In 2008, Chad Houser was nominated as the best up-and-coming chef in Dallas. Had he stayed on that track, he’d probably have a show on the Food Network today, and a talent deal to rival Bobby Flay and Gordon Ramsay. But Chad didn’t stay on that track. Instead, he taught a group of incarcerated kids how to make ice cream and watched in wonder as they won a local ice-cream making contest. (They eat a lot of ice cream in Dallas.)
The experience literally transformed the kids, and Chad began visiting detention centers to teach troubled youth how to cook. With every visit, he became more and more convinced that the juvenile justice system was profoundly broken, and that recidivism rates could be dramatically reduced by exposing kids to the various jobs inside a successful restaurant. So, Chad went all in. He opened a restaurant called Café Momentum, set up a paid internship program, and trained over a thousand kids how to work with knives and fire. The results have been stunning.
After completing a 12-month internship program, ZERO percent of interns returned to lock-up.
89% were enrolled in high school, or recently graduated, or getting their GED.
77% were receiving voluntary counseling.
100% had a bank account.
I wish I’d known Chad back when Returning the Favor was in production. He’s a classic bloody do-gooder, and he would have been a terrific honoree. Instead, he was a terrific guest on this episode, and I’m glad to know him. Café Momentum’s are popping up all over the place. The food is shockingly good, and winning all sorts of awards. But the impact on communities is extraordinary. More at cafemomentum.org
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