Houston’s Diva of Dining, Cleverley Stone Passes Away
Houston Restaurant Weeks founder raised millions for hunger relief
Philanthropist and media personality, Cleverley Stone has passed away following her battle with cancer. She was 68 years old.
Affectionately called the “The Diva of Dining,” Stone made it her life’s mission to beat hunger in Houston. “Dine Out & Do Good” was Stone’s mantra, and her tireless efforts spurred an annual citywide boom in restaurant revenues and contributions to the Houston Food Bank.
Stone was founder, chair and steadfast volunteer of Houston Restaurant Weeks, founded in 2003 and the city’s largest annual fundraiser of its kind. The fundraiser has raised over $16.6 million for the Houston Food Bank, enabling the distribution of more than 44 million meals for food insecure Houstonians.
In addition to the ever-expanding contribution made to the Houston Food Bank, Houston Restaurant Weeks has grown to include more than 250 restaurants in Uptown Galleria, bustling downtown and vibrant Montrose and Midtown, as well as popular eateries in outlying communities such as The Woodlands, Sugar Land and Galveston, among others. The Houston Food Bank partners with the Montgomery County Food Bank and the Galveston County Food Bank, and all donations from restaurants operating in those counties go to their respective food banks.
The economic effect of Houston Restaurant Weeks translates into millions of dollars into the local economy. August, historically the worst month for the restaurant industry, became over time the most profitable month of the year, not only for the restaurants, but for all of the food suppliers, vendors and businesses that service the industry.
Stone was born in New York City, grew up in New Jersey, and attended the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. An avid traveler since childhood, she hiked the Jungfraujoch in Switzerland and learned the fine elements of high tea and how to ride a two-wheeler around the triple smokestacks of the RMS Queen Mary ocean liner during one of many transatlantic voyages with family.
Her early career began in New York City at the dynamic Midtown Manhattan flagship of prestigious B. Altman and Company luxury department store. There, Stone served as bridal director and head buyer of fine china, crystal and silver for 13 stores across the East Coast. Stone’s move to Houston in 1989 brought her to the dynamic Foley’s department stores, which had recently been acquired by publicly traded May Department Stores Company, where she served as corporate bridal director managing the bridal registry for the chain’s 40+ stores in the southwest. During that time, Stone also wrote a weekly Sunday newspaper column in the Houston Post, eventually becoming the editor of the paper’s wedding section.
After the Houston Post ceased publication in 1995, Stone started a newsletter about Houston’s emerging dining scene and faxed it to friends and connections in the restaurant industry. With the arrival of email, the newsletter became even more popular and evolved into Stone’s lively three-hour weekly radio talk show, “The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show,” which first aired in 2003 and led to Stone’s move into regular television segments for many years.
“The Cleverley Food Talk Radio Show” aired live on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon on CBS Houston radio as a freewheeling talk show about food, wine, dining and issues affecting the food scene at national and local levels. Famous celebrity chefs made guest appearances alongside up-and-coming local chefs and restaurateurs. The radio show was considered a must-listen by Houston’s foodies and was the longest running program on CBS 650, celebrating its 13th anniversary on the station in 2020.
Over the years, Stone contributed to many television programs on multiple Houston stations, including regular weekly appearances on “Great Day Houston” on KHOU/CBS for two years and three seasons on the Emmy award-winning “The After Party” with Ernie Manouse on KUHT/PBS.
Since February 2008, Cleverley was a regular contributor on Houston’s Fox 26 Morning News on KRIV. She chatted with chefs and celebrities as they demonstrated delicious dishes and family recipes on her “Cooking with Cleverley” segment. During the annual Houston Restaurant Weeks, Stone broadcasted live from participating restaurants, hosting up to four segments each day to promote the month-long fundraiser.
It was her intense drive and passion for Houston Restaurant Weeks that carried Stone during her illness. With tremendous grace and courage, she faced each day with optimism and resilience. Stone’s final wish was that Houston Restaurant Weeks continue in perpetuity in her name. With her beloved restaurant industry hit hard by the COVID-19 global pandemic, Stone knew the upcoming Houston Restaurant Weeks from August 1 through September 7, 2020 would be one of the most important ever, and she asked that the community support local restaurants and ultimately the food banks.
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 at houstonfoodbank.org or 535 Portwall Street, Houston, Texas 77029.
2009: With Stone at the helm, Houston Restaurant Weeks was awarded “Outstanding Fundraising Program” on National Philanthropy Day from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Houston Chapter.
2017: The Social Book named Stone a “Houston Treasure” for her individual contributions to the Houston community over an extended period of time, representing the finest in philanthropy, volunteerism and public service.
2017: Stone was named food and beverage ambassador for Super Bowl LI Game City Showcase, a series of events affiliated with the Houston Mayor’s Office of Special Events and METRORail, for Super Bowl LI held in Houston on February 5, 2017.
2013: The Houston Food Bank, the largest food bank in the United States, named Stone the “Barbara Falik Humanitarian of the Year.” Past recipients include Kroger, Randalls, H-E-B and the Pappas family.
2012: Houston Mayor Annise Parker proclaims October 10 as “Cleverley Stone Day.”
2012: Houston Woman Magazine named Stone one of “Houston’s 50 Most Influential Women.”
2010: Stone was honoree at Champagne et Chocolat Gala presented by Culinary Institute Le Notre.
2010: Stone served as honorary chair for Flavors Festival.
FEATURE PHOTO CREDIT: HOUSTON RESTAURANT WEEKS