Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cafe Momentum End-of-Year Wrap-up: Greetings and Gratitude

Good afternoon, fellow Cafe Momentum supporters! Tomorrow night will be our seventh and final pop-up dinner of 2011at Cane Rosso with guest chef Brian C. Luscher. With a guest list of 110, it’s our biggest one yet.

For those of you attending, here are a few helpful tidbits of information. This dinner is not BYOB. Due to TABC restrictions, no alcoholic beverages can be brought on premise, but we have worked a deal with Cafe Momentum supporter JR Richardson to provide wines from his wonderful new label, Oak Cliff Cellars. (Yes, that Oak Cliff.)

With a whirlwind year quickly coming to an end, I have been reflecting a lot lately on what an incredible ride it has been. I vividly remember the first time I visited the Youth Village: the facility, the garden, the kitchen (kinda got a thing for commercial kitchens), and especially the young men that gave the tour.

I remember thinking that I would never be able to repay those young men for the enormous impact that they had made in my life while they showed me around the campus. You know how you sometimes get a terrible, out-of-date song stuck in your head for hours and hours? Multiply that times 1,000, and it doesn’t come close to how stuck the Youth Village was in my head. Difference is, I didn’t want it to go away. I wanted to do something.

Apparently, so did you. We Americans are always looking to not only pick up a brother (or sister) when he’s down, but also dust him off and help him find his way again. It’s what we do. It is the spirit of America. The response from every one of you to support Cafe Momentum has been humbling, inspiring, motivating, affirming, and, at times, has made this manly man cry.

Let’s reflect.

We held our first pop-up in June. As a group, we (Janice, Jerry, Ken, Jennifer, Chris, Phil, and myself) agreed that the first dinner would let us test the waters, throw out a little bait to see if we could get any nibbles. We all agreed that we would keep it simple, simple, simple: 50 guests, $50 each. We figured that if no one would buy a ticket, we would divvy them up ourselves and call every family member/friend we had and guilt them into buying a seat.

We were stunned by the response. Not only did we sell out that first dinner, but we had booked 68 seats before we could close down PayPal. In the six months since that first dinner, all of you have responded beyond any of our wildest imaginations! You have more than just supported Cafe Momentum; you have changed lives.

Look at these donation numbers to date:

  • 130 plates (yes, people are still dropping them off)
  • 115 sets of silverware
  • $93,000 in donations and pledges

We are now in the process of applying for several grants, including one from Crystal Charity that would accomplish our entire fundraising goal! We have finished our start-up and operating financials and completed the business plan. We are meeting weekly with various civic and business leaders exploring any and all ways to reach the ultimate goal—to turn Cafe Momentum into a brick-and-mortar, permanent restaurant.

I would like to leave you with a little story from the November dinner. One of the supervisors who chaperones the young men at the dinners was attending his first pop-up. About an hour into the evening, he began to pepper me with questions about Cafe Momentum. How long had we been doing this? When would we have a permanent restaurant? How did we think of the idea?

After I answered his questions, he shook his head and said, “I’ve never seen anything like that.” I responded that there were other similar concepts, but, yes we were unique. “No,” he said, “I’m talking about these young men. I’ve never seen them like this.”

I asked him what he meant. “See that young man over there. I work intake. I was one of the first people to encounter him when he arrived. If you would have told me that I would be standing here today seeing him do this, I wouldn’t have believed you.” I asked him to explain more. “He was angry. Mad at the world. Mad, mad, mad. I just can’t believe it. Look at him. He’s smiling, he’s working hard, he’s proud.”

I replied, “Maybe he just needed someone to believe in him.”

Thank you for believing in these young men. In a world where they’re referred to as “throwaways” (yes, I learned this is the term used to describe them), you have given them the greatest gifts of all: hope and love.

