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Pope, Monica
Pope transcript, 2 of 6
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UH - Houston History Project. Pope, Monica - Pope transcript, 2 of 6. November 4, 2010. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. September 22, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/1225/show/1220.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

UH - Houston History Project. (November 4, 2010). Pope, Monica - Pope transcript, 2 of 6. Oral Histories from the Houston History Project. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/1225/show/1220

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

UH - Houston History Project, Pope, Monica - Pope transcript, 2 of 6, November 4, 2010, Oral Histories from the Houston History Project, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed September 22, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory/item/1225/show/1220.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Pope, Monica
Creator (LCNAF)
  • UH - Houston History Project
Interviewer (LCNAF)
  • Campbell, Matthew
Date November 2, 2010 - November 4, 2010
Description Monica Pope was interviewed to gain knowledge of the farmers markets of Houston. She talked about her involvement with the Midtown Farmers Market and food sustainability. Issues facing participants and restaurateurs are discussed. She also raises her own concerns with the future of community and food. This interview supplements another interview with Monica Pope conducted on November 4, 2010, by Amy Breimaier. She was interviewed on November 2, 2010 at T’afia, 3701 Travis Street, Houston, TX 77002. The interview was conducted by Matthew Campbell on behalf of the Oral History of Houston Project, Center for Public History, University of Houston. The interview is available at the M.D. Anderson Library on the main campus of the university.
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Culture
Subject.Name (LCNAF)
  • Pope, Monica
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston,Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • interviews
Language English
Format (IMT)
  • audio/mp3
  • application/pdf
Original Item Location ID 2006-005, Box 12, HHA 00717
Original Collection Oral Histories - Houston History Project
Original Collection URL http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=231
Digital Collection Oral Histories from the Houston History Project
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/houhistory
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the "About" page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pope transcript, 2 of 6
Date November 4, 2010
Original Collection Oral Histories – Houston History Project http://archon.lib.uh.edu/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=231
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the "About" page of this website.
File name hhaoh_201207_337d.pdf
Transcript HHA# 00717 Page 1 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 1 Houston History Archives Amy Breimaier Interview Review Interview with Monica Pope Chef Monica Pope was born in Germany in 1962. Shortly after her younger brother was born, her family returned to Houston, Texas, where she grew up. By the time she was 17, Pope decided to become a chef and desired to change the way Houston ate and thought about food. She attended college in Baltimore, Maryland and during the summer of her Freshman year Pope applied for a job at Café Annie, one of the leading restaurants in Houston. After college, Pope worked in Baltimore earning money to travel across Europe, which she did the following year. While in Europe for three years, she worked at different restaurants and attended the Prue Leiths School of Food and Wine in London. In the early 1990s as the economic recession ended, Pope returned to Houston to start her first restaurant, Quilted Toque. By 1996, Pope had received acclaim from the culinary world, including recognition by the Food and Wine magazine. Since then, she has been a James Beard award nominee and has appeared on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Masters. Pope is currently the owner of t’afia and manages the Midtown Farmers Market, along with being an active member of Recipe for Success, a program dedicated to teaching children healthy eating habits. Pope is significant as one of Houston’s most highly recognized and awarded female chefs. She is the acknowledged leader of the eat local movement in Houston, which has changed the way many chefs and consumers view food. The eat local movement urges people to eat seasonally appropriate local food. Part of the movement’s goal is the creation of farmers markets. Pope helped found one of Houston’s first farmers markets, the Midtown Farmers Market at her restaurant t’afia. Aside from her work at her restaurant and the Midtown Farmers Market, Pope is also active within the city of Houston, visiting schools through the Recipe for Success program HHA# 00717 Page 2 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 2 Houston History Archives and holding weekly cooking classes at her restaurant. Both these programs work to educate Houstonians about their food and easy, simple cooking at home. These programs also challenge Houstonians to think critically about the food they eat. This interview is part of a collaborative project between Matt Campbell and me. In preparing for our two interviews, we divided the project between Pope’s involvement with the eat local movement and the Midtown Farmers Market, and her personal history, influences/inspirations, and future aspirations, with particular emphasis on her career. My interview with Pope focused on the latter. To prepare for the interview I read through Pope’s numerous websites, related to her restaurant, the farmers market, her weekly cooking classes, her awards, and her personal blog. Each of these sites offered insight into the different aspects of Pope’s career that were most important to her. I also found some interviews that were conducted with her on youtube.com, which allowed me to see what type of interviewee she would be. Memoirs of female chefs and books about women and the