CHICAGO—Finally, there is a quality, Black-owned, sit-down restaurant in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood where people can enjoy affordable, high quality and delicious food.
Located at 621 East 67th Street in Chicago, Let’s Eat to Live, owned by Chef Carmella Coqmard-Muhammad, philanthropist and entrepreneur, recently recently held its ribbon-cutting, grand opening ceremony.
“We can have clean and healthy food, great fellowship and great fun right where we live and contribute to community building at the same time,” said Chef Carmella, a longtime resident of Chicago’s South Side.
The name Let’s Eat To Live is inspired by two illuminating books, “How to Eat to Live,” written by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
“Many years could be added to our lives if we only knew how to protect our lives,” writes Elijah Muhammad on page nine of Book Two. “As He (meaning Master Fard Muhammad) said to me, food keeps us here; it is essential that we eat food which gives and maintains life.”
The restaurant finds and uses the best foods: non-genetically modified vegetables, halal meats and wild-caught fish, explained Chef Carmella. Head chef Yusuf Gordon’s dishes use no saturated fat, no lard, pork or pork byproducts, she explained.
The restaurant offers a wide range of menu items such as butter garlic lamb chops, crusted blackened salmon planks and other dishes one may expect to find at a fine dining restaurant.
“Our community suffers from hypertension, diabetes and various other illnesses. If we are taught better in food preparation and in consumption, we have the opportunity to improve the health of our people and literally help them to enjoy delicious food that helps sustain their lives,” said Chef Carmella, a graduate of Bowen High School and the University of Illinois Chicago.
Chef Carmella is the proud daughter of Haitian immigrants and has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with food, family and Black people. Restaurants are her latest iteration of food, family, and business as she has had a string of successful endeavors including catering, meal prep and weekly meal delivery services.
“In the culture that I’m raised in, it is imperative that all girls and women know how to cook. So, I was raised early on at the age of five cooking for a large family,” she explained. “As a member of the Nation of Islam, these same principles still existed. So, I began to learn not only how to cook, but what to cook with the proper food to prepare. Every woman can have the knowledge of a ‘doctor,’ when it comes to food preparation and health.”
Let’s Eat to Live is a fusion of her life experiences and includes Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Haitian influences. The menu includes starters such as salmon fataya, Haitian patties, broccoli pelotas, and sides such as sweet coconut rice, carrot fluff and asparagus.
“Today I had some homemade food at a great price,” James Muhammad said. “It was delicious. I encourage everyone to come see and feel the people and taste the food. I loved the lentil soup.”
Prices range from $7 to $12 for soups, salads and starters and main entrees between $19 to $27, which includes one starch and two vegetables.
Chef Carmella’s influence as restaurateur continues to grow. She also owns and runs The Foodie’s Spot, located at 7350 South Stony Island Avenue in South Shore. The new restaurant continues her efforts to help her community. For the last nine years, she has fed the needy in Chicago free, quality meals, participated in health and humanitarian projects in the Cap Haitien area of Haiti.
“My business is not just providing food and creating financial revenue, it’s also changing lives,” said Chef Carmella, whose restaurant is purposely situated right next to a health and wellness center, and laundromat developed by Muslim entrepreneur Akbar Kurt Muhammad. It’s part of an effort by him to revitalize a once bustling, but long time dilapidated business corridor.
“Wellness and health is connected to the food that we eat. We have been conditioned and trained to eat the wrong foods, obviously we will continue to experience the same thing we have been experiencing in the Black community, poor health,” said Akbar Muhammad, who welcomed Chef Carmella to the 67th Street corridor. She was the best choice to partner to provide a restaurant there. “She’s a strong Haitian woman and she’s a go-getter,” Akbar Muhammad said.
The restaurant is available for private indoor and outdoor events on the back patio. Regular operating hours for Let’s Eat To Live will be Tuesdays through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.