The Evolved Network aims to help youths in systemically oppressed communities through gardening, culinary training and employment opportunities, among other ways.
The organization is the brainchild of Sebastian White, a chef and clinical psychologist.
When asked to recount about how the organization launched, White started with an intriguing bit. "I've had no formal training as a chef. It started in the kitchen with my mom, my aunt and my father. I remember, very vividly, making green eggs and ham; I was fascinated by the book and I was curious about how you make that. … I've always been interested in [cooking]; it's very therapeutic for me. I remember when I was exposed to the show Chopped in college; it was fascinating for me."
So it made sense that, following his loves of food, its therapeutic aspects and psychotherapy itself, he developed The Evolved Network to help change the lives of oppressed youths for the better. (Before cooking full-time, White was a psychotherapist who worked with kids who were in gangs, among others.)
According to White, The Evolved Network aims to "create a holistic, healing and therapeutic space for kids by way of the farm-to-table process." Laughing when this writer said he'd heard the word "holistic" a lot since Chicago Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson's campaign, White talked about his take on the word: "When I'm in a shitty space, that fried chicken and those chips are comforting. Why does my physical body have privilege over my mind about what I need when I'm in that space? And it becomes what I need instead of what I wantand what I need might be a hug instead of chicken." Basically, for White, it's about the transformation that can be taught (and, hopefully, witnessed) to one's soul.
White is currently helping students on Chicago's South, Southwest and West sides but plans on expanding. And as for what students learn, it varies with the school. For example, "at Chicago Jesuit Academy, I just planted some seeds and I showed what became of those seeds that are ingredients. [However,] we have a lot of programming around teamwork, communication, creativity, sustainability and nutrition."
And to get the word out regarding The Evolved Network, White has partnered with various other chefs in presenting fundraisers that emphasize each chef's skills. For example, the "Sprouts of Change" dinner took place in March at the trendy spot eden (with Chef Devon Quinn); offerings including snow pea leaves and white asparagus, grilled Spanish baby octopus, diver scallops, rack of lamb and coconut cake.
The next dinner will take place at Ethiopian restaurant Demera on Tuesday, April 18, with chefs Tigist Reda (the chef at Demera), Sarah Stegner (the chef at Prairie Grass Cafe and an advisory member of The Evolved Network) and Casey Doody (who specializes in pastries). For June (Pride Month), Whitewho considers himself an ally of the LGBTQ+ communitywould like to work with a culinary professional from the queer demographic.
White added, "Before my father passed, he pushed me to start my own space [but] I was always too scared. But look at me now. I wish he could be here to see it."
No doubt he would be proud.
To learn more about The Evolved Network or to donate, see theevolvednetwork.org/ .
With the latest season starting for the Chicago Cubs, it seems like the best time for Almaa revamped bar/lounge experience at Wrigleyville's Hotel Zacharyto open.
Previously known as The Bar at Hotel Zachary, the space was renamed in honor of Alma C. Davis, the wife of Zachary Taylor Davis, the architect of Wrigley Field. (Adding to their love story, the couple died within a month of each other in 1946.)
Located on the second floor, Alma features a large bar that welcomes guests into a modern living room. Alma now includes increased seating, a dedicated DJ booth and a decor that encourages guests to spend their evening at the neighborhood bar and lounge. (There is also the Alma Room, which features vintage items in a large cabinet and which accommodates up to 79 people.) Guests will also have the opportunity to take in Lake View from Alma's terrace, which offers a pretty expansive view of Wrigley Field and Gallagher Way.
And there are plenty of bites as well as drink options. Along with beer and wine items, there are signature cocktails like the Love, Alma, featuring Jim Beam Black, Sherry, lemon, strawberry and Amaro; and the Letters to Zachary, with Bacardi Ocho, banana liqueur, ginger coconut and chai. In addition, Patrons are invited to enjoy a menu of Mediterranean-inspired fare such as harissa roasted carrots, tuna tartare, marinated chickpea salad, filet sliders and more.
See www.almahotelzachary.com/ .