Café Momentum Celebrates its Success and One Year Anniversary at Sissy’s

Guests sitting inside Sissy's patio (left); Janice Provost and Chad Houser of Parigi (right) photos by Elizabeth Lavin

It’s been one year and 12 dinners later since Café Momentum first began transforming the lives of at-risk youth in Dallas, and there’s no doubt that this nonprofit restaurant concept is creating ripples of good for young men who didn’t think they deserved another chance. When Parigi co-owners Chad Houser and Janice Provost first conceived of Café Momentum, their primary focus was to elevate the lives of nonviolent boys (ages 13-17) who reside in Dallas County Youth Village, a juvenile detention facility for adjudicated youth – and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.

On June 17, Café Momentum celebrated its one year anniversary at Sissy’s under chef Jeffery Hobbs’ direction with a four-course dinner. Donors and guests munched on Sissy’s famous fried chicken as they cheered on a program that teaches young men everything about the restaurant business from washing dishes to waiting tables. Eight boys who’d just completed a six-week Café Momentum program from the Youth Village were serving, cooking, and making Chantilly cream for the blueberry cobbler dessert as volunteer mentors hovered over them, doling out helpful advice. The young men’s faces can’t be publicly displayed on our blog, but I assure you that all of their faces were filled with a mixture of achievement and concentration. It was a proud night for them, and they did an excellent job.

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J.T. Lemley tomatoes with field greens, Paula's mozzarella, and creamy dill-basil dressing
Vegetables from the half-acre garden at the Youth Village

Chad Houser stood in front of the guests to give thanks to everyone in the room, but especially one woman in particular. “I wanted to say that all of this – myself, Janice, Jerry, Chris, Jeffery, any of us who’ve been involved, it really started with one person, and that’s the person who said we were allowed to do it…’It’s alright for you guys to get eight young men to be put in a van with a couple of supervisors and show up with knives and play with fire for awhile.'”

That one person is Dr. Terry Smith, Executive Director of the Dallas County Juvenile Department, who left her job in Houston a year ago to be with these Dallas boys.

Smith is heavily involved with all the work that the Youth Village is doing. Once a week, she visits the half-acre where the boys grow their own vegetables from the ground up. They sell their cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes to restaurants, while using a portion of them for Café Momentum. On Saturday, Smith even attended the Mama Ida’s Ice Cream Social at the Dallas Farmers Market to support one of the Café Momentum boys as he earned second place in the competition, beating out El Centro culinary students. Craziness.

Whole Foods presented a check for $4,413 to Café Momentum

Wine (left); Family style oven-roasted chicken, rosemary potatoes, fried okra, creamed corn, and Dallas Youth Village squash (right)
It’s taken fewer than ten people to begin the Café Momentum movement. And now, after 12 pop-up dinners, 56 courses and 800+ guests, 56 young men have completed the program with a better sense of who they are. They know their own capabilities, and most either have a Food Handlers certificate or a job placement inside a kitchen to prove that the movement really does work.

Support Café Momentum by donating your dollars here. Every donation is giving the Youth Village boys a second chance at life – a chance that these boys didn’t think they’d ever have again.

Chad Houser with one of the boys (left); Cafe Momentum's logo (right)
Wall decoration (left); East Texas blueberry cobbler with Chantilly cream made by one of the boys (right)