Community Effort

Local Chef Wins Award for Remarkable Efforts During COVID-19

Chef Chris Williams of Lucille’s, was honored for his community efforts during the pandemic.

By Sofia Gonzalez Edited by Shelby Stewart September 16, 2021

Chef Chris Williams of Lucille's and Lucille's 1913, receives Bon Appetit's "Heads of the Table" Award.

Houston restauranTLucille’s, and its nonprofit, Lucille’s 1913, was most recently honored with Bon Appétit’s “Heads of the Table” award. The award is granted to those within the restaurant industry who took initiative during COVID-19 by helping their community. 

Lucille’s, known for serving Southern-style cuisine, uses influences from across the globe to curate its menu. However, the recognition is a salute to both its appetizing selects and its charitable efforts aiding the Greater Houston area.

The pandemic proved to be an uphill battle for restaurant owners, and Williams was no exception. According to his interview with Bon Appétit, the chef revealed that he furloughed a small percentage of his team when the pandemic hit. Although, it was during this time that he decided to use the Southern kitchen to give back to the city , by launching the restaurant's sister organization, Lucille’s 1913. The nonprofit started with a mission to build “a vertically integrated ecosystem that will combat food insecurity and waste, create training and employment opportunities in traditionally under-resourced neighborhoods, and empower communities to discover a self-sustainable livelihood through food," the website reads. 

Shortly after its launch, Williams and his staff began to feed first responders in their neighborhood using profits from the restaurant. His altruistic efforts caught the attention of Chef José Andrés, who founded the nonprofit, World Central Kitchen. With the help of WCK, Lucille’s 1913 was funded for two weeks before it was able to stand on its own.

Lucille's 1913 meal distribution. 

Since establishing the non-profit, Lucille’s 1913 has managed to distribute over 300,000 meals to food insecure and under-resourced communities. In addition to mainstream efforts, the restaurant launched a fermentation lab to help combat food waste, all while employing refugees and teaching them culinary skills. 

Not only did William’s efforts help the community, but also provided a means to aid out-of-work bartenders through his Bar Pop-Up Program. Through the initiative, local bars and bartenders utilized Lucille’s patio space to set up shop, to create their own cocktail menus and signature drinks. The owner let participants take home 100 percent of profits made from their work, which put more than $50,000 into the pockets off local bartenders.

Still expanding the Lucille’s imprint, Williams created Lucille’s Hospitality Group in February 2021. The group is home to its mainstay restaurant, and will soon debut its second concept, Late August, alongside Top Chef Finalist Dawn Burrell.  

In celebration of the esteemed honor, Williams’ shared an exclusive recipe that serves as a tribute to the restaurant's moniker and great-grandmother, Lucille B. Smith. Now fans can get a taste of the highly requested Berbere-Spiced Roast Chicken and Vegetables at home. 

To view the full interview, visit Bon Appetit’s website.

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