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Chef Wants To Fight Food Deserts By Opening Eatery Where MLK Once Lived

By Andrea V. Watson | February 24, 2017 8:56am | Updated on February 28, 2017 11:44am
 Skyler Dees wants to expand his catering company and open a restaurant in North Lawndale.
Skyler Dees wants to expand his catering company and open a restaurant in North Lawndale.
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Yvette Vessel

NORTH LAWNDALE — Good food places are scarce in North Lawndale, which is why 26-year-old chef Skyler Dees wants to expand his catering business and open a restaurant in an area where Martin Luther KIng Jr. once lived.

He first needs help raising money. The North Lawndale native, who currently lives in Englewood, dreams of opening a Soul Food eatery. He has less than a month to reach his $7,000 goal on Kiva. He also launched a GoFundMe page with the goal of $14,000.

Dees said the effort will help address North Lawndale's "nutritional depravity and food desert issue."

He acquired space at the MLK Legacy Apartments, which were built at the site that Martin Luther King Jr. moved to with his family in 1966 to highlight the poor housing conditions in the city's minority neighborhoods.

"Skyler aligns himself with King's dream of economic justice in the same spot where MLK's personal demonstration of housing injustice took place," his GoFundMe page says.

Funds raised will also help him secure reliable transportation because Dees currently fulfills catering jobs through public transportation, Uber/Lyft and borrowed vehicles. He also needs supplies and inventory, marketing and advertising materials, as well as the kitchen rental cost.

Skyler Dees’ Catering Company— which offers a variety of meal prep dishes — was established last September. He said he’s always loved cooking and he started helping in the kitchen as early as two years old. The older he became, he enjoyed preparing meals for his family, he said.

Although his heart was always set on culinary arts, he went to college for mathematics.

“I stopped,” he said. “I got tired of school.”

Dees decided to pursue his passion.

Before officially launching his catering business, he would be asked to prepare dishes for friends and families. When he saw that he had a gift, he made plans to work for himself, he said.

One of his hopes is that black children and teens will see him and realize that they can build their skills right in their community.

“I want to show black children that your talent and your gift is just as necessary within your community, as it is to go out and give it to the world to display,” Dees said. “North Lawndale specifically needs talent, resources and people who are young and talented to build the community.”