It was lights, camera and culinary action at Chef Daddy’s restaurant, 5944 W. Lake St, near on Oct. 9 as filming for an upcoming episode of Chicago’s Best got underway. The show airs on WGN-TV on Sundays at 10 p.m.
During each episode, Chicago’s Best profiles four restaurants based on some kind of theme, with the hosts interviewing the owners and tasting the food during the course of a single visit. Chef Daddy’s will be part of the show’s upcoming Soul Food episode, which will air on Nov. 11.
Chef Daddy’s was founded by Terry Green and his fiancé, Alicia Cuevas, nearly four years ago. The couple live in Oak Park, but they were no strangers to the nearby Austin at the time they founded the restaurant. One day, they were walking past 5944 W. Lake St and noticed that a Mexican restaurant that used to be there closed and the space was available for rent.
Although Green had been working as an IT director, he obtained some restaurant experience while working for his grandmother’s restaurants in St. Louis. He thought it was a great opportunity to bring his grandmother’s recipes to Chicago. The couple also thought that Austin residents deserved something better than the kind of fast food most neighborhood eateries offer.
“We wanted to offer home cooked meals in the Austin community,” Cuevas said. “We wanted to be able to serve them cooked meals instead of typical fast food.”
Chef Daddy’s offers soul food staples such as collard greens, barbeque chicken, catfish, chitterlings and peach cobblers. Cuevas said that they take pride in the fact that their barbeque items are smoked and not baked, and that they have chitterlings available every day.
The dinners, which come with two sides and cornbread, fall within $10 to $12 range, and the restaurant offers $4.99 specials on Tuesdays through Saturdays, along with various daily deals.
Green handles much of the day-to-day operations and the cooking. Cuevas works full-time as a nurse, but she bakes the cakes, manages the restaurant’s social media presence and generally helps out whenever she can. Their family members work there as well, and they employee three Austin residents.
As for the name, it has roots in the owners’ relationship.
“When he and I first started dating, he cooked for me,” Cuevas said. “He cooked breakfast for me and I called him ‘my chef daddy. That’s how we got the restaurant’s name.”
While many of the customers come from nearby Austin and Oak Park, she said that they get customers from as far west as Aurora. On Sundays, Cuevas said, the line tends to stretch out the door.
The restaurants that get featured on “Chicago’s Best” come from viewer suggestions. Host Marley Kayden said that they got a lot of glowing recommendations for Chef Daddy’s. They had wanted to feature the business for a while, and the upcoming episode focusing on soul food was a good opportunity.
Kayden said that, on any given episode, they try to feature five restaurants — one from the North Side, one from the South Side, one from the West Side, one from the suburbs and one “wild card.”
Adwoa Watts, a lifelong Austin resident, is a CTA bus driver who said that she stops at Chef Daddy’s to grab lunch around once a week. She said she’s been eating there ever since it opened.
“All of the food [here] is good,” she said. “[What makes the food great is] the heart. [Green] cares a lot about making good food. My grandma had a saying: ‘Anyone can cook food, but if it doesn’t have a heart, it isn’t good.'”