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Three Dallas chefs use their kitchens to give back


It’s no secret Dallas is home to a plethora of top-notch cuisine options. And of course, behind the closed doors of each thriving restaurant’s kitchen is a mastermind to whom all credit is deserved – the chef. But for some chefs, it’s not enough to dedicate their talents for their success alone. Meet three Dallas chefs who exercise their culinary ingenuity for the improvement of our world.

Chad Houser – Café Momentum

After 17 years as a chef at Parigi restaurant, Chad Houser entered an ice-cream making contest at the Dallas Farmers Market that would reroute his professional path entirely. In the competition, Houser worked with at-risk youth and juvenile offenders who inspired him with their pride and enthusiasm. It was then, Houser told The Hero Effect, that he recognized his passion for working with adolescent teens that may have started off on the wrong foot. He knew he had to find a way to help. Houser combined his culinary expertise and philanthropic passion to create something bigger than he ever expected.

Tucked away on Pacific Avenue in Downtown Dallas, Houser’s Café Momentum serves two things: exquisite meals and a higher purpose. Café Momentum transforms young people’s lives by providing them with a safe environment to learn and work in upon release from juvenile detention. The non-profit restaurant offers a paid 12-month internship program for at-risk teens where they learn the responsibility of employment, social skills, and life skills. These young people are provided with a community of support and opportunity they might have never had otherwise.

“It’s not about just giving these young men a job,” Houser told The Christian Science Monitor. “It’s about creating a holistic environment where they can be immersed in all the tools and resources they need to be successful in life, which extends far beyond working at a job.”

Venus DeJesus – chef at Scottish Rite Hospital

An immigrant from Mexico and father of two, Venus DeJesus has worked all his life to become one of Dallas’ most reputable chefs. After years of experience and earning a position at one of Dallas’ finest restaurants at the time, DeJesus quit his job to work in the kitchen at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Why? He told KHOU11 it’s to bring smiles to sick children with his award-winning gourmet desserts.

Many of the children at Scottish Rite are in pain and have little to no appetite, but DeJesus’ attention to detail and delicious recipes seem to have a positive effect on their symptoms. KHOU11 says his five-star-restaurant recipes never fail to make a sick child light up as they devour one of his little edible masterpieces made just for him or her.

“I just wanted them to forget about their pain for a second,” DeJesus told KHOU11.

Twenty years later, DeJesus is still in the Scottish Rite kitchen creating culinary surprises for the hospitalized children. He has no plans to retire, but will continue to volunteer at the hospital even after he hangs up his hat.

Tre Wilcox – Cooking Concepts

In the spirit of “starting from the bottom,” Chef Tre Wilcox began his career as a teenager cleaning chicken at a fast food restaurant. By the age of 29, he became chef de cuisine at the renowned Dallas restaurant, Abacus, with a five-star review. Since then, Wilcox has been named “Best Chef” by the Dallas Morning News, nominated twice for the “Rising Star Chef” award by the James Beard Foundation, featured on Bravo’s Top Chef, Food Network’s Iron Chef America, and profiled in countless food magazines. In other words, he’s the real deal.

But with his rising celebrity status as a culinary expert, he hasn’t lost sight of the importance to give back to his community. Wilcox is a tremendous support to philanthropic organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, DIFFA Dallas (Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids), and Team Connor Childhood Cancer Foundation. Whether he’s hosting a cooking class or making a donation package, Wilcox always finds a way to contribute part of his success for the betterment of others.

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