

For information on the virtual awards event, presented in partnership by D CEO and Dallas Innovates, click here. Tickets are just $20.


Chad Houser

Chad Houser 

CEO, Momentum Advisory Collective 

ON INNOVATION: “As the founder and CEO of two socialenterprise, nonprofit organizationsCafé Momentum and Momentum Advisory Co.—I recognize that my priority in social innovation must center around creating ideas for lasting change. Within both of our organizations, innovation represents the process of creating and executing effective solutions that challenge systemic issues in support of progress, opportunity, and equity. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: As a response to the temporary closure of Café Momentum, Momentum Advisory Collective worked with the Café Momentum team to develop a strategy and program that enabled the organization to pivot from a restaurant and culinary training facility to a food distribution hub. Over 14 weeks, the food hub initiative, Momentum E.A.T.sengage, act, transformraised more than one million dollars and delivered 350,000 meals to food-insecure students and their families. It also maintained critical hours of influence and income and provided a stable place to go for the youth that Café Momentum serves. 

LESSON LEARNED: The process that led me from an English literature major to a chef, restaurateur, and finally, the founder of multiple nonprofit organizations has taught me the sage lesson that there are no shortcuts in life. Not only did that path lead me to where I am today, but more importantly, it prepared me for it. 

RATING DFW: I’m certain that we could not have launched Café Momentum to the level of success we did if it were in any other community. North Texas uniquely encourages and supports innovation. As we launched Momentum Advisory Collective, it has been every bit as important for us to point out how the North Texas community has embraced our model as it has been to talk through the program. 

LOOKING AHEAD: As a native Texan and Dallasite, I am most excited to see our model grow across the country and to be able to say, with my innate Texan pride, We did it here first.


Merrillee Kick
Merrilee Kick

Merrilee Kick 

CEO and founder, Buzzballz/Southern Champion  

ON INNOVATION: “Innovation is the answer to fulfilling a need or a want. An inventor thinks, ‘I wish I had …’ or, ‘If I only had this, I could do that…. Inventions are things that make life easier, more convenient, provide access to more information, make communication easier, entertain, or increase productivity. When I think of innovation, I think of creating something out of nothing. That something becomes an answer to a need. 

2020 HIGHLIGHTS:We are launching a Biggie 3-Liter BuzzBall container. It’s huge—as big as a bowling ball and heavy like oneand filled with margarita or your favorite cocktail….We are also doing some research and development for secret things in the cannabis industry...We’ve created a new brand called Sip Sip Hooray for 7-Eleven nationally, using our proprietary plastic can. We created Uptown Cocktails for grocery and massmerchandise stores. We are inventing a round, spherical aluminum can. We are working on glow in the dark labels and inking. We are making new flavors for our BuzzBallz cocktails. We are installing new, custom filling lines in our factory. We are creating a showplace with our distillery for tours and events. We also just got certified as a brewery, so we will start experimenting in the malt beverage space. 

LESSON LEARNED:The biggest lesson [I have learned] is that every business is a ‘people business,’ so keep the people happy. You need people to invent and someone to drive the inventions home. You have people with a level of detail that will prevent mistakes and people with the drive that gets the project across the finish line. You need people to keep you legal and make sure processes are in place. 

RATING DFW:Dallas is an innovation hotbed. I’m a keynote speaker for NTT DATA’s innovation Contest, where budding inventors and entrepreneurs compete to win opportunities to have synergies with one of the leading AI companies in the world…Not only is Dallas a great innovation hotbed with so many talented people, it is centrally located within the country and has an affordable cost of living. 

LOOKING AHEAD:I get excited creating things. Running a business is good, but creating things and watching nothing become something is a rush.


Tyler Shin
Tyler Shin

Tyler Shin 

Founder and managing partner, Revolving Kitchen

ON INNOVATION: Innovation is a spark, a whirlwind. Innovation is that moment when what is unimaginable is dreamed, and the unreachable reached. Revolving Kitchen helps local restaurants capture that spark...”

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: Revolving Kitchen is founded on innovation... it allows restaurant owners to develop food concepts at a lower cost, and with fewer headaches, than a traditional restaurant space...We continue to explore novel ways to create a seamless virtual kitchen. One recent innovation we are excited about is the Revolving Kitchen batched menu concept we hope to launch later this year. Imagine it’s Friday night and you’re with family and friends. Your group is craving delicious Polynesian food, vegan dishes, and hamburgers—all from different restaurants. Our new online menu allows you to order and receive food at one time, while paying only one delivery charge...Buckle up Dallas—the future of food is here!

LESSON LEARNED: “I have learned to breathe. As a business owner, it is easy to feel that the water is always at your chin, but, if you focus your energy on creating a truly great product, then the daily grind will have meaning. The best thing I do as a business owner is visit our clients in person every day. Their stories remind me that our tireless efforts have purpose. Together, we are creating a more vibrant food ecosystem for our community and a thriving platform for local food businesses—and that is worth a moment to breathe and appreciate.

RATING DFW: [I would give DFW] five Stars! Everything is bigger in Texas, including our support of local businesses. From neighborhood barbecue joints to local breweries, North Texans understand that small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the epicenter of innovation...”

LOOKING AHEAD:We are thrilled to see so many local food businesses take advantage of our delivery-optimized kitchens and expand their food businesses. Food is central to our human experience, and we believe local restaurants have some of the best to offer…”


Jim Stevens headshot
Jim Stevens

Jim Stevens 

President and CEO, Golden Chick 

ON INNOVATION:Innovation is driving new ideas, approaches, and methods which starts with a culture without limitations. Such a culture allows everyone in the organization to ask the question, ‘What if?’

2020 HIGHLIGHTS: We have recently partnered with Fletchers Corny dogs to sell [corndogs] in our 200 locations, which resulted in the best promotion in the history of the brand. We have also developed a ‘modular’ building. This 2000-square foot building is built offsite in 30 days and delivered to the location in three parts and allows us to open 75 days after ordering the building versus 120 days. Finally, we opened a Golden Chick in the new Globe Life Field for the World Series and will be selling our product at every event at the stadium...” 

LESSON LEARNED: Surround yourself with great people! You can never have enough talent. Then, help them establish difficult goals and challenge them to be great. 

RATING DFW:North Texas has a great infrastructure for innovation and growth across all segments.  Look at the innovative companies moving into North Texas! Its an environment that supports the innovative.” 

LOOKING AHEAD:I am most excited about the growth of Golden Chick. 2020 was a record year, and we have a great calendar for 2021, a strong development pipeline, and entry into several new markets, such as Las Vegas. I’m excited to see this 50-year-old Texas, legacy brand grow into a strong regional brand.” 


Click here for more information on The Innovation Awards.

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