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Chad Houser
A graduate of the El Centro College culinary arts program, Chad Houser founded Café Momentum, which helps juvenile offenders turn their lives around. (photo by Daniel Rodrigue)

​Contact: Ann Hatch

For immediate release — April 23, 2018

(DALLAS) — Chad Houser — Dallas executive chef, founder of Café Momentum and recent CNN Hero — is an honored graduate of the El Centro College culinary arts program. Since then, he has taken his skills in the kitchen and now shares them with juvenile offenders so that they can find a rewarding career path.

Houser will receive one of only three 2018 national Outstanding Alumni Awards from the American Association of Community Colleges when the organization brings this year’s conference to Dallas in late April/early May. The award is given annually to former community college students who are making outstanding contributions in their chosen career fields and in their communities.

Houser will receive the award on Tuesday, May 1, during an awards breakfast at the Lowes Anatole. Dr. Jose Adames, president of El Centro College, will join him on the stage.

Dr. Joe May, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District, said, “We congratulate Chad Houser as one of AACC’s newest Outstanding Alumni Award recipients. He has distinguished himself in culinary arts and in service to his community. He’s a role model for young people who intern at Café Momentum as they work to start careers and change their lives.”

The noted Dallas chef graduated from El Centro in May 1998. He grew up in Allen, Texas, and developed a love for food at a young age. He recalled, “I grew up believing food was about more than just food nurturing the body. It also nurtures the soul.” That belief in the power of food led him to pursue a degree in culinary arts.

Café Momentum is a restaurant and culinary training facility that was created in 2011 with monthly pop-up dinners that featured local celebrated chefs from highly rated restaurants.

The concept for Café Momentum actually started when Houser taught eight young men in juvenile detention how to make ice cream for a contest at the Dallas Farmers Market. Based on that experience, he knew that working with juvenile offenders was something he wanted to do. And he decided that a restaurant run by those youths would be the best way to help them — and the café was born.

Today, the restaurant continues to serve seasonal menus and specials. Houser also stages quarterly events that showcase the café’s interns and its mission; it is located at 1510 Pacific Ave. at Akard in downtown Dallas.

The nonprofit restaurant’s mission is to transform young lives by equipping the community’s most at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential.

Houser said, “We provide a transformative experience through a 12-month paid, post-release internship program for young men and women coming out of juvenile facilities. They rotate through all aspects of the restaurant, focusing on life and social skills, coaching and development. We employ a case management staff and provide an ecosystem of support around our interns to help them achieve their greatest potential.”

He added, “We proudly serve fresh, locally sourced, sophisticated American cuisine in the heart of downtown Dallas. Each and every meal is prepared and served by our award-winning team of chefs and the young men and women involved in our program.”

Houser has received a long list of honors for his work. He was named among the Dallas Business Journal’s 2016 “40 Under 40,” which honors North Texas professionals who are impacting their communities through service; one of the U.S. Junior Chamber’s (Jaycees) 2015 Ten Outstanding Young Americans; a “Top 50 Under 40” by the Social Enterprise Alliance; an “Urban Innovator to Watch” by the New Cities Foundation; one of the “30 Most Interesting People in the Metro Area” by the Dallas Observer; and one of Good Magazine’s “Good 100” individuals

He has served as president of the board of directors for the Dallas Farmers Market Friends and as vice chair of the El Centro Exes Association, where he also is a member of the El Centro College Food and Hospitality Institute’s “Hall of Fame.”

Houser summed up his work with the interns at Café Momentum: “It’s not about training kids to be the next great chef. It’s not about just keeping them out of jail. It’s about helping them achieve their full potential.”

For more information, contact Ann Hatch, DCCCD office of media relations, at 214-378-1819 or at; or Tabitha Whissemore, AACC, at

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