Lucille’s chef partners with UH Dining for food insecurity project
In a partnership with UH Dining, chef and owner of the Houston restaurant Lucille’s Christopher Williams served a line of students and staff one of his signature southern dishes at Cougar Woods Dining Commons.
The partnership with UH Dining didn’t stop at a meal for the University community, but planned to prepare 500 meals for families in the Third Ward.
This initiative echoes Lucille’s 1913 project that strives to help give fresh healthy meals to impoverished communities in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way.
“The concept of the nonprofit 1913 started with the pandemic,” Williams said. “We were looking to find ways to keep all of our staff employed full time, so with that commitment we started leaning to find ways to continue to work.”
Williams shared that the project began with feeding first responders working graveyard shifts then shifted the focus towards neighborhoods with food insecurity.
In the initial stages, around 127 meals were prepared a day by Williams himself, now that number grown to 2,500 daily.
Since then, Williams said that the nonprofit has expanded into a “vertically integrated ecosystem” influencing an opportunity for job creation.
“We’re hiring people directly from these neighborhoods that we cook for and giving them access to the culinary arts,” Williams said. “One thing about Houston is if you can cook, you can work in this industry, you’ll have employment security for the rest of your life.”
The development incorporates farming tactics with community gardens located in Fifth Ward, Hiram Clarke and behind The Power Center.
In addition to creating availability for healthier food options, Williams emphasizes ethical waste management with scrapped foods.
“We take all of our waste and we send it back to a composting site that we have in Kendleton, Texas,” Williams said. “The vegetable scraps that we can use, we send to our Kitchen in Fifth Ward, where we developed a fermentation lab led by chef Khang Hoang and Dawn Burrell to where we take all of those scraps and we turn them into shelf stable items for people that need them.”
For the on-campus event’s menu, the culinary team and chef Williams prepared an Ethiopian-influenced dish with rice, okra and tomato stew and chicken berbere.
“I usually hate okra but in this, it was really good and easy to eat,” said biology freshman Anjali Sudheer. “It was different to have new food here besides the regular stuff at the dining hall so I really liked it.”
Some students, like electrical engineering senior Tarami Readus found the food to be nostalgic.
“Everything blended well and was seasoned nicely,” said Readus. “It brought me back home to the south.”