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Jonathan Perlman, founder of Tradition Senior Living in Houston & Dallas, TX.

A chess player as a child, Katie says that her background in chess has been helpful.

“Chess provided the perfect training ground for me to be able to see the entire board, so to speak, to understand and honor my mother’s mission while making plans for its continued impact and expansion here in Houston.”

Katie Stone

 

Just as the iconic Houston Restaurant Weeks (the largest fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank) was gearing up this year, the beloved founder and volunteer chair of the event, Cleverley Stone, passed away at 68. With no real time to grieve, her daughter, Katie Stone, made the decision to step in and fill her mother’s shoes, producing an enormously successful event during one of the most challenging times possible—COVID-19.

Katie was no stranger to the event’s production, and is, in her own right, enormously talented. “In the beginning, when my mother founded the Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) in 2003, I worked with her,” said Katie, who helped create the highly popular Facebook pages for The Cleverley Show and Houston Restaurant Weeks. For several years, she was executive producer for her mother’s radio show on CBS, and many of those shows featured HRW. Katie has also been a volunteer by her mother’s side every year for the event.

Her mother, affectionately called the “The Diva of Dining,” was beloved in Houston and had a massive following. “Chefs not only loved her, but also people who dined out,” said Katie, adding that Houston is one of the most dined-out cities in America. “Her career included a radio show (three hours a week for 13 years, the longest-running in Houston’s history!), a Facebook page with 30,000 members and over 200,000 followers across all social media.  She was a regular contributor on FOX26 TV for over 13 years and an editor for the Houston Post,” she said.

Cleverley Stone founded HRW in 2003 not only as a fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank (the largest food bank in the United States), but also as a boost to the restaurant business during their slowest month of the year—August. That month subsequently became their best season ever.

This year, however, brought the Covid factor. “During Covid, there were so many variables changing for everyone,” said Katie. “We all realized very quickly we needed to adjust.” As per years past, approximately 250 participating restaurants each needed to create their three-course meals with three options. “None of this planning had been accomplished during Covid, and there were a lot of restaurant owners not knowing if they would even be open.”

Katie was strategic. “We reduced the price of the donation—from $3, $5, $7 per meal (according to the option ordered) down to $1 per meal across the board. We did this to help the restaurants,” said Katie, who explained that $1 can effectively purchase three meals for the Houston Food Bank. “Also, for the first time ever, we provided a ‘To Go’ option. Many were fine dining restaurants who weren’t used to offering this, but HRW ‘To Go’ was a game changer. It was huge,” she said, adding that the “To Go” orders more than doubled sales in a given day for some restaurants.

“HRW also came at an ideal time this year, because the restaurateurs were running out of stimulus money,” said Katie. “The event was keeping the restaurants afloat. It was a light switch. August 1st fell on a Saturday, and they said that HRW was like Christmas!”

Just as the iconic Houston Restaurant Weeks (the largest fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank) was gearing up this year, the beloved founder and volunteer chair of the event, Cleverley Stone, passed away at 68. With no real time to grieve, her daughter, Katie Stone, made the decision to step in and fill her mother’s shoes, producing an enormously successful event during one of the most challenging times possible—COVID-19.

Katie was no stranger to the event’s production, and is, in her own right, enormously talented. “In the beginning, when my mother founded the Houston Restaurant Weeks (HRW) in 2003, I worked with her,” said Katie, who helped create the highly popular Facebook pages for The Cleverley Show and Houston Restaurant Weeks. For several years, she was executive producer for her mother’s radio show on CBS, and many of those shows featured HRW. Katie has also been a volunteer by her mother’s side every year for the event.

Her mother, affectionately called the “The Diva of Dining,” was beloved in Houston and had a massive following. “Chefs not only loved her, but also people who dined out,” said Katie, adding that Houston is one of the most dined-out cities in America. “Her career included a radio show (three hours a week for 13 years, the longest-running in Houston’s history!), a Facebook page with 30,000 members and over 200,000 followers across all social media.  She was a regular contributor on FOX26 TV for over 13 years and an editor for the Houston Post,” she said.

A chess player as a child, Katie says that her background in chess has been helpful.

