Chorizo stuffed dates, wrapped in bacon, and topped with a Chiquimula spice blend.
Monica Pope on the right, speaking to a bee keeper at a Houston Farmer's Market
Or maybe flattened chicken, fried to perfection, topped with lemon butter sauce, and accompanied by chimichurri, picked onions, and what taste like Grandma’s mashed potatoes.
Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is just thinking of the delicious moments I shared with Monica Pope, the incredible distinguished chef and Goucher alumna, class of 1985. I had the pleasure of meeting Monica through my first externship in Houston, TX.
Even before attending Goucher to study English Literature, Monica knew she wanted to cook. After graduation, she traveled Europe for three years where she picked up new culinary skills and experiences. Her personality is expressed in her food. It’s everything you want in a meal: fresh, clean flavors in local food. After Goucher, Monica planted her roots in her hometown of Houston and has perfected her culinary ideology ever since. She balances a bountiful life with 2 award winning restaurants, a daughter of nine and a half years old, and a beautiful fiance who doubles as her business associate.
Monica’s food ideology is simple: what grows together goes together. This local focus may seem commonplace today but it wasn’t 25 years ago when her food career started. Monica claimed she wanted to “change food in Houston” but she didn’t know what that meant until much later. She and a couple food enthusiasts worked to create farmers markets. In fact, one of the farmers markets was held in her restaurant because vendors couldn’t obtain permits elsewhere (mostly because permits for farmer’s markets didn’t even exist)! As we know, buying local produce has become very posh so it’s no surprise that Houston now has farmer’s markets every day of the week (except Monday) where local vendors can sell food products.
Fresh Fish, ready to prep for the dinner service!
To be honest, I didn’t get too many details about Monica’s experience at Goucher. I didn’t have to. I felt a connection with her immediately. She’s certainly a Goucher woman. Her sense of social responsibility is consistent with all Goucher students. As a young Goucher graduate, she knew she wanted to change her community for the better, and 25 years later she’s done just that. As a recent graduate myself, I feel that same excitement and motivation in my classmates. We know we want to do something big, but not exactly sure where we will plant our roots. Monica’s focus on food, family, and community is inspirational. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty, dig deep, and change the world too.
Thank you Monica. It was truly my pleasure. You’ve worked incredibly hard to establish yourself in your community and have changed Houston food culture forever. I’m inspired to persevere even if I don’t know exactly what I want to do, or the challenges I will face. I no longer feel overwhelmed. My dreams seem closer than they ever have, so close I can practically taste it.
Until our next meal,