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Chef Q finds new purpose

January 20, 2021

Chef Q Ibraheem is an Executive Chef and one of the few Black women operating in her field. Before the pandemic,  “Chef Q,” as she asks to be called, ran a high-end catering business and on weekends taught local youth how to work in a commercial kitchen. “In an industry run by white men, it’s hard to get into a high-end kitchen. My Mom said necessity is the mother of all invention,” said Chef Q.

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In addition, Chef Q was planning her first James Beard dinner and  the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre’s Annual Brunch when Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the state’s shelter-in-place order. Like so many people across the country and around the world, the nationally renowned chef, famous for her farm-to-table underground dinners, found herself out of work. It did not take long, however, for Chef Q. to find a new purpose: to provide healthy meals to Evanston families affected by the Covid-19 crisis. 

“My biggest accomplishment is being in the Evanston community and taking care of people. I stay inspired by working with young people. I work with Youth Job Center, Oakton Community College (Chef Q created a culinary program that it adopted), Evanston Cradle to Career, Youth & Opportunity United, and Family Focus. I’ve learned that everyone has been impacted by COVID-19. It’s not a race, gender, or class thing. Everyone has lost something.”

Even with the challenges that the pandemic presents, Chef Q has shown no signs for slowing down. She is the President of the Board of The Evanston Food Exchange, Operations Manager with the Foster Street Urban Agriculture Program in Evanston, and a Chef Partner at Gardeneers in Chicago. In addition, Chef Q is featured in a Times magazine article as well as a Brawny Paper Towel commercial.

When Chef Q tried to keep her high-end catering business afloat, she applied for the Paycheck Protection Program and did not get a response. Through a series of conversations with the Evanston Community Foundation, she received more than $235,000 in grants to provide two meals per day for more than 100 individuals. 

With so many businesses, especially minority-owned businesses expected to close by the end of 2020, there is some good news on the horizon. JP Morgan Chase unveiled its $30 Billion push to bridge racial wealth gap during the next 5 years which focuses heavily on expanding access to affordable housing as well as boosting minority-owned businesses.  I asked Chef Q how did she think this influx of money, specifically a portion coming to Chicago markets, will impact minority-owned businesses. She said, “If it trickles down to the people and helps businesses with some of the branding and marketing, these things can help bring in potential clients.”

With that mentality, Chef Q spreads this hope to the youth she comes in contact with. “I say to them allow yourself to fly. Believe that you are powerful. Our youth are incredibly beautiful. We need to check on them and be their accountability partners. They need that support system.”

When it is safe to return to her high-end boutique catering, Chef Q will resume cooking in her secret location underground dinner club, 6 Course Farm to Table Secret Location Underground Dining, and hosting fine dining experiences in homes. In this part of her job she can showcase her creativity by bringing flowers, vases, dishes, cocktail pairings, waiters, clean-up crews all while preparing six-course, custom meals for families. “No menu is ever the same. We interview clients about their food allergies and learn what they love to eat. I want this experience to represent the clients’ highest ideals of fine dining.” 

For more information about Chef Q and opportunities to participate in her unique dining experiences, please visit chefqibraheem.com.