culinary world were also insightful, as they helped to frame my interview questions. I was particularly concerned about the responses I might receive to my questions because Pope has been interviewed so often and because she is currently working on her memoir. However, I believe the interview went well and Pope provided detailed and passionate answers to the questions I asked. Prior to the interview, I had very little contact with Pope. Matt and I worked with her assistant to set up a date, location, and time for the interview, all of which had to fit within Pope’s busy schedule. This caused some problems for Matt and I in our pre-interview planning, since I was originally supposed to interview Pope first and Matt’s questions would have been developed based upon what Pope and I did not discuss. Instead, Matt interviewed her first and worked hard to avoid any topics that I was to cover. Together, we were roughly able to avoid HHA# 00717 Page 3 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 3 Houston History Archives each other’s topics while still producing coherent interviews. We conducted the interviews at Pope’s restaurant, t’afia, on November 2 and 4, 2010. I interviewed Pope between the lunch and dinner rush at her restaurant, so there were no other patrons there, but the clinking and banging of pots and pans from the kitchen can clearly be heard in the background throughout the recording. The digital recorder also wobbled on the table during the interview, which I did not realize until afterward, and produced a springing sound all through the interview. Holding the interview at Pope’s restaurant also led to continuous interruptions during the interview as people asked her questions or called her to place food orders. At one point, she walked away for over six minutes to help her kitchen staff decide how to cook a rack of lamb. These interruptions disturbed the flow of the interview. During the interview, Pope appeared to be open, yet busy. She candidly answered many of my questions and had no problem expressing her frustration at the gender discrimination and double standard she has faced, and continues to face, as a female chef. In one revealing moment, she recalled how when she had been recognized by Food and Wine magazine for her work, very few people in Houston acknowledged her, yet when a male chef was more recently recognized, the city and locally based corporations showered him with praise. Pope also displayed great passion when discussing her daughter and her hopes for societal change, particularly her concerns about childhood obesity. She returned to these topics often throughout the interview as she discussed what motivated and inspired her work. The actual interview followed my original question outline very closely. Pope answered each of my questions directly or through answering other questions. She tended to rush quickly through my earlier questions about her childhood and her life in Europe, but dwelled on her upcoming projects at her restaurant and her concern for Houston’s children. This is not to say HHA# 00717 Page 4 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 4 Houston History Archives that her responses to the first couple of questions are not valuable, since they explain her early connections to food and the culinary experiences that shaped who she is today as a chef. The issue of memory played only a minor role in this interview, as Pope emphasized her current and future work and concerns. Her past was important for helping to shape her, but for Pope, the present and future are the most important. Her work with fourth graders enforces these immediate concerns, as she believes there is only a small period in which parents, educators, and activists can shape children’s dietary interests and culinary futures. Although I conducted another oral history interview before this one, I felt less confident during this interview. I had less time to prepare for this interview and was unfamiliar with the digital recorder I planned to use. When I first arrived to do the interview, I found myself locked out of the restaurant and had no way to contact Pope except email, which I did not have access too. Once inside the restaurant, Pope picked a very small table for us to share during the interview, which was next to the kitchen, thus background noises were more pronounced. The frequent interruptions during the interview also disrupted its flow and cut many of Pope’s answers short. Overall, I wish I had been better prepared for the interview and that fewer interruptions occurred, though that is out of the interviewers’ control. I did not transcribe this interview due to time and class limitations, yet even without a transcript, I believe it offers valuable insight to researchers. Throughout the interview, Pope relied heavily upon crutch words, especially “you know,” which could be distracting at times. She also tended to start and stop incomplete sentences frequently and many sentences consisted of multiple false starts. When people at the restaurant or on the phone distracted her, Pope would end sentences mid-thought, which she rarely continued once she returned to the interview. All of these points would have presented difficulties to transcribing the interview while still preserving HHA# 00717 Page 5 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 5 Houston History Archives Pope’s voice in the transcript. Thus, by listening to the interview, I believe researchers get a better sense of Pope’s personality and the emotion and passion behind her words that otherwise would not have been as easily expressed in writing. In the interview, Pope discussed many different topics. One of the early interesting topics was her decision to become a chef. As mentioned previously, before Pope even graduated from high school, she knew she wanted to become a chef that would change Houston’s culinary scene. Interestingly, she did not connect this realization at such a young age with any particular event or moment in her childhood, or any specific relationship with food. She even noted that she herself did not know originally how she planned to change Houstonians relationship with their food, that realization would come slowly