R.I.P. Cleverley Stone

Houston’s 'Diva of Dining,' Cleverley Stone, passes away at 68

Houston’s 'Diva of Dining,' Cleverley Stone, passes away at 68

Cleverley Stone Houston restaurant weeks
Cleverley Stone has died.  Courtesy of Houston Restaurant Weeks

An influential figure in the world of Houston restaurants has died. Radio host and personality Cleverley Stone passed away today following a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 68. 

Affectionately dubbed the “Diva of Dining,” Stone is best known as the founder of Houston Restaurant Weeks, the month-long fundraiser that has raised over $16.6 million for the Houston Food Bank since 2003. With over 250 participating restaurants, it grew to become the single largest fundraiser for any food bank in America.

After a career in the retail industry that saw her move from New York to Houston, Stone became the editor of the wedding section for the Houston Post. When the paper folded, she began faxing a newsletter of dining news to subscribers.

Ultimately, Stone parlayed that into “The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show,” a weekly talk radio program that she started in 2003. It aired every Saturday morning for 13 years on CBS 650 and counted numerous local and national food stars among its numerous guests (this writer once appeared on it with funk legend George Clinton].

Stone is survived by her daughter Katie, son-in law Joe, and grandson Luca. A celebration of Stone’s life is being planned when circumstances permit and will include lively toasts to the “Diva of Dining” by her many friends in the Houston restaurant scene. Donations in her memory can be made to the Houston Food Bank

CultureMap contacted a few of Stone’s friends in the food world to provide tributes to her. They appear below.

Jonathan Horowitz, founder Convive Hospitality Consulting

I believe that Cleverley had a tremendous impact on the restaurant industry in Houston as well as the overall community in Houston. By that I mean, the impact that she had as a journalist following the food scene from her radio show that helped promote the hospitality industry in Houston and of course her impact on the community as a whole through the Food Bank through the development and promotion of Restaurant Weeks growing that to be the largest food bank fundraiser in the country.

I think a person’s impact on the community can be judged by what people think and feel when they’re no longer there. I think we’re going to feel a hole in the restaurant community for awhile and maybe forever, because she’s no longer a part of it.

I think it’s sad for the entire Houston restaurant industry that she won’t be the one spearheading Restaurant Weeks.

Ben Berg, founder Berg Hospitality

Cleverley, after two weeks of me moving to Houston and becoming the GM at Smith & Wollensky, I took a phone call from her. She was looking for the money for Restaurant Weeks. We must have talked for 45 minutes [and immediately connected].

I think we had that Northeastern thing. She was always a great friend and someone you can talk to about anything — except changing Restaurant Weeks [laughs].

She’s always been a big supporter of mine. She’s been a supporter of chefs and restaurants.

David Cordua, chef and partner David + Michael Cordua Events

She was very kind to my family. One of the things I loved about Cleverley was how democratic she was in her approach to dining. She didn’t have an ounce of snobbery in her.

She would speak with as much excitement about fine dining as counter service. That was the most enjoyable thing about going on her show and talking to her, we could cover the entire spectrum.

During this time, it’s going to highlight her legacy and her contribution to the City of Houston with Restaurant Weeks and getting that started. . . It’s poignant with how much the city needs the Food Bank and what a persona she was for that organization. I think it’s what she was most proud of in her life and rightly so.

It not only was a huge contribution to the Food Bank, but [Restaurant Weeks] kept restaurants afloat in the third quarter at what [used to be] the worst month of the year. It had the same volume as some Decembers.

This happening highlights the legacy she’s going to leave behind. She was a big cheerleader for so many of us in the industry. I think she’ll be remembered in a really beautiful way.

Alex Brennan-Martin, proprietor Brennan’s of Houston

I was reflecting on the news when I heard it. You look back on the industry, I’ve been here more than 35 years now. Certainly, Cleverley is one the more larger-than-life food-related figures around town. She just had a larger than life presence. Good grief, what she’s done for the industry and the food bank has been remarkable for one person. Truly is a remarkable legacy.

I’m getting to the age, you look around and you say, I see a few of the kids coming up and I think many of them will do us all proud. But we sure have lost some major figures. Cleverley in her own unique way must be counted among that group.

It’s one of those deals, where, having appeared on her radio show with her a number of times, I kept asking myself a number of times, I volunteered for this [laughs]. She was a complete piece of work, and I say that in the kindest of ways. It’s a shame. It really is.

Arthur Mooradian, Landry’s Vice President of Operations

She truly put the Houston restaurant scene on the map and was that bridge between Houston and the culinary scene across the country in my opinion. She always considered herself the diva of all things food related.

I think her biggest impact was Houston Restaurant Weeks, by far. The fact that, gosh, it was so important to her not to collect a penny personally and every dollar raised had to go to the Food Bank. I remember having meetings for Houston Restaurant Weeks, she would talk about families not having food.

She never took credit for all her accomplishments. She raised $2 million every year. She was able to provide all these meals for families going hungry in the city.

She was a very private person. You really had to get to know Cleverley to get to know her. I think she was a very caring person, but always had this facade. She was always very tough and very protective but deep down she cared.

She was a good friend to me. She helped with the success of the restaurants I ran. Everyone knew Cleverley.