For those friends of ours who we won’t see at tomorrow’s dinner, we look forward to seeing you in 2012. As you plan your end-of-year giving, we ask that you consider Café Momentum. Your support can be a big part of making Café Momentum a permanent part of our community and help equip these young men to reach their full potential. Visit us online at and

Thank you with all of my heart!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Brian C. Luscher of The Grape Becomes Seventh Guest Chef for Cafe Momentum

On December 4, 2011, Cane Rosso in Deep Ellum plays host to The Grape’s Brian C. Luscher and Cafe Momentum, for its seventh pop-up dinner and the final for 2011. Tickets are $100 and include five courses with wine. Below is the menu.

Dates With Chorizo
Blue Cheese Mousse
Smoked Salmon Tartare

Red Curry Billi Bi
Sautéed pears & coriander

“Broiled” Barnegat Lighthouse Monkfish
Almonds, capers & tarragon, lemon-scented couscous

Smoke-Roasted Suckling Pig
Natural jus, country sausage, fricassee of corn, yams & peppers

Porcini-Dusted Kobe Beef Hanger Steak
Red wine reduction monte au foie gras, sautéed chanterelles, duck fat roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts petals

Chocolate-Espresso Pots De Creme
Candied orange zest, pistachio florentine

About Brian C. Luscher
A graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, Brian Luscher purchased the popular Greenville Avenue bistro The Grape in 2007, where he had previously served as executive chef from 2001-2004. Buying the restaurant fulfilled Luscher’s lifelong dream of becoming chef-owner of his own place. Brian’s wife Courtney operates the dining room as general manager and sommelier.

For nearly 40 years, The Grape has been one of Dallas’ most beloved restaurants, thanks to its charming, European-style atmosphere. The Grape was the first restaurant in Dallas to offer a blackboard menu, a tradition that stands today. Signature bistro items are featured alongside a rotating list of more contemporary creations. The restaurant is also known as the first in the city to offer wine by the glass, and it’s still a destination for an expansive and eclectic selection of wines.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cafe Momentum Update: The Momentum Is Building

Greetings from the land of culinary dreams and a happy Cafe Momentum Eve to you all!

Did you know that tomorrow night’s Cafe Momentum dinner with Matt McCallister is the largest one yet? So large, in fact, that three of our young men who already have graduated from the program are coming back to help us out. There are enough positives in that last sentence to put even Chad on Santa’s “good” list this holiday season.

Tomorrow night’s event will be our sixth Cafe Momentum “pop-up” dinner. All of them sold out within 72 hours. Tomorrow night’s dinner actually sold out in 36 hours! These statistics are mind-blowing and reassuring. The idea behind the pop-up dinners was three fold:

  • Prove the young men were capable of performing at such a high level (*accomplished)
  • Prove that Dallas chefs would embrace the project (*accomplished)
  • Prove that the good people of Dallas were craving (pun intended) a restaurant with great food for a great cause (*accomplished) 

That last objective was easily the most nerve-wracking for all of us behind Cafe Momentum. The first pop-up dinner was supposed to be very, very simple. We agreed we would cook for only 50 guests. We went so far as to figure out how many tickets each one of us would have to sell so that we would even have 50 guests, just to make sure that it sold out.

Then, it happened. Two of us posted a link to the dinner on our Facebook pages. Within 24 hours, yes we said 24 hours, we were so overwhelmed with ticket sales that before we could scramble to cut off the PayPal account, we had booked 68 seats!

Here we stand today, with (almost) six dinners under our belts. We have raised more than $50,000, one-fifth of our goal. We have collected more than 100 plates and more than 70 sets of silverware for the permanent location. We have finished the financials that prove Cafe Momentum will be 100% self-sustaining, and we turned them over the good folks at Slow Money (thank you, Steve Carlson) for review. We have finished a solid draft of the business plan, and we are turning it over to some of our peers to critique. And, as of Monday, we have officially applied for funding from the Crystal Charity Ball! 

