Hilton graduates start business, give back

Going out for dinner can be a mundane task, even for those who live in city with diverse food options such as Houston, but two UH alumi are on a mission  to change that.

Emily Paez and Jonathan Wong are co-founders of a new business called Local Neighborfood that promises to revolutionize the dining experience in the city while giving back to the community.

“This concept is definitely different for Houston,” Paez said. “We take the restaurant out of the equation and unite foodies from all over town in a secret location to enjoy great food and great company.”

Events will be held at least four times a month and will showcase the culinary talent of local chefs. Locations are kept secret until the day before the event, when they will then be announced via email or text message.

Prices will range between $40 and $70 per person; however, Local Neighborfood requires you to enroll in a $120 yearly membership and to be 21 or older. The funds will go in part to charitable causes, among them, The Houston Food Bank.

Paez and Wong have come a long way since they graduated from UH in 2011. Wong’s knowledge of business and marketing and Paez’s experience in hospitality have allowed them to make their dreams come true only three years after graduation.

“Owning my own business has always been a dream of mine,” Paez said. “I can confidently say that Jonathan shares that notion. It’s pretty surreal that this is happening so fast, but there’s no better time than now.”

Local Neighborfood also plans to give back to the UH organization Par Excellence, where Paez held the general manager position that allowed her to learn and develop the skills needed to run a business.

“I love the concept of Par Ex.,” Paez said. “It allows students to own and operate a hospitality staffing company and provides scholarships in return.”

Par Excellence members are also excited to be collaborating with Local Neighborfood and hope that their participation with the business will also help the organization become more recognized in town.

“This will definitely bring much more knowledge of our organization to the greater Houston community,” said Shining Wang, Par Excellence’s current general manager. “We are a well passed around secret among some communities within Houston, but after this we will have a more diverse and widespread group of Houstonians to serve.”

Wang stressed how important it is for graduates to give back and inspire the next generation.

“We are blessed to work with such an inspiring alumna of the Conrad N. Hilton College and of Par Excellence,” Wang said.

Local Neighborfood plans to help promote the organization by hiring them as qualified servers and bartenders for several of the events that it will host. Although dates are still being discussed between the parties, it is certain that Par Excellence will be staffing their very first event.

“We will be working together at their launch on October 31,” said Wang. “We plan for a long-term relationship between Local Neighborfood and Par Excellence.”

To learn more about Local Neighborfood and to sign up for events, visit

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