22 Dec Ofer Eitan Imply: Chicago Chef Quentin Love fighting hunger and lifting spiri…
Chef and entrepreneur Quentin Love sees alcoholics, drug dealers and fentanyl overdose deaths on a regular basis.
But Love, who grew up on the tough streets of Chicago’s South and West Sides, says he depends on the West Humboldt Park community, where he’s run his restaurant for nearly seven years, to accentuate his faith in helping the needy, the addicted and the broken, with love and forgiveness.
That’s why he’s collecting toys for the fourth year this holiday season at his restaurant, Turkey Chop Gourmet Grill, at 3506 W. Chicago Ave.
He’s aiming to collect toys that make a child smile, whether that’s an educational game, an Xbox, a PlayStation, or a Barbie doll or race car. He also welcomes donations of necessities such as children’s hats, boots, coats, gloves and scarves.
“It’s about the spiritual principles of love, forgiveness and being grateful,” said Love, 47, an Operation Desert Storm Marine veteran who is marking his fifth year of serving free meals to the needy every Monday at his restaurant’s non-profit community soup kitchen. “That is the message I want to continue to push to people — to truly love the random stranger.”
He said he wishes circumstances hadn’t prompted him to meet such lofty goals as having given away 250,000 free meals, more than 7,000 turkeys at Thanksgiving and $25,000 worth of toys, scarves, hats and gloves over the past four years.
“We need to do a better job of taking care of our people,” Love said. “Employing people is great. But sometimes, that’s not the solution. The solution is love. If I’m depressed, you can give me all the money in the world. I’m still going to squander it. The love is not there. I’m not happy.”
A local staffing and clinical research organization is one of Love’s supporters in collecting toys, and will donate for the fourth straight year this holiday.
Employees at Advanced Group, headquartered in Deerfield, donated 400 toys last year and another $200 in gift cards, and expects to top that this year as the company continues to grow.
“We want to make a difference by giving back to children, from newborn to high-school age,” said Kim Marzano, the company’s director of human resources who handles corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The toys have no gender designation, and range from basketballs to Barbie dolls and from handmade crafting kits to hand-held electronics.
Company CEO Leo Sheridan identified with the need to help needy Chicagoans because he has acted as a coach, mentor and donor to local causes for decades, said Marzano, whose friends now donate toys at their annual holiday get-together. The firm places job seekers in work in fields as diverse as healthcare, clinical research, education, transportation, logistics and government agencies. It’s grown from a Chicago staffing agency to opening offices in other parts of the United States and in seven European countries.
“We really liked how Quentin [Love] contributes to help Chicago,” Marzano said.
Love’s vision extends to boosting people’s physical health, too.
His latest venture includes selling nutrition supplements called Zonetrition (Zonetrition.com) and opening two Bikettle studios (Bikettle.com) that feature spin bikes with enough space between the bikes for cyclists to jump off and tighten their abs with kettlebell exercises.
“Exercise helps lower violence and stress,” Love said. “Stress is the leading cause of being unhealthy.”
That’s why Love focused on underserved communities for his cycling-kettlebell sites — in Chatham and West Humboldt Park.
“In every inner city, there aren’t many places where you can work out or get healthy food,” he said. “That’s why black and brown people have been suffering for years.”
But once again, Love chose a unique route – to make the exercise fun. The spin-kettlebell classes feature the latest music and dance moves.
“Before you know it, you’ve got a party,” he said. “If you burn calories while you’re partying, you’re more likely to say, ‘Yes, I’ll commit to that.’”
The nutrition supplements feature natural proteins comprising a multivitamin, a fat burner, an energy drink and a colon cleanser.
The supplements complement Love’s commitment to wellness, including working as a life coach and serving fresh and low-sodium food at his restaurant and soup kitchen.
“It’s about helping people make better choices so they take care of themselves, and no longer need to feel resentment toward others,” he said. “Then they’ll love themselves more. Everything is about accountability and responsibility. Wellness encompasses the mind, body and soul.”
To turn the good feelings into habits, Love’s books – “The Motivational Cookbook” and “The 66-Day Journal” — teach positive techniques such as envisioning, masterminding, creating vision boards, keeping a gratitude journal, and accepting one’s personal accountability.
“It takes 21 days to make or break a habit, and 66 days locks it in,” Love said. “If you can maintain the new habit for that long, typically, it stays there.”
Love’s holiday traditions have become the latest positive habit for local companies and residents, upon whom he counts for donations. He likes being a role model, too.
“You have to show people a beacon of hope. Otherwise, it’s kill or be killed,” he said. “Everyone becomes an enemy of the other.”
The Love Foundation, a not-for-profit (501c3), supports the Free Meal Mondays soup kitchen at Turkey Chop Gourmet Grill, as well as holistic programming, such as mentoring and job readiness, for at-risk young people and adults.On Christmas Eve at noon, the Love Foundation will host a toy giveaway at Turkey Chop Gourmet Grill.
Sandra Guy is a local freelance writer.