Gregory Hardin says he was known far and wide — well, at least to his family and friends — for his “famous fried chicken.”
But, in the name of good health, he’s broadened his cooking horizons.
“A lot of us guys have turned our menus around over the years,” says Hardin, who’ll be among those putting on their aprons this Father’s Day at Hales Franciscan High School for the 30th edition of Real Men Cook, a charity event that celebrates fatherhood and promotes nutrition and wellness. “As we got older, our diets have changed. We have had to adapt to it.”
The veteran cook has shown off his culinary skills for the past 24 years at the festival.
First held in 1990, this year’s event at the school at 4930 S. Cottage Grove Ave. runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Sixty cooks, amateurs as well as accomplished chefs, are taking part. There also will be offerings from South Side restaurants including Slab, Peach’s and Slice of Bronzeville. Besides the usual cookout fair of grilled meats and desserts, the festival will have healthier options to promote good health.
Obari Cartman, Real Men Charities Inc.’s program director, says the charity event will have two pavilions “for idea-sharing about ways to prevent violence and promote wellness. We will have a ‘Peace and Possibilities’ pavilion, which is designed to spark a conversation about ways to prevent violence, and a ‘Health and Wellness’ pavilion, with health professionals and vendors.”
So people can do more than just sample the food, Cartman says: “We will have opportunities for families to network, find mentors and mentees and ask questions of medical and mental health professionals.”
Networking and camaraderie has always been an element of the event and the charity, according to Kofi Moyo, co-founder of Real Men Charities, who’s also among the cooks who’ll be showing off his skills.
“The event has always been on Father’s Day, not with the intent to separate families on the day but to embrace the family concept,” Moyo says. “Most of the men who take part in the event enjoy the camaraderie. When the event is over, all the cooks come together to share what’s left of the food and talk and have a good time.
“It’s an event for the family, and that’s the way we want to keep it,” says Hardin. “We want to pass it down to our kids. But we invite anyone to come out and see. When you see how all the guys get down and feel the atmosphere, you’ll feel the love. You can really feel it.”
Tickets for Real Men Cook are $15 in advance, $10 for children, or $30 at the door.