In August you probably joined 499,000 of your fellow Houston foodies for Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) that ran through Labor Day. The opportunity to experience the specially priced Restaurants Weeks offerings for the 281 restaurants in town that participate is just too good to pass up. You most likely know the 34-day event that began in 2003 is great for foodies, great for the Houston hospitality industry that suffers in the dog days of late Houston summer and best of all, to date has raised over $13 million for the Houston Food Bank. What you probably don’t know is just one woman with no staff and no source of revenue from the event organizes, plans and ensures the success of it every year. Her name is Cleverley Stone and she singlehandedly organizes the event as a volunteer for 5 months a year. Also, unlike other big city restaurant week events, every penny from donations raised by HRW goes to the Houston Food Bank.
“It takes many hundreds of hours to produce and run the event and get the donations from hundreds of restaurants over to the food bank each year, but its so rewarding,” Cleverley says. “Houston Restaurant Weeks donations have enabled the Food Bank to increase their annual distribution of fresh produce to 42% of their total annual food distribution. This is the highest percentage of fresh produce distributed to those in need by any food bank in the nation.”
Cleverley was the original Houston foodie before being a foodie was cool. While today Houston enjoys it’s status as one of the greatest destinations for cuisine in the country thanks to our cultural melting pot of a population, access to exotic ingredients and price friendly dining scene, it wasn’t always this way.
“I started as a writer with a wedding column for the Houston Post in the early 1990s,” says Cleverley. “I got to know Houston’s caterers, chefs, restaurants and venues through my job. When the paper folded in 1995, I still had those contacts and was fortunate to pick up writing jobs from magazines and another newspaper in town so I could continue to write about Houston’s food scene. At that time our cuisine was not respected by the national media. National food writers only knew us for Tex-Mex and steak. It was such a shame because I knew how great our chefs were and I wanted to share their unique inventiveness. In addition to my other writing gigs, I also began a newsletter in 1997 to cover Houston’s food scene.”
Cleverley’s newsletter was such a hit (and still is), that in 2003 she started a food talk radio show with radio legend Mark Stevens called The Stevens & Cleverley Show. After Mark retired, she continued with The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show that runs Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM on 650 AM radio. It is the longest running food talk radio show in Texas. In addition to her food newsletter, radio show and running Houston Restaurant Weeks, you can also find Cleverley on TV having just celebrated her tenth anniversary as a contributor to Fox26 with her regular segment, Cooking with Cleverley.
“I just love the Houston food scene, I always have and I am passionate about feeding the hungry through the Houston Food Bank,” says Cleverley. “I volunteer and I encourage others to either commit to regularly donating or volunteering at the Food Bank. The need is so great and the satisfaction you get from having helped put food on someone’s table who would have otherwise gone without is indescribably good. The Food Bank makes it easy and fun to come and volunteer. Grab some girlfriends and make a regular girl’s date out of it! Kids (with an adult) can also come and volunteer!”
Cleverley’s annual event creates a massive contribution to the Houston Food Bank. It is the largest annual fundraiser benefiting the Food Bank, and it’s the largest annual fundraiser of its kind in the United States. Its impact cannot be overstated. As a volunteer, she brings in more donations than any other volunteer to the largest food bank in the nation. The donations from Houston Restaurant Weeks has enabled the Food Bank to generate over 39 million meals for Houstonians who need it.
The Houston Food Bank is America’s largest and is nationally recognized as ‘Food Bank of the Year’ by Feeding America. After Hurricane Harvey the Food Bank reportedly distributed 122 million meals through its network of 1,500 community partners, those include food pantries, soup kitchens, social service providers, and schools in southeast Texas.
Connect with Cleverley on Instagram and Twitter (@cleverleys) and join 22,000 of her Houston Foodie Friends members on Facebook to stay up to date about Houston’s food scene. Join the 55,000 friends who like Houston Restaurant Weeks on Facebook and sign up for her free newsletter at www.cleverley.com. Houston’s original foodie Cleverley Stone is the definitive voice for our city’s hungry, no matter where they are. #LGGApplauded