This is a story about a guy named Love, in Humboldt Park, who found love was the answer to all of his problems.
Born and raised in the ‘hood, Quentin Love grew up in a broken home that spilled him onto the mean streets of South Shore, Austin and other tough areas of the South and West sides, with a mom who moved around a lot.
“Mom was doing her thing. Dad wasn’t around. In my household, there was a lot of different things — drug addiction, etc.,” says the owner of Turkey Chop Gourmet Grill at 3506 W. Chicago.
“I was raised by my grandmother, in the church. But looking for a male figure, I started drifting onto the streets, into gangs, unfortunately being mentored by the wrong people,” says the 44-year-old Love, whose restaurant was the site of a line of people stretching blocks, awaiting his 1,000-turkey giveaway on Wednesday.
“The only stable person I ever had in life was my grandmother. My mother had another baby when I was 14, and I had to become a man fast. She had another baby when I was 17, so I became ‘Daddy.’ Not having a Dad, I felt I had to look out for them.”
Love was luckier than most, blessed to get out of the gang life.
Graduating from Chicago Vocational in 1990, he joined the Marines because they were the tough guys and he liked the uniforms.
He got hurt in Desert Storm, though, and was honorably discharged.
He became a serial entrepreneur running a chain of barber shops, dry cleaners and clothing boutiques between 1991 and 2001. None was fulfilling. And all were successful for only so long.
Then that seed his grandmother planted in her grandson when she was taking him to church against his desires began germinating.
“I suddenly had this urge, a hunger, to make a difference. I wanted to find a way to employ people or just help somebody,” he recalls.
“Restaurants in our community are always pretty much run by someone other than our own; the food choices, saturated fats and processed foods. So I thought, ‘Hmm, maybe my contribution can be a healthier concept.'”
His first eatery, Quench Your Thirst, opened in South Shore in 2001. He established his charity, The Love Foundation, at the same time. He started a food pantry and youth mentoring programs.
What followed was a series of restaurants and concepts under the Quench brand, between 2001 and 2011. Again, successful for awhile.
“I was acquiring things, but somehow they wouldn’t last long. I’d go into business with the wrong people, making wrong decisions and just being too competitive. Over a 10-year span, I lost everything,” he says.
“I’d be on top of the mountain, then be too aggressive in business, wanting it all. And all of a sudden, I wouldn’t have anything, sleeping on people’s couches, wondering how it happened.”
The West Humboldt Park Development Council, drawn to his healthy eating concept, invited him to open a restaurant there in 2012.
He did. He hung the sign. But for the longest time, no one came.
In trying to maintain the business, he faced losing it all again.
“It’s when you’re at your bottom, asking, ‘How did I get here?’ that you discover purpose,” Love says.
“One day, I’m looking outside at the drug dealers and prostitutes on the busy thoroughfare of Chicago Avenue, and the kids going to school and people going on with their lives in the midst of all that odd behavior, and I realized I’d been doing more taking then giving,” the businessman says.
“I’d been building things off ego, and not real passion, i.e., off how many businesses I can own, and power and prestige, which was just wrong,” Love says. “I realized I needed to start operating under some higher spiritual principles.”
“I’d started studying laws of attraction. They were talking about the more you give, the more you receive, and how the way you think manifests itself. I said, ‘Well, let me try this out.'”
He called the Greater Chicago Food Depository and offered to partner on a soup kitchen. They said they didn’t partner with restaurants, only nonprofits. He called back. What if he ran the soup kitchen through his nonprofit? Again, he was rebuffed.
Feeling spiritually driven not to take no for an answer, he persisted and pleaded for nearly two months until they relented. The Food Depository entered into a first-ever restaurant partnership.
Since March 2013, Turkey Chop’s soup kitchen has fed some 1,000 people for free every Monday. We’re talking baked chicken, mac and cheese, spaghetti, red beans and rice, greens and cabbage.
He’s supported by the Food Depository and by his own money, and attracts donations from individuals. Thanksgiving 2013, he added a holiday dinner; in 2015, a 300-turkey giveaway.
Also last year, he got a call from the Food Network to participate in TV chef Guy Fieri’s “Grocery Games: Veterans Holiday Showdown,” only furthering his views on laws of attraction.
Fieri’s show pitted vets from four military branches in a cook-off, the winner’s prize to be split between themselves and their favorite USO center. Love won.
“My grandmother taught me how to cook, how to taste,” he says. “The hardest part of being a chef is having a palette. If you don’t know how good food tastes, you’re pretty much out of luck.”
He gave half his $36,000 winnings to the USO. The other half went to his soup kitchen.
He decided to increase his turkey giveaway nearly fourfold this year. “I was having a visualization. I said, ‘I want to step my giving up. I want to bless 1,000 people.'”
And come for the blessings, they did; the line stretched for hours, his volunteers handing out hot apple cider to those waiting.
Love is expecting 2,000 for dinner Thursday.
“We put the word out that if there were organizations, shelters or churches that wanted to be a blessing in their community through Thanksgiving feeding, Turkey Chop would love to be the source of that,” he says.
“For me, the main thing is that the community sees a black man wanting to do something not affiliated with a church or any other kind of organization, but just for the simple fact: it bucks the stereotypes of how we’re portrayed in the media. Chicago is not only a city of violence. It’s also a city of love.”