Restaurateur | Philanthropist | Community Activist | Certified Success Coach | Author
The healing power of food . . . it is an ideal inspired in Quentin Love from the time he was 8 years old. That’s when he became chef’s apprentice in his grandmother’s kitchen on Chicago’s South Side. He’d watch intently as she whipped up traditional southern comfort foods such as mac and cheese, greens and smothered chicken. The two experimented with ingredients and spices. Theirs was more than a test kitchen; it was Love’s escape from the allure of gangs and drugs, and the effects of violence and addiction in his community and personal life.
To further distance himself from street culture, Love enlisted in the Marine Corps right out of high school. He was honorably discharged after being injured in Operation Desert Storm, and returned to a community no different than the one he had left – impoverished, destitute and desperately in need of hope and opportunity. It needed Love and others like him who believe giving is the key to success.
In 2001, he established The Love Foundation, a not-for-profit dedicated to providing a higher quality of living to under-served communities through holistic programming focused on leadership development, workforce development and healthy living.
He earned a barber’s license and opened two barbershops in his community. Once ignited, his entrepreneurial spirit led him to open a clothing store, dry cleaners and martial arts studio, providing jobs in poor communities with double-digit unemployment.
In 2002, Love turned back to his passion: Cooking. Only this time, his kitchen lab experiments became mission-driven. After seeing the ill effects of poor diet and the grim reality of food deserts (communities with disparate access to fresh produce), Love focused on making the comfort foods we love healthier. He opened his first restaurant, Quench, forgoing beef and pork to offer soulful culinary masterpieces using turkey, chicken and fish without the added fat, salt and sugar.
Love went on to open 10 no-beef, no-pork restaurants, some with vegetarian and vegan options, in Chicago. He founded the I Love Food Group, a collaborative of black- and women-owned food enterprises to combine resources and expand their individual brands and reach. In 2009, Love opened a grocery business in the Roseland community, a food desert, and earned recognition on the coveted “40 Under 40 People to Watch” list in Crain’s Chicago Business.
Love launched the Turkey Chop Gourmet Grill brand in Atlanta before bringing it to Chicago’s West Humboldt Park in 2012. The needs of the economically depressed community, not unlike the ones he grew up in, propelled Love to a greater good. In 2014, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Turkey Chop became the first and only Chicago restaurant to close its doors once a week to operate as a community soup kitchen. On Free Meal Mondays, Love and dedicated volunteers serve those in need from noon to 3 p.m., and prepare dozens of hot food and dessert trays for nonprofits that feed the homeless, elderly and indigent. He also teaches a weekly cooking class for residents who want to learn how to make their family meals more nutritious.
“Our communities need businesses that are going to do more than take from the community. We need businesses that’ll give back,” Love says. “My goal is to help revitalize communities by feeding their bodies, mind and spirit.
Love’s community giving has fed his soul too. Before Turkey Chop, he lost all his restaurants in the Great Recession. Giving, he says, was his way back. In 2015, his philanthropy earned him an invitation to compete on Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s Grocery Games’ Veterans Holiday Challenge” on the Food Network. The show featured four military veterans competing for top chef honors. Love won and donated half his $36,000 in winnings to support the soup kitchen, feed the hungry on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and give away 300 turkeys. The rest he donated to the United Services Organization (USO), which provides relief to military members and their families.
In 2016, he raised more than $20,000 through GoFundMe to give away 1,000 turkeys, feed some 4,000 people on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and provide 10,000 packets of assorted hats, scarves, socks and gloves to those in need. To date, Turkey Chop has served over 100,000 free meals.
Love’s efforts have been featured in multiple television, radio and print media including all major Chicago television affiliates; “Chicago’s Best” on WGN; the Chicago Sun-Times (Thanksgiving 2016 front page); Essence magazine online; the Chicago Tribune; Black Enterprise magazine; TimeOut; the Chicago Reader; DNAInfo; Chicago Eater; Cuisine Noir magazine; and the Chicago Urban League’s reality show “NextTV: Change You Can See” on FOX 32 Chicago.
Love has been recognized as one of the Chicago Defender’s Men of Excellence and granted a Lifetime Achievement Award for barber stylist. In 2016 the Chicago Vocational Career Academy graduate was inducted into the high school’s Hall of Fame.
Believing he had more to offer, Love became a certified life coach and offers one-on-one coaching and group seminars. He has written and published two books: “The Motivational Cookbook: Feeding Your Body, Mind and Spirit,” which offers healthy comfort food recipes, success insights and worksheets. His second book, “The 66-Day Objective,” leads the reader on a journey of personal discovery to lock in their goals and/or remove bad habits in 66 days through guided journaling.
In his latest venture, Love has launched a yearlong GoFundMe campaign seeking to raise $10,000 a month to award ten $1,000 grants to deserving Chicago residents and organizations in four areas: business, education, single parenthood and community development.
Love’s mantra is “healing communities through food,” and he’s on a mission to inspire others.
For more information, visit turkeychop.com and lovefoundationproject.org.