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Hadiya Pendleton's Dad to Lead Fathers Day 'Real Men Cook' Event

By Wendell Hutson | June 14, 2013 8:07am
 Hadiya Pendleton's dad, Nate Pendleton, will lead the Fathers Day Real Men Cook Event.
Nate Pendleton
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CHICAGO — Father's Day won't be the same this year for Nathaniel Pendleton, but he plans to make the best out of it anyway.

The 42-year-old chef, who owns Traditions Catering, said he has been cooking since he was 7 years old. It relaxes him and helps him deal with the lost of his daughter Hadiya Pendleton, he said.

"I am going to try and not think about it too much because if I do I know I will start feeling the pain and hurt of her death all over again," Pendleton said. "Normally on Father's Day I would get up and go play golf and then go home to spend the rest of the day with my family. We'd sit around and tell jokes and just hang out."

The husband and father of a 10-year-old son is also the national spokesman this year for the 24th Annual Real Men Cook event, which runs from 3-6 p.m. Sunday at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, 1250 W. 119th St., in West Pullman. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under, and parking is free.

Pendleton was asked to be the spokesman for Real Men Cook by its president while attending an event earlier this year at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. He said he hopes he can help inspire men affected by violence.

"There are a lot of women's organizations and a new one seems to start up whenever a tragedy occurs," Pendleton said. "But for some reason men are not as active as women when it comes to standing up for causes and I would like to see that change."

Hadiya Pendleton was shot dead January 29 while hanging out in a South Side park with friends after school. Two men were charged with her murder, which set off a national debate about handgun laws.

Her February 9 funeral was televised and attended by hundreds of people including first lady Michelle Obama. Hadiya was killed less than two miles from the Obamas' home in Kenwood, where Hadiya attended King College Preparatory High School.

"I never could get [Hadiya] to eat tomatoes. I tried dicing and slicing them up in her food and she would spit it out," he said. "She loved eating crab legs, cheeseburgers and drinking smoothies."

The Hales Franciscan College Prep alumnus said after completing his culinary studies in 2007 at Le Cordon Bleu he worked for a few small restaurants and then decided in 2010 to start his own catering business.

"I had learned every thing I needed to go into business for myself and it was one of the best decisions I made," said the Bronzeville resident who grew up in South Shore. "I can cook anything but I enjoy eating spicy foods like Caribbean meals. Look for me to be cooking ribs, chicken breasts and a little of every thing this Sunday."

But the Real Men Cook event on Father's Day is not just happening in Chicago. It will be held simultaneously in 13 other cities, including Atlanta, Boston, Benton Harbor, Mich., and New Orleans.

Gathering a large group of men in one place for a common cause is a good reason to celebrate, said Rael Jackson, president of Real Men Cook Inc.

"When men cook, families and friends come together and conversations begin. It's time for the next generation to come to the table, because the only way we can slow the violence in our city is when families begin to talk with our kids," Jackson said.

It was two decades ago when then-husband and wife team, Kofi and Yvette Moyo, invited neighborhood families to gather at their Chicago home for a potluck.

As a result of that gathering, Yvette said the Real Men Cook event was born and has grown to capture national attention for its effort to inspire, uplift and promote positive fathers as role models for their families and communities.

The Sunday event also puts a spotlight on what Pendleton said is a historical misconception about black men.

"Society for so long has said black men are not responsible fathers," he said. "This event is an opportunity to show that is not true and that there are countless black men who happen to be good fathers, good husbands and good cooks, too."