When Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, the Midtown restaurant owned by Top Chef Masters veteran Monica Pope, recently announced that it had instituted a $45 prix fixe menu in August to help raise money for the Houston Food Bank, it raised an obvious question. Why would any Houston restaurant raise money for the Food Bank in August outside of the structure of Houston Restaurant Weeks?
The answer came Saturday morning on the Cleverley Show from Houston Food Bank chief development officer Amy Ragan, who told host Cleverley Stone that Sparrow never made a donation from the money it collected when it participated in HRW in 2013. Ragan added that Sparrow has violated Food Bank guidelines both by using the charity's name without permission and by failing to disclose how much of the $45 will be donated (HRW requires participants to donate $7 from every $45 menu).
Ragan said that when she called the restaurant on Friday, they offered a simple explanation for their new fundraiser.
"When I contacted Sparrow they let me know that they were wanting to raise funds because they wanted to put those dollars towards a pledge that they had made to us in 2013," she said. "I asked them to remove us, and they said 'thank you' and hung up."
Currently, the Food Bank has asked Sparrow to remove its Twitter and Facebook posts that reference the charity.
"I think first and foremost they would need to make their payments that they owe us from 2013. Once they made that payment, we could sit down and see if there’s a way to work something out," Ragan said.
Stone added that if Sparrow made good on its 2013 pledge of an undisclosed amount that she would happily welcome them back into HRW.
Sparrow chief operating officer Marc Borel tells CultureMap that only Pope could comment on the circumstances surrounding Sparrow's missing donation from 2013, but the chef is currently on vacation.
As the word spread Saturday night that the Food Bank had asked Sparrow to stop using its name to raise money, the restaurant tweeted "We just wanted to do the right thing, and make them some $ at the same time. New charity will be announced Tues PM."
Of course, that doesn't address the issue of the missing money from 2013. Hopefully, Sparrow honors its commitment to whichever charity it selects in a more timely fashion that what it's shown so far.