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. Hidden Pearls Podcast - Cafe Momentum - Chad Houser with Emma & Bruce Kittle

In this episode we go deep into an exploration about how a successful Executive Chef, with over 17 years in the food industry and who had achieved his own dream of owning a 5 Star restaurant, had an awakening while working with some kids in a local juvenile justice center teaching them how to make ice cream. How those kids, in their honesty and vulnerability connected with him (and one of them won a taste testing contest with their ice cream!) and inspired him to eventually sell his restaurant and create what is now Café Momentum.  

Café Momentum’s mission is “to transform young lives by equipping our community’s most at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential.” (  “There is no silver bullet that can course-correct decades of disinvestment, neglect, and marginalization. But, we can at least attempt to create a new system of support for our kids coming out of the justice system. We can create a place for them to land.”  – Café Momentum Founder, Chad Houser.  Meet Chad Houser, Founder and Executive Chef of Café Momentum, who was often told when starting Café Momentum, that it was tantamount to “taking kids out of jail and teaching them to play with knives and fire.” Despite the resistance he faced when starting the program, Chad persevered and now has one of the most successful and impactful youth programs in America. Their main location is Dallas Texas, with new programs being started in Pittsburg and Nashville. And that is where we get into the story.  As many of you know, George offseasons in Nashville. In 2021 we got hooked up with the folks over at the Players Coalition, a social justice group made up of current and former NFL players working to “end social injustices and racial inequality so future generations have the opportunity to thrive without barriers.” Their key pillars include education, community relations, criminal justice, and economic justice. But long story short, they (thank you Dr. Chelsea Heyward!!) hooked us up with the Café Momentum program, which at the time was just expanding to Nashville.   

In 2022 we continued that connection. After TEU in June 2022, we followed up with them through the Nashville program’s Executive Director Rokeisha Bryant, and George and Claire were able to support the Nashville program’s development with a $15,000 gift.  With that, we knew we wanted to do a full podcast and here it is. This podcast includes a great conversation with Chad on all things Café Momentum as well as food, youth justice issues, mindset, and giving back to the community. We also have some time with Rokeisha, as she explains her work and the development of the Nashville program. Please enjoy the show as much as we did in recording it.  Below is more information on Café Momentum and what they do. However, before closing I feel compelled to include here our deepest sympathies for the kids, staff and families connected with the Nashville Café Momentum program. In May and again just recently in August, Café Momentum lost 2 youth who were participating in their program to murder. Our hearts and love go out to all of them as they deal with these losses. Let us support them in whatever ways we can, and also look more broadly to the issues our youth face today and seek out what each of us can do to make a difference. Thank you.  

CAFÉ MOMENTUM MODEL AND WORK:  The Momentum model provides a transformative experience through a 12-month paid internship program for justice-involved youth. Interns rotate through all aspects of the restaurant, focusing on life and social skills, coaching, and development.  Café Momentum has reimagined the way life skills are handed down to the next generation of foodservice workers. With staff guidance, these young culinary professionals hone their craft by proudly serving fresh, locally sourced, sophisticated new American cuisine in the nation’s largest cities. Each and every meal is prepared and served by our award-winning team of chefs and the young men and women involved in CM programs.  Interns work their way through all areas of the restaurant, learning legal employment, social skills and life skills. Case management works to round out the ecosystem of support including; financial education, parenting classes, educational assistance and career exploration. Case managers help to work through issues such as anger management, trauma recovery, fatherlessness and abandonment. After the 12 months of curriculum, successful interns are able to graduate from the program and are placed in a job with one of our community partners.

 Check out the Café Momentum documentary film “Building Momentum” here: #cafemomentum #hiddenpearlspodcast #hiddenpearls #kittle #georgekittle

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