“Chess provided the perfect training ground for me to be able to see the entire board, so to speak, to understand and honor my mother’s mission while making plans for its continued impact and expansion here in Houston.”

Katie Stone

Cleverley Stone founded HRW in 2003 not only as a fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank (the largest food bank in the United States), but also as a boost to the restaurant business during their slowest month of the year—August. That month subsequently became their best season ever.

This year, however, brought the Covid factor. “During Covid, there were so many variables changing for everyone,” said Katie. “We all realized very quickly we needed to adjust.” As per years past, approximately 250 participating restaurants each needed to create their three-course meals with three options. “None of this planning had been accomplished during Covid, and there were a lot of restaurant owners not knowing if they would even be open.”

Katie was strategic. “We reduced the price of the donation—from $3, $5, $7 per meal (according to the option ordered) down to $1 per meal across the board. We did this to help the restaurants,” said Katie, who explained that $1 can effectively purchase three meals for the Houston Food Bank. “Also, for the first time ever, we provided a ‘To Go’ option. Many were fine dining restaurants who weren’t used to offering this, but HRW ‘To Go’ was a game changer. It was huge,” she said, adding that the “To Go” orders more than doubled sales in a given day for some restaurants.

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All throughout HRW, Katie appeared on Fox TV (26) live segments at many of the restaurants in the mornings, just as her mother had in years past. “This enabled me to meet the chefs and see the restaurants,” she said. “Overall, it was a hard summer for me because of my mother’s passing. That also hit all the wonderful volunteers very hard. But that work was what got me through it.”

Katie has been splitting time between New Jersey, where her husband Joe Cappuccio and their five-year-old son live, and Houston. “Going forward, we will probably be relocating to Houston,” she said. And there is a big reason. Katie is now president of the Cleverley Stone Foundation and will continue running HRW, with plans for expansion.

In looking back, what kept her mother going year after year for this event? “Around 2011, HRW took off. She and I would be at a restaurant and a server would come up and tell us, ‘A few years ago I would be out of a job in August right when I had to send my child daughter to school. Because of HRW I’m working and can buy her new shoes!’ The valet would come up with a similar story,” said Katie, adding that this would happen over and over and is what drove her mother.

“My mother was passionate about helping people,” said Katie, whose warmth and energy remind so many of Cleverley Stone. “Businesses are open because of something she created. I saw how important her work is and how many people we can impact—that’s what’s driving me.”

Let us be thankful for this woman who so willingly has stepped into her mother’s shoes.

For more information, see houstonrestaurantweeks.com.

“HRW also came at an ideal time this year, because the restaurateurs were running out of stimulus money,” said Katie. “The event was keeping the restaurants afloat. It was a light switch. August 1st fell on a Saturday, and they said that HRW was like Christmas!”

All throughout HRW, Katie appeared on Fox TV (26) live segments at many of the restaurants in the mornings, just as her mother had in years past. “This enabled me to meet the chefs and see the restaurants,” she said. “Overall, it was a hard summer for me because of my mother’s passing. That also hit all the wonderful volunteers very hard. But that work was what got me through it.”

Katie has been splitting time between New Jersey, where her husband Joe Cappuccio and their five-year-old son live, and Houston. “Going forward, we will probably be relocating to Houston,” she said. And there is a big reason. Katie is now president of the Cleverley Stone Foundation and will continue running HRW, with plans for expansion.

TLL_web_ad (1)

In looking back, what kept her mother going year after year for this event? “Around 2011, HRW took off. She and I would be at a restaurant and a server would come up and tell us, ‘A few years ago I would be out of a job in August right when I had to send my child daughter to school. Because of HRW I’m working and can buy her new shoes!’ The valet would come up with a similar story,” said Katie, adding that this would happen over and over and is what drove her mother.

“My mother was passionate about helping people,” said Katie, whose warmth and energy remind so many of Cleverley Stone. “Businesses are open because of something she created. I saw how important her work is and how many people we can impact—that’s what’s driving me.”

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us be thankful for this woman who so willingly has stepped into her mother’s shoes.

For more information, see houstonrestaurantweeks.com

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– Sonja Gee 

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