Last year, when then Presidential contender Joe Biden came to Houston to pay respects to the family of George Floyd — whose death at the hands of police sparked a national social justice movement — they shared a meal at the beloved restaurant Lucille’s.
Founded in 2012 by chef Chris Williams with his brother Ben Williams and named for their great-grandmother Lucille B. Smith, who was a pioneering African American entrepreneur, educator and chef, Lucille’s is known for refined Southern cuisine, but also for its cultural backstory.
Smith had owned the businesses Smith’s BBQ and Lucille’s Fine Foods General Store in Forth Worth. She was a home economist who created one of the first college-level commercial food and technology departments at Prairie View A&M University. She published recipes and created a biscuit mix sold in grocery stores. She cooked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her chili biscuits were served on American Airlines flights.
Williams also created the nonprofit Lucille’s 1913, which has carried on Smith’s mission through the COVID crisis by serving more than 150,000 meals to vulnerable communities.
Now Williams is ready for a next step: The chef and restaurateur has launched Lucille’s Hospitality Group, which plans to launch four new concepts by 2022.
The group has brought in James Beard Award semifinalist Dawn Burrell — known for her work at the Texas restaurants Kulture and Uchi, and soon to appear on a season of “Top Chef” — who will develop a new Afro-Asian concept scheduled to open in Houston in August. Lucille’s chef de cuisine Khang Hoang is also a partner.
And Williams has big plans to expand the Lucille’s 1913 nonprofit, to build it into a “conscious collective” that is looking to buy land to plant community gardens to bring fresh produce to food deserts, as well as building an ecosystem to provide jobs, foodservice training and more — and food waste from the restaurants will be turned into compost to nurture those gardens.
More information about Lucille’s 1913 can be found here, or make a donation.
Here’s Chris Williams with more on the new concepts to come.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]
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