New restaurant gives second chance to juvenile offenders

Cafe Momentum is part of the juvenile detention system and gives second chances to "at-risk" teens. Demond Fernandez has more.

DALLAS — There is a lot of busy action at 1510 Pacific Avenue in Downtown Dallas right now. Workers and chefs are busy preparing for the official opening of Café Momentum.

The team is spending time, making sure the staff has every detail in order. What some patrons may not realize, at first, is that Café Momentum was started with a commitment to community service. The executive staff was driven by the desire to help rehabilitate teens in juvenile detention.

In a hardcore restaurant kitchen, teens who had some hard knocks are getting a helpful serving of a lesson called "second chances." So-called "at-risk" teens like Emmai Killion, 19, are the fire behind the new restaurant Café Momentum.

"I did a burglary," Killion said as he explained the path that lead him to Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center. "Then I got locked up for about nine months."

Killion is among 37 teens working as paid interns at Café Momentum. The guys are staying busy with a variety of jobs in the restaurant's kitchen, bakery and dining room.

"They teach me how to work with people, communication, and customer service," Killion added.

Each teen was recruited as an intern by Café Momentum's Executive Chef, Chad Houser.

"They're learning people skills, they're learning network skills, and they're learning social skills," he said.

Houser said he and his team wanted to use Café Momentum as a resource to help some of the most troubled youth across Dallas reach their full potential.

The restaurant's motto? Eat. Drink. Change Lives.

"I had a drug addiction, and coming here, it's kept me away from that," said intern Samuel Paderes. The 19-year-old says he is already living the change Café Momentum has inspired.

Café Momentum officially opens to the public Jan. 29. The chefs promise to have a very eclectic menu made with locally grown produce.

The interns say they just want a chance to give the community good food and good service when Café Momentum opens.


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