Cafe Momentum is no longer a question of if, but when! Stay tuned, because the momentum continues to build. Thank you for supporting Cafe Momentum and helping us all to accomplish our no. 1 goal: make a difference in the lives of some truly special young men!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Next Up at the Pop-up: Chef Matt McCallister

On November 6, 2011, Matt McCallister becomes the sixth guest chef in the Cafe Momentum pop-up dinner series. The dinner takes place at 6 pm at Hibiscus, and wine is included in the $100 price for the five-course meal. Below is the menu:

Spiced Fennel Salad
Crème fraîche and Meyer lemon

Acorn Squash Soup
Kale chips, pine nuts, and pancetta

Suckling Pig Porchetta
Spelt pilaf with pickled radish, pumpkin seed sauce, and raisin

Beef Duo
Encrusted oxtail, spinalis, squash flavors, rosemary, and mushroom Armagnac sauce

Cheese Curd Tart
Cranberry-sage mostarda and black pepper-honey ice cream

About Matt McCAllister
Matt McCallister’s culinary career began at the age of 15, when he worked for a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant in his hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. He planned to later attend the Culinary Institute of America. 

In 2005, after enjoying a fine meal at Stephan Pyles’ namesake restaurant, Matt approached Stephan about the possibility of working for him. Following a brief trial period, Matt worked as a line cook and, during the course of 18 months, progressed rapidly through all line cook positions until he was promoted to sous chef in 2007. In 2008, he was promoted to executive sous chef.

In 2009, Matt became the executive chef at Stephan Pyles. Upon promoting Matt to executive chef, Stephan said, “Matt is a hardworking, exceptionally talented chef with laser-beam focus. In my 26 years in the restaurant business, I have seen only one other person with as much raw and natural ability.” The press took notice too. While executive chef, Matt received two back-to-back 4-star reviews in the <i>Dallas Morning News</i>.

Currently Matt is consulting on the soon-to-open Campo Modern Country Bistro in Oak Cliff, overseeing kitchen operations and the menu, which will focus on European influences such as French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, reminiscent of the Mendoza Province near Buenos Aires.  Most recently, Matt spent time honing his skills and learning new techniques in the country’s top restaurants, including McCrady’s in South Carolina, Alinea in Chicago and Daniel in New York City.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Q&A With Guest Chef Abraham Salum

Good morning to all fans, advocates, and supporters of all things Cafe Momentum! Today is the first Sunday in October, which denotes several things: no more 100 degree days (no promises), Cowboys football, State Fair of Texas, and, of course, the October Cafe Momentum pop-up dinner.

We are excited and humbled to be hosting tonight’s dinner at the Communities Foundation, a true benchmark of philanthropy in Dallas. In eager anticipation of tonight’s dinner, we asked Chef Abraham Salum, of Salum and Komali, a few hard-hitting questions that not even the folks at the Dallas Morning News have the guts to ask.

Cafe Momentum: How long have you been cooking?
Abraham Salum: I started cooking in 1989 at Camino Real Hotel in Mexico City.

CM: What is your earliest food memory?
AS: A picture of me, 8 or 9 months in my mother’s arm, with a cracker with Roquefort cheese. She says I licked the cheese off the cracker and threw it away.

CM: When did you know that you wanted to be a chef?
AS: I wasn’t happy with my marketing degree and thought, “What can I do that I know I really enjoy?” Eating! Then I decided to learn how to cook.

CM: What aspect of Cafe Momentum are you most excited about?
AS: Working with the young men and being able to help them figure out what they want to do with their lives.

CM: What is your favorite item on Sunday night’s menu?
AS: The snapper and the pork!

CM: Who is your favorite Romo on the Dallas Cowboys?
AS: Not a big fan. Sorry.

CM: Why are you SO awesome?
AS: Because I am surrounded by awesome people like all of you!

So there you have it—a brief, hard-hitting, Q&A with Abraham Salum. When you all patting Abraham on the back tonight for a job well done, please make sure to be mindful of his willingness to sit down with us and endure such an endless barrage of in-depth questioning.

