Named 2009’s Best Chef at the Houston Culinary Awards, Monica Pope is a 2007 James Beard Award Nominee for Best Chef: Southwest and the owner of t’afia and Beaver’s in Houston. The only Texas woman to ever be named a Top 10 Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine (1996), Pope first learned to cook from her Czech grandmother and went on to earn her Chef’s title from Prue Leith’s School of Food and Wine in London.
After working in Europe and San Francisco, Pope returned home to Houston to open her first restaurant, the critically-acclaimed Quilted Toque. Soon after opening her second Houston restaurant, Boulevard Bistrot, she garnered national praise from top critical publications including Travel & Leisure, which hailed her “one of the most ingenious restaurateurs around.”
“As a chef, I have spent the last eighteen years cooking in one place – Houston, Texas. My cooking style has developed organically from certain fundamental truths: first, what grows together goes together, and, second, that food simply tastes better when you eat where your food lives. For over eighteen years, I have supported local farmers, ranchers and food producers, and also helped found the Midtown Farmers Market; ultimately, the efforts of these local food producers form the heart and soul of my current restaurant, t’afia.”
t’afia has been featured in Gourmet, O: The Oprah Magazine, Bon Appetit and Fortune, and is home to the weekly Midtown Farmers Market. Chef Pope teaches a free cooking class at her Green Plum Cooking School which takes place during the Saturday morning Midtown Farmers Market.
Monica also teaches a monthly cooking class to MacGregor Elementary’s 4th graders as part of Recipe for Success Foundation’s Chefs in Schools™ program. Recipe for Success Foundation is a Houston non-profit dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. As the founding chair of the Chefs Advisory Board and current Board Member, Monica also regularly appears as an RFS media spokesperson and national advocate and was recently invited as part of an RFS delegation to the White House for the launch of Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools initiative.
Never one to say no to a nationally-broadcast challenge (in the late 90’s, Monica competed on the Food Network’s Ready, Set, Cook), Monica Pope appeared in Season 2 of Bravo TV’s competitive cooking hit, Top Chef Masters (which aired in April 2010). Her Quick Fire Grilled Cheese win on the show brought a $5,000 donation and much-deserved national attention to Recipe for Success Foundation.
Monica Pope recently published a digital cookbook, "Eat Where Your Food Lives" (available at www.ChefMonicaPope.com) and writes about cooking and eating where your food lives in her weekly blog at www.monicaSPEAK.com. She is also currently working on a cooking memoir entitled Eating Hope (and Other Things I’ve Had to Stomach), an insightful, poignant and humorous look at a woman’s place in the (restaurant) kitchen.