Rave 'n' Rant
Restaurants join forces to "Treat a Marine"
What do you get when you mix:
- Congressman Ted Poe
- The U.S. Marine Corps
- A man who loves Lady Cream peas
- And a dozen or so fine Houston restaurants?
An unusual combination, for sure. But that's how good ideas are sometimes created.
Poe’s office sent out a promotional mailer to his constituents. On the mailer were the faces of dead Marines from his district, all fallen in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Bobby Hopper, the pea-loving man, got one.
“I looked at those faces of Marines and got choked up,” says Hopper, who delivers farm-fresh produce (including plenty of Lady Creams) to a select group of Houston restaurants. Holding the card with the dead soldiers on it, Hopper continues, “These Marines put it on the line for us and lost their lives. I can’t do anything for them, but I wanted to figure out a way to do something for the ones who are shipping out or have just returned from combat.”
And he had a vested interest. His beloved 18-year-old grandson Bobby Carlile had just signed up. Awaiting the day he shipped out for basic training, Carlile helped Hopper on his route.
As he made his rounds delivering produce, Hopper often talked with chefs and restaurant owners. One day, while delivering to Ibiza, Hopper mentioned to chef/owner Charles Clark that his grandson had just signed up with the Marines. Clark spontaneously invited Carlile and a date in for dinner on the house, after basic training and before he shipped out.
Something clicked in Hopper’s brain—and "Treat a Marine" was conceived.
“These kids are putting their line on the line. A lot of these guys and girls are young. It’s all about food for them. Food. Food. Food. And a lot of them have never had a fine dining experience, so I figured let's give them one—a memory of one of the finer things in life before they ship out and possibly wind up on a card like this one,” Hopper says, as he hands me the card of faces. “This is not about politics. It’s about the kids, who love their country, who are giving up everything, leaving home. And possibly making the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.”
Hopper, who has the gift of the gab, started talking up his fledgling project with other chefs, and before he knew, he had a dozen or so restaurants lined up to offer a complimentary meal to a Marine and his or her date—mother or father, wife or husband, girlfriend or boyfriend.
“The chefs jumped on board. I am stunned by their generosity. There was no hesitation whatsoever,” says Hopper. “Heck, Brennan’s wasn’t even open when I talked with Carl Walker. Turns out he is an ex-Marine. And The Glass Wall signed up right away.”
Some restaurants offered more than one meal. Vic & Anthony’s committed to four. When Clark heard that, he anteed up to doing eight couples.
“It is the least I could do for these boys before they ship out and go into harm’s way,” says Clark. “These guys are brave. They can get anything they want off or on the menu.”
Clark wants to throw in a bottle of the best champagne; Hoppers says no go. “The boys will be in uniform, they got to drive home and a lot of them are underage.”
Hopper has hopes the project will take off and spread to other cities. His produce business is slow right now, so he has the time to get the project off the ground. But he worries about time commitments once the growing season kicks in. He’s looking for organizational help and for worthy Marines to treat. Interested? Contact Hopper at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, "Treat a Marine" in Houston has officially begun. Fresh from basic training, Pvt. Robert A. Carlile, USMC, and girlfriend Jessica Garrison dined at Ibiza. More are scheduled to follow at participating restaurants.
When you are dining around town, look around, if you see a Marine and date enjoying a meal, you might want to thank the chef for his generosity—and the Marines for their service.
At press time, participating "Treat a Marine" restaurants included: Benjy’s-Rice Village, Benjy's-Washington, Brennan’s, Brenner’s on the Bayou, Cafe Rabelais, Catalan, The Glass Wall, Haven, Ibiza, Mark’s American Cuisine, Reef, Shade and Vic & Anthony’s.