About Us

Our first incarnation was Cafe Too, a restaurant skills training program launched in 2001 through Inspiration Corporation. By 2005, Cafe Too had grown into a freestanding restaurant in the Uptown neighborhood, where our students put what they’ve learned into practice serving the general public. Now we’re excited to take our program to our second freestanding restaurant in Garfield Park.

Overlooking the Garfield Park lagoons, the restaurant features a constantly changing menu of regional American cuisine with southern and soul food influences. At Inspiration Kitchens-Garfield Park, we pride ourselves on being earth-friendly, including our use of local ingredients, solar-heated water and sun-sensitive kitchen lighting. Enjoy brunch with a view of the trees, and our family dining area – located just off the main dining room – is perfect for larger parties. Ask for it when you’re making your reservation.

From roasted red pepper wantons to chorizo croquettes and chicken and waffles, our menu reflects the diverse, urban Uptown neighborhood in which we’re located. Our intimate, 30-seat restaurant is perfect for a business lunch or a BYOB brunch with friends. In warm weather, sit outside at our sidewalk café.

Inspiration Corporation

Inspiration Corporation provides essential social services to Chicagoans hardest hit by homelessness and poverty, and we inspire our participants to take action to improve their own lives. Here at Inspiration Kitchens, we help individuals gain valuable skills and experience that lead to employment in the food service industry. Thank you for dining with us and changing lives!
Click to visit corporate site.

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Student Stories |

Maurice Nix

Maurice Nix

I came to Inspiration Corporation in 2003. At that time, my confidence, outlook for the future and self-esteem were at all-time lows. The Inspiration Kitchens training program began working with me. Once I graduated from the program, I began working in food service. Presently, I am the deli chef at Northwestern University and I am in my fifth year  working there. I am the union steward for food service employees on campus and I have won many awards in food service and customer service. Students and employees come to me often for advice and conversation. I have a great relationship with management on all levels. I receive no public assistance. My goal is staying healthy. And I have no plans to retire. I am having the time of my life and all of this is due to the training and supervision I received at Inspiration Corporation.

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Gabriel Vega

Gabriel Vega

I used to work in refrigeration. But the places I worked didn’t always give me steady work or they took advantage of me because they knew I would have a hard time finding another job because of my background. I heard about this program on TV about a year before I applied. I’ve always been interested in cooking. I like it a lot. I do all the cooking at home. Someday, I would like to have my own restaurant – upscale, but not fine dining. And I’d like to have my own garden for the restaurant to grow my own herbs. In addition to cooking, I’m an artist. Some of my artwork – made from pixilated camera phone photos – has traveled to Germany, Poland and Israel. I also volunteer at Pros Arts Studio in Pilsen.



 

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Student Stories |

Alvonia Robinson

Alvonia Robinson

I’ve been cooking since I was 15 years old. (I’m 36 now.) I love cooking because it’s calming. I first found out about Inspiration Kitchens-Garfield Park when I walked by it and saw the sign that said that there was going to be a restaurant training program. I called the number on the sign and I was really persistent about getting in. I have lived in Garfield Park all my life. I’m an ex-offender. (I committed a crime thirteen years ago.) I wanted to go to cooking school for a long time, but I couldn’t afford it. I had my own snack shop for three years and made steak burgers, fries and nachos from noon till 10 pm.  I also used to barbeque in the park every day in nice weather. I think this program will give me the technique and precision I need. I also want to be part of the garden. Someday, I’d like to work on a cruise ship. I may not be able to do that right out of the class, but eventually that’s what I’d like to do.

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Student Stories |

Quantrell Taylor

Quantrell Taylor

In 2004, I walked into Inspiration Corporation a convicted felon, wanting to change my life. Inspiration Corporation welcomed me into its free culinary training program with open arms. That day, I met a lot of people who would shape my future including, most importantly, Chef Jenny Urban. The training program had a kitchen that was open to the public and I got to see the customers’ faces as they ate the food I prepared. Chef Jenny gave me bigger assignments, more responsibilities, and even more confidence about working in a kitchen. Shortly after graduating from the culinary training program in 2005, I started working at Cafe 917. Within two weeks of working there, I was promoted to kitchen manager. Then I started working for Inspiration Corporation as a cook/trainer, helping teach students the culinary skills I learned from Chef Jenny. In 2006, I was promoted to Sous Chef/Trainer; I was excited to have a job with benefits. In 2007, I started working at J&L Catering part-time, where I learned even more. Later that year, Inspiration Corporation awarded me a partial scholarship to attend Robert Morris College, where I graduated with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. Inspiration Corporation helped me change my life for the better. I use the knowledge I obtained from Inspiration Corporation in my new position as Chef Instructor at the Greater Chicago Food Depository. I look forward to helping students in the same ways Inspiration Corporation helped me. Inspiration got me started and gratitude keeps me going.