At first, it sounds like a joke. And maybe not a funny one: A Hall of Fame broadcaster, some post-release juvenile offenders, an award-winning chef and a songwriter walk into a restaurant ...
But it's not a joke; it's the basis for Eric Nadel's Sunday Supper Concert Series at Cafe Momentum, a monthly event that merges a multicourse dinner with an intimate musical performance, all in the name of helping young people receive vocational training on their way to a better future.
The heartbeat of Cafe Momentum is its workers, teenagers who have been incarcerated on non-violent charges and are seeking a second chance. The money from these Sunday Suppers helps support the organization's mission of providing professional experience, social support and mentoring through its 12-month paid post-release internship program.
Nadel, the Hall of Fame radio broadcaster for the Texas Rangers, has been known around town for his passion for music and charitable causes. And as it turns out, he's a fan of Chad Houser, the founder, CEO and executive chef of downtown Dallas restaurant Cafe Momentum.
"I have long admired what Chad has done with these kids, and I adore his food," Nadel says. "I didn't know he was a huge music fan until last summer when I was in the restaurant and we began talking about music. He suggested the idea of having a concert series and asked me if I would help him choose the artists and set it all up.
"I love the feel of the room and figured it would work."
After three editions of this Sunday Supper Series, it's clear the event is special. Though dinner-and-music charity events happen in Dallas with great frequency, this one has food served family style, which results in a we're-all-in-this-together look and feel.
And most intriguingly, some of the dishes are inspired by the evening's musician. In January, for instance, the dinner featured Nashville-based folk singer-songwriter Griffin House. After chatting with the musician in advance, Houser and his team served fried chicken, reminiscent of the kind the Nashville singer's grandmother would make. Diners also sampled Montgomery Inn ribs, inspired by ones the singer ate as a kid in his native Cincinnati. There was even a green smoothie with kale and strawberries, inspired by House's current, healthier lifestyle.
For February's dinner, Dallas-raised, world-traveling musician Emily Elbert served as inspiration for the vegan dishes. She also provided a surprise guest: Mike Gordon, of jam-band powerhouse Phish. His appearance at the sold-out dinner served as a reminder that when talented people come together, interesting things tend to happen.
For Nadel, the evening is more than a monthly public appearance where he says a few words about the performer before the music begins. He hand-picks each month's entertainment, choosing some he's long admired as well as some he's only recently heard. Upcoming artists in the series were booked after Nadel saw them perform at the annual 30A Songwriter's Festival in Florida in January.
Nadel says he uses the baseball offseason to stay busy with his two favorite causes, youth and animals. Perhaps his interest in helping the teens at Cafe Momentum stems from his mother's influence. She volunteered with kids suffering from mental illnesses when Nadel was a kid in New York.
In Dallas, Nadel's heart-warming new supper series is aided by some of his favorite musicians and the young culinary stars of Cafe Momentum, proving charity can be entertaining and delicious. And that? That's certainly no joke.