Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor



SAVOR Chef James Sanders gets 'Dirty' with Southern cuisine
DISH Dining Guide
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 1797 times since Sun Aug 2, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Chef James Sanders—after navigating everything from working for the Chicago Bears to living the quintessential corporate life—is reopening Dirty Birds Southern Kitchen on Friday, Aug. 4, at 8052 S. Racine Ave., in Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood. ( However, people should not despair if they can't make it to its casual spot for its Nashville hot chicken as well as its red velvet chicken and waffles, as items will be available on GrubHub and UberEats. )

Sanders talked with Windy City Times about the restaurant, the perception of Auburn Gresham and how he's helping people during the pandemic.

Windy City Times: I read that you got started in the culinary arts because you were bored with your mom's cooking. What was your mom cooking?

James Sanders: When I was younger, my dad worked the 11 p.m.-7 a.m shift; my mother worked 3-11 p.m., so my dad was asleep. So after my homework, I just started cooking, and the reason I started is because I got the same meal three or four days a week—fried chicken, mashed potatoes and a can of green beans.

One day I guess the chef in me came out because I was frustrated and I said, "I wish you could start cooking something else." At this point, my dad told me, "Never depend on anyone to cook for you." After that, I just started cooked, and I fell in love with it. I didn't even know what I was cooking half the time; I'd put tons of garlic powder on things.

I also made my dad lunch for work. I don't think he even ate it—I think he just dumped it out. [Interviewer laughs.] But that was the highlight of my childhood.

I went to SIU-Carbondale, and I always cooked for my fraternity brothers. When I moved to Chicago, I was an account manager at AT&T; I loved it and made great money, but the job didn't fulfill me. I ended up going to culinary school at the Art Institute of Chicago. So my days started at 7 a.m. for work; then, classes would be 5-10 p.m. and I'd work in the Chicago Bears kitchen from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. I did that for a year straight.

WCT: What was working for the Chicago Bears like?

JS: It was funny: I entered all super-cocky, and they put me in the dish room. I was heated—I was so upset! But I'm glad I went through that process so I could learn every part of the kitchen. It was a great experience. Every day is a lesson.

WCT: Let's talk about Dirty Birds. I saw the menu and said, "This menu speaks to me [and my upbringing]." For our readers, how would you describe your menu?

JS: The biggest thing with Dirty Birds is that we make everything fresh every day. We pick and clean greens the day before, and we cook them that morning. We make our cornbread from scratch. We make our own red-velvet waffle batter. When you order your food, that's when we cook it. Sometimes it's a 15- or 20-minute wait— but it's worth it. People know the difference between fresh chicken and chicken that's been sitting under the lights.

We just put our heart into [the dishes]. Like the Hoppin' John [also known as also known as black-eyed peas and rice]—we're probably the only restaurant in Chicago that sells it, and it's one of our most popular dishes. And we sell a lot of fried green tomatoes.

WCT: On another front, you're involved with a project to help people in rehabilitation centers in Chicago.

JS: So I have a catering company by the name of Fuze Catering. We're doing several different initiatives in the city of Chicago. One of them involves providing meals to a drug-rehabilitation center; we do 900 meals seven days a week. I've also been helping people going through financial difficulties because of the pandemic, so I've been working with Progressive Baptist Church, so we give out 900 meals ( 300 meals a day ) there on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

WCT: What spurred you to get involved?

JS: You know what? I read a story a couple years ago, and it really hit home. I was blessed to have two great parents who provided a foundation for me; my mother always had an amazing heart, and I guess I got that from her. I read an article about CPS [Chicago Public Schools] kids being homeless—and I found out that the reason CPS never called school off was so kids could get at least one balanced meal a day.

Even at the restaurant, we gave 10-15 meals a day because people said they were hungry. I don't know if it's a scam or what, but I know where it came from when I gave the meals away. I just don't believe that anyone should be hungry at all.

WCT: When some people hear "Auburn Gresham," they unfortunately picture an ultra-violent area that had to deal with a rise in COVID-19 infections. Putting on your PR hat, what do you say to those who have negative perceptions of that area?

JS: I never put a dark cloud on Auburn Gresham; there are good and bad people all over Chicago. I think Auburn Gresham is a close-knit community, and I felt the love they showed me when I opened here.

