Meet our Volunteer Star! Erika Kwee is September's Volunteer of the Month

Volunteer Coordinator
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Pictured Above from left to right: Brendan Fradkin, Eden Bass, Erika Kwee, Dan Morley, Mai Le, Isabel Protomartir

We are excited to announce Erika Kwee as our September volunteer of the month! This past spring, Erika reached out to Recipe for Success with an offer to rally a group of friends to help clean up our RecipeHouse gardens that were in desperate need of some TLC. This past summer, Erika and her group of five, Brendan, Eden, Dan, Mai, and Isabel, braved the smothering Houston heat, removing thickly overgrown weeds and preparing the beds for early fall vegetable planting. The Recipe team couldn't be happier with their work as the result was a complete transformation!

About Erika, our Group Leader:

A volunteer since 2013, Erika has a passion for food and cooking, which was the original attraction to Recipe for Success. She describes volunteering as both "fun and rewarding" adding, "I really believe in the Recipe for Success mission and love to support the organization whenever I can!" While Erika keeps busy with a career in tech, she also does freelance writing for Houston Press and runs her own personal food blog,, a data-based baking blog where she analyzes the best baking recipes on the internet.

Out of all of her volunteer experiences with the organization, she would name the RecipeHouse garden clean up project as her favorite. "Even though we weren't sure how much we would be able to accomplish in a few hours, it was a great feeling to see where we started and where we finished."

Feeling a sense of accomplishment, Erika, on behalf of her team, enthusiastically reached out upon project completion to offer their help in next steps to re-growing the RecipeHouse garden. We look forward to working with this amazing group in the near future and helping you make more memories. Thank you, Erika!


Meet Allison Gryder - August Volunteer of the Month!

Volunteer Coordinator
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AllisonG.jpgWe are excited to introduce Allison Gryder, our August Volunteer of the Month. A busy mother of four-year-old twin boys, Allison enjoys watching children explore and learn about their food. This, along with a love for cooking, sparked her interest in volunteering for the organization and she particularly enjoyed assisting with the Delivering Hope program, organizing the welcome home baskets delivered to program recipients. Outside of chasing after her two little ones and assisting the foundation, Allison also supports her alma matter, University of Houston, serving on the Houston Alumnae Panhellenic Association and Foundation. Since joining the volunteer team as an office assistant, Allison has helped us with data updates, organizing event and donor reports, and crafting customized gift acknowledgments. A former Development Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator for Memorial Park Conservancy, Allison has recently provided the foundation with suggestions on how to improve our volunteer and community outreach efforts. We are so appreciative of the extra care Allison has given to ensure our volunteers and supporters remain educated on the organization's current events. Thank you, Allison!

PaperCity at Hope Farms

James Brock
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Heirloom tomatoes fill platters at Chefs in the Field Tomato Tribute at Hope Farms.jpg

It's not every day that one gets the chance to dine with 49 other interesting people at one long table. And it's even rarer to do so for a great cause. That's exactly what happened on June 24, and PaperCity's Catherine Anspon captured all the delicious fun, including the cocktails, the tomatoes, the short ribs, and the charred-tomato panna cotta. It was Chefs in the Field: A Tomato Tribute, and Alyssa Dole, Wayne Nguyen, and Martin Stayer wowed the crowd with their culinary creations. Monopole Wines provided the wonderful pairings, and Hal Brock's 22Fresh supplied the floral artistry and the bespoke cocktail. Read the complete PaperCity coverage here.

Chronicle Loves Farm Supper

James Brock
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Thumbnail image for Heirloom Green Tiger Tomatoes await guests at Chefs in the Field Tomato Tribute at Hope Farms.jpgThe Houston Chronicle's Amber Elliott knows a thing or two about great social events, and she was positively glowing at Chef's in the Field: A Tomato Tribute, which took place on June 24 at Hope Farms. "I seriouly dreamt about that dinner all night," she gushed. From the heirloom tomatoes and bespoke cocktail, to the culinary creations of chefs Alyssa Dole, Wayne Nguyen and Martin Stayer -- including the Umami Bomb and charred-tomato panna cotta -- the evening was a giant success, and raised nearly $10,000 for the foundation's programs. Read Elliott's story here.

Guests at table at Chefs in the Field at Hope Farms Tomato Tribute.jpg

Megan Dickerson At Work

James Brock
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Talk about dedication. Megan Dickerson, Hope Farms' summer intern, wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. -- 4:30 on Saturdays -- to make the one-hour-plus journey from her home in Wallis, Texas, to the farm, where she can be seen digging, watering and harvesting produce alongside Justin Myers, the foundation's chief agricultural officer, and other volunteers. Megan calls herself the "Urban Farm Girl," and is an avid home baker and recent graduate of Houston Community College's Culinary Arts program.