during her time in Europe and when she returned to Houston. Another important topic discussed in the interview was Pope’s experience in Europe. Like many chefs, Pope traveled to Europe early in her career in the hopes of gaining invaluable experience from anyone she could work with. In Europe, she traveled often and was greatly influenced by her time in Greece, which she described in detail early in the interview. The interview quickly moved to the topic of Pope as a head chef and restaurateur, which dominated much of the rest of the interview. She described the difficulties she faced running her first restaurant and the even greater difficulty involved in operating two restaurants at the same time, which she did for a month in the early 1990s and does now again. It was in this section that the theme of gender first appeared in the interview. Pope discussed the extra difficulties she may have faced as a head chef and restaurateur because she was female, along with the legal struggles she encountered with her financier, who doubted her ability to run two restaurants successfully. The next topic discussed Pope’s many awards and recognitions, which she framed within the gendered language and experience of the culinary world. As mentioned earlier, she expressed HHA# 00717 Page 6 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 6 Houston History Archives mild bitterness over the lack of recognition she first received from her fellow Houstonians for her achievements, especially compared to the praise they bestowed upon male chefs. At the same time, she noted that awards and recognition could be highly arbitrary. She argued that many female chefs are just as good as her, yet they lack the same formal recognition, and that at times she felt the awards were given to women as a token prize. With this said, she also acknowledged that her career has greatly been enhanced and furthered due to her public recognition, especially her spot on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Masters, which helped give her restaurant some extra economic stability and interning staff as people across the country learned about her. Given the experience Pope has had as a women chef, which she described in detail, I inquired as to whether or not she worked hard to mentor aspiring female chefs in her kitchen. Her response was very interesting and somewhat surprising I felt. While she does have female kitchen staff, overall, she does not single them out for special treatment, but tries to help all of her staff equally, especially those who work well under her management style. Unfortunately, she never described in detail her managing style, aside that she has had great difficulty working with both men and women, but particularly women, and most of her staff consists of people who have been with her for years. The second half of the interview focused on Pope’s culinary activism and the motivation behind it. In particular, she discussed the Recipe for Success program and her plans for the development of the second floor of her restaurant, where she has her Green Plum Kitchen, the location of her weekly free cooking classes and demonstrations. Through these programs, Pope hopes to reawaken Houstonians passion for cooking, emphasizing simple meals and ingredients that bring families together around a healthy table. Although Pope is passionate about eating healthy and locally, during the interview she recognized the importance of Texas’s culinary HHA# 00717 Page 7 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 7 Houston History Archives heritage, in particular, barbeque and the significance it has in shaping Texas identity. Though she challenges people to eat better, Pope does not deny them their occasional indulgences. She acknowledges that all types of restaurants and cooking styles have their place and that people truly need to be educated on what each group provides nutritionally. Finally, the interview ended, quite appropriately, with a discussion of Pope’s greatest inspiration behind much of her work, her daughter. Currently eight years old, Pope’s daughter shapes how she now approaches food and cooking. Through daily interactions with her daughter, Pope is inspired by people’s ability, even at a young age, to grasp the concepts she is preaching. While her daughter may not completely understand the concept of brunch, or even slow cooking, she knows it is important to people’s lives. Her daughter’s finicky tastes, typical for an eight year old, also inspire Pope to develop new recipes that are simple, healthy, and kid friendly, which she teaches in her cooking classes. Family, community, and healthy living underlie Pope’s career and activism. Although not transcribed, this interview has value for future researchers. It can be used to inform a number of discussions and topics related to Houston’s current culinary scene, women’s experiences in the culinary world, and how chefs interact with their communities in thoughtful and productive ways. Aside from lacking a transcript, this interviews greatest weakness is that it does not probe deeply into Pope’s early career or look at the possible differences in her outlook before and after her daughter was born, since her daughter figures so prominently in her life. This interview also does not look at how Pope interacts with her fellow chefs in Houston and her thoughts on what they are doing. It will be interesting to see how this interview, along with Matt’s, compares to Pope’s memoir once published.HHA# 00717 Page 8 of 8 Interviewee: Pope, Monica Interview Date: November 4, 2010 University of Houston 8 Houston History Archives As a leading figure in Houston’s culinary world, Monica Pope’s perspective offers depth and insight to the Culinary Crossroads Project at the University of Houston. Although she has worked across Europe and in San Francisco, California, Pope has remained passionate about Houston and its people. This interview addressed concepts of gender and family in the culinary world and offers insight into one woman’s activism. Overall, I believe this interview was successful in furthering our understanding of Houston’s culinary world and offers great potential to prospective researchers.