Actually, I'm at a food desert. And for me to come here with quality foods… We're beyond fried chicken and French fries. Why can't I put out a well-thought-out menu? We have blackened catfish, grilled chicken and smoked turkey legs. I'm glad we have healthy alternatives. We're really trying to push the envelope with the food at this restaurant.

See .

This article shared 1797 times since Sun Aug 2, 2020
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

COVID-19 Chicago, suburban restaurants slated to reopen Jan. 23 2021-01-23
- Customers will be allowed back inside restaurants and many bars in Chicago and suburban Cook County beginning Saturday, Jan. 23, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. The city and Cook County will move from Tier 2 to Tier ...

Gay News

FDA funding blood-donation study about gay, bisexual men 2020-12-16
- On the heels of news that England has mostly relaxed regulations regarding blood donations from gay and bisexual men, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is funding a study around blood donations by men in those ...

Gay News

Report: Take Off Your Mask So I Know How Much to Tip You 2020-12-11
--From a press release - Today, One Fair Wage, a national nonprofit organization representing subminimum wage and other tipped workers, in partnership with #TimesUp, the UC Berkeley Food Labor Research Center, Professor Catharine MacKinnon, Professor Louise Fitzgerald and ...

Gay News

Five Worth Finding: Restaurants, OUT100, children's book, face mask 2020-11-19
- —Perry's Steakhouse & Grille ( This suburban spot (with two restaurants in Oak Brook and Schaumburg) is well-known for its delicious cuts of meat, sumptuous sides and hand-crafted cocktails. It's ...

Gay News

57th Street Art Fair to return next June 2020-11-10
- The 74th annual 57th Street Art Fair is slated to return June 5-6, 2021. The free event is the Midwest's oldest juried art fair, featuring nearly 200 artists, live music, kids' activities and a food court. ...

Gay News

SAVOR Untitled Supper Club, dinner and a show 2020-11-08
DISH Dining Guide - The night before COVID-19 restrictions recently tightened on restaurants and bars (again), a friend and I checked out Untitled Supper Club (111 W. Kinzie St.;—which offered not just a ...

Gay News

SAVOR Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea 2020-10-26
- With so many coffeehouses in Chicago, some of them have come up with compelling and/or unique ways to keep or lure patrons. Count Fairgrounds Coffee & Tea (multiple locations; as one of those coffeehouses. Sure, ...

Gay News

Andersonville Farmers Market extended through November 2020-10-22
- The Andersonville Farmers Market (AFM) will remain open four additional weeks—at a new day and time. The extension will take place Nov. 1, 8, 15 and 22, 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the shared street space on Catalpa ...

Gay News

SAVOR Fulton Market Kitchen 2020-10-21
- Over the years, Fulton Market Kitchen (311 N. Sangamon St.;—which is, naturally, in the Fulton Market District—has intrigued and even dazzled patrons, thanks to the combination of inviting food ...

Gay News

SAVOR The Outpost Mexican Eatery; Mercadito 2020-09-29
DISH Dining Guide - For the last print issue of Windy City Times, there are two restaurants in the spotlight—and they both happen to be Mexican eateries. The Outpost Mexican Eatery The Outpost Mexican Eatery (520 W. Harrison St.; ...

Gay News

Artist-led "Retreat" to provide platform for creatives in food, music, art 2020-09-27
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Rebuild Foundation, the arts, education and cultural development organization founded by artist Theaster Gates, and Dorchester Industries today announced the opening of "RETREAT," an artist-led activation aimed at ...

Gay News

Five Worth Finding: Tom of Finland, help for renters, 'Batwoman' 2020-09-22
- —Rentervention ( This webpage begins with a daunting statistic: Each year, more than 20,000 people are evicted from their homes in Chicago. Rentervention—a part of the ...

Gay News

Chicago releases outdoor dining guidelines for fall, winter 2020-09-22
- Keeping the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, the City of Chicago released guidelines for safe outdoor dining this fall and winter. All outdoor spaces must have a sidewalk cafe permit, outdoor patio license or an expanded outdoor ...

Gay News

SAVOR Froth: A coffee lover's delight 2020-09-21
DISH Dining Guide - It might take something special to lure people to Froth (1515 W. Monroe St.; Fortunately, Froth has more than one attraction—especially for those who indulge in coffee (which seems ...

Gay News

Care for Real names new executive director 2020-09-10
- Care for Real—one of the largest food pantries in the Chicago area—has named Gregory D. Gross as its new executive director. Gross is moving to Care for Real from The Night Ministry, where he most recently ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.








About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.