Once again, thank you all so very much for being so very supportive of Cafe Momentum! Your response to launching Cafe Momentum has been so motivating for all of us to keep pushing hard to turn a great idea into a permanent Dallas institution.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cafe Momentum Announces October Pop-up Dinner With Guest Chef Abraham Salum

On October 2, 2011, Café Momentum presents its fifth pop-up dinner with guest chef Abraham Salum of Salum and Komali. The five-course BYO dinner takes place at the Communities Foundation of Texas.


Mini Shrimp Tostadas with Aguachile
Beef Tinga Sopes
Wild Mushroom Flautas with Avocado Salsa Verde


Spinach and Jicama Salad
Hibiscus vinaigrette and grilled homemade queso fresco

Cream of Sweet Corn
Huitlacoche sauté, crispy tortilla julienne

Roasted Snapper Fillet
Pumpkin seed pipian, nopal salad

Seared Pork Tenderloin
Chicharron crust, pasilla mole and cilantro rice

Capirotada, Mexican Bread Pudding
Fresh mango and queso cotija

About Abraham Salum
Abraham Salum was born and raised in Mexico City and graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont. He expanded his kitchen skills in France, Belgium, Mexico, and the United States.

Abraham realized his dream by opening Salum in 2005, which has since become one of the city’s most praised restaurants. Salum is also a sought-after catering resource for private parties in the Dallas area, and it’s a popular choice for celebrations and functions, including parties for the Dallas Opera.

Abraham opened his new restaurant, Komali, in February 2011, next door to the one that bears his name. At Komali he distinguishes authentic Mexican flavors and preparations from popular Tex-Mex cuisine and aims to expand appreciation for Mexican gastronomical culture. Think delicate tomatillo sauces, unique moles, handmade tortillas, homemade queso fresco, and herbs and spices combined with dried chiles to complement a variety of meats and fresh seafood.

Abraham was invited to be a celebrity chef at Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium and the Beaver Creek Wine and Spirits Festival in August 2011. Dedicated to charity and community, he is actively involved in events benefitting March of Dimes, American Heart Association, AIDS Resources Center, Dallas Opera, and, now, Café Momentum.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cafe Momentum Announces Pop-up Dinner With Guest Chef Sharon Hage

On August 7, 2011, Café Momentum presents its third pop-up dinner, featuring guest chef Sharon Hage, of the gone-but-never-forgotten York Street. The five-course dinner takes place at 6 pm at Garden Cafe. Below is the evening’s menu.


Pan Fried Okra
Burgundy Pastures Beef Steak Tartare


Chilled Pecos Melon Soup
Serrano chile, marigold mint

Gulf Lump Crab and Cucumber Salad 
Spiced cashew green beans, small greens

Market Ratatouille, Crushed Neal’s Farm Egg on Toast
Caprino Royale chevre aioli

Burgundy Pastures Whey Fed Pork
Texas onion soubise, bacon-arugula

Texas Riesling Cake
Sweet stone fruits, buttermilk chantilly

About Sharon Hage
Culinary Institute of America graduate Sharon Hage honed her skills by working her way up in New York City kitchens. She left New York for Dallas, where she had done a culinary externship. In Dallas she eventually became executive chef for Harvey Hotels and then the iconic Neiman Marcus.

In 2001, Sharon purchased the 42-seat York Street restaurant in East Dallas. During the next 10 years, the local favorite received local and national attention, thanks to its daily changing menu and seasonally focused cuisine. Among the accolades: five consecutive nominations for the James Beard Best Chef Southwest; Top 10 Restaurants for food, Zagat: Top 50 Restaurants in the U.S., Gourmet; Top 10 Best Chefs in Dallas, Dallas Morning News; and readers' choice for Best Chef in Dallas, D Magazine.

An active member of Les Dames d'Escoffier since 1994, Sharon is also passionate about supporting local farmers and producers. She brings the farm to the classroom through her involvement with the Days of Taste Program.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tickets on Sale for Pop-up Dinner With Guest Chef Randall Copeland

On July 10, 2011, Café Momentum presents its second pop-up dinner, featuring the culinary stylings of Randall Copeland, chef-partner at Restaurant Ava. The five-course dinner takes place at 6 pm at El Centro, and guests are encouraged to bring their own wine. Tickets are $75, and reservations can be booked at Below is the evening’s menu.