Dickerson grew up in a small, rural community, so farming is second nature to the Texan. Indeed, she lives on a farm in Wallis with her father and son; the family raises beef cattle and horses, and Dickerson wouldn't have it any other way. Her focus is to become a part of an initiative that promotes food education, access to consumable foods and the overall well-being of society to build healthy food systems. Dickerson joined the Hope Farms family in May as a summer intern. When asked what drew her to Hope Farms, she replied: "We are teaching others how to cook and eat the vegetables that so many do not have access to on a consistent basis."

Here is a Q & A with Dickerson, who is also the owner of online baking company Simple & Sweet.

Recipe for Success: How did you hear about Hope Farms?
Dickerson: The Recipe For Success Foundation was mentioned in my Healthy Cuisine class, by Chef Judith Boykin. I visited the website and stumbled upon Hope Farms and reviewed the opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community, and I've been hooked ever since then.

R4S: Why did you volunteer?
Dickerson: Historically, I've been quite involved with volunteering my time. I recently graduated in Culinary Arts, and I wanted to volunteer my time becoming involved in a mission that not only could ignite my passion but afford me the knowledge to understand my focus on healthy cuisine, food systems, and how they translate from farm to fork. When I discovered, after doing research, that I once lived in a food desert, it was imperative to step in and be a part of this initiative.

R4S: What is the most important thing you have learned thus far working at the farm?
Dickerson: That we are all part of community on a much larger scale than imaginable, and if we look past cultural differences, working side by side we can achieve anything. Hope Farms has taught me that with a little ingenuity we can educate a community about the many vegetable varieties available to them and show them how to prepare meals on a budget. In addition, I have learned that the farm brings hope.

Chef Ellen Schwartz: July's Volunteer of the Month

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ChefEllenSchwartz.jpgA self-professed cook since the age of nine, Chef Ellen spent her childhood days In Houston surrounded by "foodies" in the grocery stores owned by her father and grandfather. She took daily cooking classes throughout middle school and high school and remained active as a dancer, forming a healthy relationship with food by choosing a variety of nutritious options that would help control her weight and fuel her activity level. She obtained her undergraduate degree from University of Houston, a Master of Science in Counseling from Houston Baptist University, and a Master's Degree, Reading Specialist from University of Houston. As a former counselor and mentor to middle school students struggling with overeating disorders, Ellen regularly attended OA meetings to gain further insight into the root cause of overeating and obesity in children. Her personal and professional experience combined with an increased awareness of the childhood obesity epidemic drew her to the mission of Recipe for Success Foundation.

Now private chef and culinary instructor, Chef Ellen has shared her passion for cooking with a variety of ages and skill levels in the Houston area for over 15 years. She's previously taught in professional kitchens at Central Market and Rice Epicurean and currently spends summers teaching cooking techniques and recipes to children at venues such as Wharton Kids' College, St. Luke's Methodist Church in Houston, and Kid's Connect at West University's After School Program.

Ellen first connected with Recipe for Success as a volunteer chef within the Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ classroom, a program reminiscent of her personal childhood experience. She enjoyed watching the students' comfort level increase as they utilized the different cooking tools, developed new vocabulary, and learned about healthy eating habits. The organization has been grateful for the support Ellen provides at our fundraising events, particularly our largest annual Delicious Alchemy The Banquet. "I love to see the chefs create their creative dishes and love working behind the scenes" muses Ellen, adding that working with "a worthwhile cause" she supports motivates her return each year.

We look forward to many more years partnering with Ellen and are appreciative of her many years of service to the foundation and its mission. Thank you, Ellen!

Learn more about Ellen or book a cooking class HERE!

Houston 100: Tomato Tribute

James Brock
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IMG_1576.jpgYes, it is going to be all about the tomato, so if you are a fan of the beloved fruit, you need to mark June 24 on your calendars. The Houston 100 has, and gave a shout-out to the Recipe for Success Foundation and Hope Farms this week, urging Houstonians to get tickets for the event without delay, because this fundraiser is going to sell out! Chefs Alyssa Dole, Wayne Nguyen, and Martin Stayer willl be in charge of the food, and they will be using tomatoes from Hope Farms. Read The Houston 100's entry here, and get ready for some great eating!

Culturemap: Ultimate Al Fresco Party

James Brock
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The media coverage of Delicious Alchemy: The Banquet continues with this piece from Culturemap Houston, which conveys all of the elegance, deliciousness, and fun that happened on May 7. The guests were treated to cocktails from Hal Brock (who also designed the floral arrangements for the evening), Rootstock Wines opened some exellent bottles, and the food. Well, the food was something special. The chefs and their teams created a 10-course tasting menu that exceeded expectations, a lineup that included ceviche, lobster bisque, duck leg, and more. The home of Lisa and Michael Holthouse was the perfect setting for the fundraiser, and we're already looking forward to 2019 and the first Monday in May, which is when Delicious Alchemy comes again. Read the Culturemap story here, and take a look at our stellar photos below.

Delicious Alchemy: The Banquet 2018

An Earth Day Weekend Success

James Brock
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GQ2B0887.JPGWe celebrated Earth Day Weekend 2018 in a big way at Hope Farms on the weekend of April 21 and 22. More than 600 attendees transformed the farm into a rollicking venue of education and fun on Saturday, and on the following day 50 guests feasted at one long table at the inaugural Chefs in the Field Supper.

