Monica Pope
Owner, Executive Chef, Sparrow Bar + Cookshop & Co-Owner, Beavers
A recent competitor on Bravo channel's Top Chef Masters which brought her even more national attention, Monica has long been Houston's darling.  She was named 2009's Best Chef at the Houston Culinary Awards, as a 2007 James Beard Award Nominee for Best Chef: Southwest and is the only Texas woman to ever be named a Top 10 Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine.  

Monica isn't from Texas, but she got here as soon as she could and has spent her professional career celebrating the foods of this place--Houston, Texas, long before the term localvore was even heard of.  Monica is a leader in the garden-to-table movement among American chefs and is an original charter member, as well as a Board Member (2005) of Chefs Collaborative, an organization of over 1000 chefs across the country whose work addresses the concerns and philosophy of clean food sources, seasonal food preparation and healthy food choices. She is a champion of sustainability in local agriculture, product purchasing and restaurant recycling of glass, plastic, aluminum and steel as well as kitchen waste through composting.   Monica is one of the founders of the Midtown Farmers Market a weekly market located at t'afia, that brings the community together on the cornerstone of food with offerings from local farmers, craftspeople, and chefs making artisanal, handcrafted breads, chocolates, pastries and prepared foods.

Monica first learned to cook from her Czech grandmother and went on to earn her Chef's title from Prue Leith's School of Food and Wine in London. After working in Europe and San Francisco, she returned home to Houston to open her first restaurant, the critically acclaimed The Quilted Toque.  Soon after opening her second Houston restaurant, Boulevard Bistrot, she garnered national praise from top critical publications including Travel & Leisure, which hailed her "one of the most ingenious restaurateurs around." Her latest venture, t'afia, has been featured in seven different national Best New Restaurant lists and in Gourmet, O: The Oprah Magazine, Bon Appetit, and Fortune. She recently published a digital cookbook, Eat Where Your Food Lives and is currently working on a cooking memoir entitled Eating Hope: Caution, Chef May Be Starving.

Monica has been a member of the Recipe for Success Foundation Board since 2006, but worked with Gracie for years before--throughout the planning stages.  She is the founding chair of the RFS Chefs Advisory Board recruiting dozens of chefs to join her.  She taught the very first Chefs in Schools™ class at MacGregor Elementary in September 2006 and has taught monthly cooking classes there ever since.  Monica regular appears as an RFS media spokesperson and national advocate and has raised thousands of dollars for programming.  Often featured as a celebrity chef during the annual "We're Cooking Now! Gala in Small Bites" fundraising dinners, last year, she and her team fed one hundred and seventy guests at Jolie Vue Farm during Houston's "Outstanding in the Field" to benefit RFS, and her Quick Fire Mac & Cheese on a recent Top Chef Masters competition generated a quick $5,000 to RFS coffers.