Local Tomato Salad
J.T. Lemley’s tomatoes, Paula’s mozzarella, Texas olive oil, basil

Pan-Seared Sea Scallop
Quinoa tabbouleh, pan-fried okra, piquillo vinaigrette

Roasted Pork Tenderloin
East Texas creamer peas, corn fritter

Grilled Filet of Beef
Smoked poblano potato gratin, Rocky’s Swiss chard, red wine jus

Fried Peach Pie
J.T. Lemley’s peaches, house-made honey lavender ice cream

About Randall Copeland
East Dallas-born Randall Copeland was first introduced to a professional kitchen when he attended the culinary program at Skyline High School. Throughout his 20s, he waited tables and cooked in restaurants across Dallas. In 1999, Randall went back to school to study the culinary arts at El Centro and has never looked back.

Randall spent the early part of his career under the supervision of chef Billy Webb at the Park Cities Hilton, where he honed his knife skills and learned the basic principles of French and Creole cuisine. From the Hilton he moved to Eastern Hills Country Club in Garland. After three months as a line cook, he was promoted to sous chef. Thanks to chef Keith Champy, Randall began to understand the business side of running a restaurant. After two years at Eastern Hills, he got the urge to learn more refined techniques and get into fine dining.

Through a friend he was introduced to Colleen O’Hare, the executive chef of The Green Room, who offered him a sous chef position. At the Green Room, he was introduced to fresh, seasonal ingredients and a style of cooking that would change his view of food forever.

After a trip to Las Vegas in 2004, Randall was offered a position at Bradley Ogden inside Caesar’s Palace, a James Beard Award-winning restaurant, where he stayed until late 2007. Once he returned to Texas, Randall and longtime friend and chef Nathan Tate began throwing around ideas for Restaurant Ava and looking for locations.

Meanwhile, Randall was introduced to Bolsa chef Graham Dodds, and the two discovered they had similar attitudes toward food. They worked side-by-side at Bolsa, creating local, seasonal menus nightly, until Restaurant Ava came to fruition.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cafe Momentum Presents Menu for June 5 Pop-Up Dinner With Guest Chef Jeffery Hobbs

On June 5, 2011, Jeffery Hobbs, chef-partner at Suze, leads the first pop-up dinner presented by Café Momentum, the nonprofit restaurant concept conceived by Parigi co-owners Janice Provost and Chad Houser. The sold-out, five-course dinner takes place at 6 pm at the Milestone Culinary Arts Center, and guests are encouraged to bring their own wine. Below is the evening’s menu.


Pimento cheese & brioche

Crab Puffs
Avocado, sweet chili

Crispy Yard Bird
Tempura, celery, Veldhuizen blue


Cheddar Grits Soup
Crispy pork belly, shrimp, arugula

Buttermilk biscuit crouton, green tomato, basil & smoked paprika vinaigrette

Grilled Tilapia
With green cabbage mango slaw, black garbanzo bean & yucca chip

Charred Flat Iron Steak
Wilted pea tendril, cosmic carrot & caper aioli

Coconut White Chocolate Custard
East Texas blueberry compote, cinnamon graham tuille

About Jeffery Hobbs
As a child, Jeffery was exposed to the benefits of a well-nourished body and soul. His mother and grandmothers were the “personal chefs” for their respective families. When not in the kitchen peeling carrots and potatoes, Jeffery could be found in his family garden, picking vegetables for his mother to prepare that night for dinner.
Jeffery began his culinary career at the much-loved Celebration restaurant on Lovers Lane, where he learned how to operate a successful restaurant under the guidance of owner Ed Lowe. His next stop was the legendary Riviera, where he worked side-by-side with two of the most respected restaurant personalities in Dallas: chef David Holben and the late host/owner Franco Bertolasi.