To kick off the weekend, a full slate of diverse artisans and community partners -- including The Children's Museum, Magpies & Peacocks, The Garden Hen, Hive Bee, Living Well Therapies, Shana Ross Fitness, author Erin Hicks, Old Country Olive Oil, United Health Foundation, and Saint Arnold Brewing Company -- gathered at the farm and provided guests with learning opportunities, educational outreach, and artisanal foodstuffs. Darren Grigsby cooked up some fine brisket and boudin, while Local Foods grilled artichokes and other delicacies. Smart in the Kitchen, Chef Michael, Urban Chef and the Recipe for Success culinary team gave hands-on cooking classes in the Gathering Barn, and actor, Laura Bellomy read to tots and youngsters under the Lace Elm Tree. All that, and much more, made Saturday a wonderful one.

On Sunday, sapphire skies, bountiful fields, 50 guests, three chefs, Texas wines, a hot new grill, and a stellar menu--including freshly harvested produce from Hope Farms -- made the Recipe for Success Foundation's inaugural Chefs in the Field Supper at Hope Farms a success by any measure.Thumbnail image for A birdseye view of the communal table at Chefs in the Field.JPG

All members of the Foundation's Advisory Board, volunteer chefs Jean-Philippe Gaston (Izakaya), Vincent Huynh (Agricole Hospitality), and Greg Martin (Bistro Menil)-- who built the new grill themselves as a gift to the Farm -- wowed guests on Sunday night, during which the 50-foot-long table laid out in the farm's Gathering Barn was the scene of delicious fun.

Festivities began in the Chef's Kitchen Garden where Agricole Hospitality proprietor, Morgan Weber poured his signature Indianola Distillery Old Fashioneds, and Foundation Board member, Kathryne Castellanos and her volunteer brigade passed grilled polenta cakes and octopus bites along with Christian Martin Blanc de Blancs and Saint Arnold beers. After exploring the fields and meeting the chickens, guests took their seats for a five-course feast featuring wines from William Chris Vineyards. Progressing from Hope Farms veg crudité and roasted beet borscht to melt-in-your-mouth short ribs and whole grilled snappers--all served family style, the meal concluded with Dairy Maids cheeses, Bee Hive honeycomb and strawberry shortcakes. Sponsors Blue Horizon Seafood, Buckhead Meat, Hive Bee Farm donated their top-quality provisions for the evening.

Spotted at the table: tennis great Zina Garrison, Bryan Christ, Emily and Robert Clay, Dona & Al Clay, Erin Stewart O'Leary, Shamika Johnson, Genevieve and Shawn Patterson, Melanie and Daniel Ringold, Lisa and Paul Mason, Marnie Greenwood, Ana Llovera and Carlos Gonzales Centano, Sheryl and Ernie Rapp, Carrie and Sverre Brandsberg-Dahl, Yasmine Haddad and daughter Tatiana, Honi and Glen Boudreaux, Haley and Michael Carter, Ann and Tom Bastian and Recipe for Success Founders, Gracie and Bob Cavnar. The evening raised $12,000 for Hope Farms Community Outreach programs.

Enjoy fabulous photos of the weekend here:

Chefs In the Field April 2018

Fourth Grade Field Trips

Volunteer Coordinator
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GQ2B2910.JPGAs our Seed-to-Plate classes come to an end, and we finish "Eating the Rainbow," we're rounding out the year with our 4th grade field trips.

Students from our showcase schools--Rodriguez Elementary and MacGregor Elementary--recently visited Hope Farms, and had the opportunity to participate in a full farm to table experience.

Working closely with RFS farmer Justin Meyers and guest chef Kevin Naderi, students were split into three groups, and tasked with tackling the various components of a true farm to table experience.

During the their time with farmer Meyers, our first group of students helped weed and ensure that that all the raised beds were getting enough water (this was especially important as our as our days are getting hotter and hotter), while our second group worked to harvest the healthy, delicious ingredients that comprised our farm lunch, and our third group fed the Hope Farms chickens and plants various aromatics in the children's garden.

Their farm work done, our 4th graders moved towards composing their lunch for the day. Working closely with Chef Kevin Naderi, each group of students got a chance to put their own mark on the meal. Our first group sautéed beautiful farm fresh yellow squash, with onions and garlic for a fragrant pasta salad, while our second group composed a green salad with freshly picked cucumbers, and our third helped Chef Kevin prepare a tasty vinaigrette.

As part of their experience, students also received their own aprons, which they immediately took to personalizing. Inspired by their hard (but fun!) day's work, students decorated their aprons with flowers, trees, and the various names of plants they learned about throughout the day.

When it was all said and done, all the students and their teachers and members of the RFS team took the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor with an idyllic picnic--some of us choosing to sit out beneath the shade of beautiful, leafy trees, and others choosing the table overlooking the farm's blooming sunflowers. Bon Appetit!

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