Chad Houser and the Current Reality for Café Momentum

Interview by Mary Martin. Photos by Chad Windham for Café Momentum.

Both nonprofits and restaurants have spent the last two months furiously making new plans and shifting their routines in order to save jobs and continue serving. But what if your nonprofit is also a restaurant? We asked Founder, CEO, & Executive Chef of Café Momentum, Chad Houser, about the future outlook for the organization, how collaboration is making it possible to serve, and how Dallasites who care about the restaurant and its work can step up and give.

As businesses begin to reopen, what does it look like for Café Momentum to hold on to your COVID-19 response model Momentum E.A.T.s?

Right now, we are aiming to act as a food hub for the foreseeable future. The need to feed food-insecure families has tripled since this pandemic hit our community and we are going to continue to do everything we can to meet that need. We find this approach to be the best path for our interns, staff and community. Currently, we are delivering nearly 25,000 meals per week.


You are balancing not only a restaurant, but a nonprofit that serves young people who are at risk of recidivism. How has your team kept the Café Momentum interns engaged with education and workforce development?

Through Momentum E.A.T.s, we are providing our Interns with stable income and we’ve been able to maintain critical ‘hours of influence’ through our programming—including homeschool, virtual group meetings and “socially distant” home visits.

We are all proud of the work these young men and women have committed to—they’re not only providing relief to those in need, but they’re coming into work everyday [during a very stressful time] to be good neighbors and contributing members of the community.

What partnerships and collaborations are helping Café Momentum thrive right now during a crisis?

We’re incredibly grateful for the generous monetary and in-kind donations we’ve received from our community partners, donors and patrons. Momentum E.A.T.s, however, would not have gotten off the ground without an inspiring conversation I had with respected community advocates (and our partners in Ruthie’s Fueled by Cafe Momentum), Ashlee and Chris Kleinert. Their leadership and mentorship have played a critical role in the development and success of our food hub.

Our partners at Stand Together Foundation have matched all online donations dollar for dollar (up to a $1,000 match per donation), which have allowed us to continue to operate our program and provide the wraparound care and ecosystem of support that is vital to the success of our Interns.

To make our funds raised go further, Patrick Brandt and Shiftsmart have pledged to cover the costs of all intern labor during this initiative, as part of their Get Shift Done effort.

Dr. Jeanne Stone, Superintendent, Richardson Independent School District has been our partner in crime, inspiring us, helping drive donations and managing the transportation of our meal kits to those students and their families in need.

For Café Momentum supporters, what is the best way to help right now?

If you’re able to donate to Momentum E.A.T.s and the operation of our program, now is the time – our partners at Stand Together Foundation are still matching dollar for dollar (up to $1,000 per donation).  Your donation is doubled and so is the impact!

Are the Café Momentum chefs still creating delicious food for your team, even though the dining room is closed to visitors?

Yes, our chefs are still cooking our traditional “family meal” for our Interns everyday.  They have been curing a lot of meats and culturing a lot of cheeses so that our charcuterie and cheese program will be fully stocked when we are able to reopen. They’re also working on delicious jams, pickles, vinegars, and rubs for our guests to buy online!


Is there an intern that stands out to your team who has stepped up to help during the transition from restaurant to food hub?

It’s really difficult to choose just one. They are all so inspiring. The fact that they show up and put in the work when the world around them is in crisis is just incredible.