From the Riviera, Jeffery was pulled into David and Franco’s next venture, Toscana. There he met Gilbert Garza and was promoted to sous chef. After Toscana, Jeffery and Gilbert moved on, separately, to exciting new projects. But the two maintained a friendship and would cross kitchens again.

Jeffery’s next destination was the Hotel St. Germain, where he learned many classic French preparations, including some amazing pastries and desserts. After the hotel, Jeffery moved into his first executive chef role at the critically acclaimed Il Sole.

Following Il Sole, Jeffery reconnected with Gilbert to form a partnership at Suze. Currently the two collaborate to create a divine dining experience not only in their warm and inviting dining room, but also in private homes for catered events.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Parigi Co-Owners Janice Provost and Chad Houser Announce Cafe Momentum, A Nonprofit Restaurant Concept

Parigi co-owners Janice Provost and Chad Houser have announced a new nonprofit restaurant concept called Café Momentum, which will serve as a culinary training facility for disadvantaged youth. To create opportunities for these teens to work with real chefs, and to raise awareness and money for the restaurant, Provost and Houser have launched a monthly pop-up dinner series starring guest chefs from the Dallas area. The first event is June 5, 2011, at Milestone Culinary Arts Center, featuring the talents of Jeffery Hobbs, chef-partner at Suze Restaurant.

Café Momentum’s primary focus is the Dallas County Youth Village, a juvenile residential facility for nonviolent adjudicated young men ages 13-17. With the help of Youth Village Resources of Dallas and the North Texas Food Bank, a culinary program was created within the facility, where students currently learn basic culinary skills. When the young men graduate from this program, they will be provided with paid internships working in the Youth Village kitchen. Eventually they will have the opportunity to work at Café Momentum restaurant for one year, in an internship-style environment.

Café Momentum is set up as a social enterprise program of Youth Village Resources of Dallas. Similar successful concepts around the globe include Fifteen, run by the Jamie Oliver Foundation; Café Reconcile, in New Orleans; and FareStart, in Seattle.

“Our culinary arts and nutrition program partnership with North Texas Food Bank started in early 2008,” says Jerry Silhan, executive director of Youth Village Resources of Dallas. “The young men learn a lot about nutrition and get some real core culinary skills. Because of this certification and experience, they have been able to get employment after release, which has helped reduce the recidivism rate dramatically. Café Momentum will offer additional work experience and culinary skill development to the young men who are most interested in the food industry as a career.”
“Café Momentum is a true passion for me,” says Houser. “Cities like Seattle, Washington, and New Orleans already have social enterprise culinary endeavors. It’s very exciting to think that Café Momentum will put the Dallas restaurant community on the map and at the forefront of social enterprise.”

At the first pop-up dinner, Hobbs will create a five-course meal, which the students will help prep, plate, and serve. Cost is $50 per person, and diners can bring their own wine. Only a few seats remain! To make reservations, visit

About Café Momentum
Café Momentum is a nonprofit restaurant concept that will serve as a culinary training facility for disadvantaged youth. With the help of Youth Village Resources of Dallas and the North Texas Food Bank, a program has been created within the Dallas County Youth Village, where students currently learn basic culinary skills. When the young men graduate from this program, they will be provided with paid internships working in the Youth Village kitchen. Eventually they will have the opportunity to work at Café Momentum for one year, in an internship-style environment, alongside a rotating roster of guest chefs from the Dallas area. In addition to seeing the style and technique of each chef, the boys will leave Café Momentum with a list of 12 chefs to use as employment contacts or references. For more information, visit
About Youth Village Resources of Dallas
Youth Village Resources of Dallas is dedicated to helping juvenile offenders, ages 10 to 17, reach their law-abiding potential and divert them from further involvement with the juvenile justice system or progression to greater offenses by putting positive outcomes within their reach. Youth Village Resources is committed to bolstering the success of the work done by the Dallas County Youth Village and Medlock programs. The programs funded by Youth Village Resources are created specifically to help youth in trouble turn their lives in a positive direction through education and healthy life changes. For more information, visit