Hope Thrives in Houston’s Downtown Food Desert

Grace Cavnar and elite Houston chefs gather for the Delicious Alchemy Banquet

One woman’s crusade to combat childhood obesity is blossoming thanks to her Recipe for Success Foundation that’s educating kids, helping military veterans, and feeding Houstonians in need. Here’s the story of her mission and how 10 elite Houston chefs came together in Delicious Alchemy to support it.

In another life, Houston socialite Grace Cavnar would be lounging in her Paris pied à terre. In this one, Gracie (her down-to-earth preference) is working nonstop to tackle childhood obesity through the Recipe for Success Foundation, changing the way our children understand, appreciate, and eat their food. Created with her husband Bob in 2005, the Foundation’s programs have empowered more than 35,000 kids with the knowledge and skills to make a lifetime of healthy eating decisions. Efforts such as the nationally offered Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™, Farmers MarKIDS™ curriculum, Eat It! Food Adventures children’s cookbooks, and the VegOut! 30 Ways in 30 Days Challenge aim to make healthy food appealing and available to everyone.

Hope Farms brings fresh produce to a community in need.

A critical part of the Foundation’s work is Hope Farms: a seven-acre urban farm in the heart of Houston’s historic Sunnyside neighborhood. Using organic methods to generate significant crops in the midst of one of the city’s largest food deserts, Hope Farms trains U.S. military veterans to become new urban farmers, provides jobs and internships for neighborhood youth, and offers cooking and gardening classes to Houstonians of every age. An on-site farm stand offers fresh produce, eggs, and honey and participates in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRx®) Program® created by Wholesome Wave, the nonprofit organization founded by award-winning Chef Michel Nischan.

The Wholesome Wave connection is what initially drew Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka to Recipe for Success. “We look to support organizations that are making the world a better place,” said Zack Flores, Director of Philanthropic Programming at Tito’s. “Through schools, Recipe for Success has mobilized the community in Houston and we’re honored to help them continue their work in Houston and across the country.”

To show their support, Tito’s became a sponsor of the Foundation’s Delicious Alchemy Banquet—its largest annual fundraiser. This year’s Delicious Alchemy featured 10 of Houston’s finest chefs creating 10 Italian-inspired courses paired with 10 superb wines, all served poolside at the villa-style home of Lisa and Michael Holthouse in the city’s tony Memorial neighborhood.  “Chefs—including many of this year’s amazing talents—are at the very heart of what we do,” says Gracie.

Tito’s Handmade Vodka, exclusive vodka sponsor of the Delicious Alchemy Banquet.

Guests were welcomed to Delicious Alchemy with a refreshing Tito’s Garden Daisy—the garden-to-glass cocktail created by mixologist and floral designer Hal Brock of TwoTwo Fresh, blending Tito’s Handmade Vodka, lemon juice, and a shrub of sage, rosemary, and dill grown at Hope Farms (see recipe below). Delicious Alchemy is mounted almost entirely with in-kind donations so 100% of its ticket sales go directly to the Foundation, representing 20% of its annual budget. For Gracie, that’s great news—the much-needed funds to keep Recipe for Success growing and thriving on behalf of a community in need. The not-so-great news: It seems Paris will have to wait yet again.

To join Tito’s in supporting the Recipe for Success Foundation, go to http://recipe4success.org/donate/

Tito’s Garden Daisy, created by Hal Brock

Serve on the rocks with a lemon wedge and, if desired, a sage garnish.

  • 1.5 oz Tito's Handmade Vodka
  • 1 oz herb shrub (see instructions below)
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice
To Make Shrub:
  1. Gather one pound of sage, rosemary and dill flowers. 

  2. Combine 4 cups of white sugar and 2 cups of water in a heavy saucepan, stir, and bring to a boil. Stir until dissolved, remove from heat. 

  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the herbs with 6 ounces of apple cider vinegar, stir well to coat herbs.

  4. Pour hot syrup over herbs and vinegar, stir mixture for 3 minutes. Strain back into pot through a fine sieve or cheesecloth, allow to completely cool. 

  5. For batches: Start with 12 ounces lemon juice, 24 ounces of Tito’s, and 16 ounces of the shrub. Dilute with several cups of ice, stir, and serve on the rocks.

This article is brought to you by Tito's Handmade Vodka

Hope Thrives in Houston’s Downtown Food Desert