Jacqui Hunter, 44. | Shanel Romain

Army Veteran Jacqui Hunter, 44 has big plans on pitching his Soo Fresh Soo Clean Catering Business this December at bee love cafe, with the mission of feeding the homeless fresh meals and employing formerly incarcerated individuals. We spoke to him about how his love and his career ambitions.

Where are you from?

I’m from Austin and North Lawndale. You know those 14 people that just got shot on Halloween? That’s where I’m from. I was literally out there that day. I left maybe two to three minutes before it happened. Growing up in Austin I was a bad little kid, but I excelled in school. That was never the problem, I was just bored and succumbed to my environment but eventually ended up getting myself back on track.

Where do you work?

I work at Sweet Beginnings. I’m the lead production specialist there. I just got promoted maybe two to three weeks ago.

What is your business?

I have a catering business. I’m trying to get into the bee love cafe because they get their food from local vendors. So I’m trying to get a contract for that. We have a business pitch coming up on Dec. 3, so come hungry because I’ll have samples.

What type of food do you make?

I make everything, but recently I made chicken wraps for the READI program located on Kedzie. I just made some things for them because everyone knows I can cook, but they didn’t know how well, but all that has been put to bed.

What is the READI program?

It’s a program that strictly targets guys that have been incarcerated or in some type of trouble with the law and gives them another chance. I don’t like to say second chance because it’s some people’s 30th chance, you know? But it gives a person a chance to get work-related things done. We have a CAD (Cognitive Attitude Development) program, which is like cognitive behavioral therapy. They also give you your first crack at a job. They have Sweet Beginnings and Streets and Sanitation where you go out and clean up. I’ve done both.

Where did your love for cooking start?

With grandma. My mom had me when I was young. She had me at 17 and she worked all the time because she was trying to provide for us, so I was with grandma all the time. And grandma was grandma. She cooked all the time and I was observant of her cooking. So that was my basis. But my father, my mom’s husband, he’s on another level of cooking. So I really got under him and that’s where the drastic change in my cooking began.

When did you start formulating your own business?

I started in prison because I wasn’t into working out. My whole prison term was school. I received my associate’s degree and like four different certifications. I did a lot of time. Six years straight, came home for six months and did four years after that. I came home the first time and wasn’t in the right mind frame. I was thinking I needed to come home and catch back up on what I lost, but what’s lost is gone. I needed to prepare for what was to come and that’s what I did the second time I came home. I did a lot of preparing when I was there. I was the main cook at every prison I went to. It helped me a lot and humbled me because everyone doesn’t like everything and you can’t expect everyone to like your food.

What’s your goal for your business?

My goal is to make gourmet fresh meals at a discount price to feed the homeless fresh foods and to employ ex-felons.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com