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Who is Edna Lee Stewart?
44 Years of Service
Edna Lee Stewart and her father owned Edna's Restaurant on the Westside of Chicago. She served her famous biscuits and soul food to people from around the world. Martin Luther King Jr., sitting US Presidents and other people from the Civil Rights Movement up to then Senator Barack Obama have dined at the restaurant. Chicago politicians, Oprah Studios, movie stars, famous musicians, and professional athletes would frequent the families establishment. Edna often employed convicted felons to give them an opportunity to provide a living for themselves and act as a bridge to other career possibilities. Having the heart to help the underserved made her legendary!
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More About Edna & The Legacy of the Family Restaurant
Edna Lee Stewart and her dad were the proprietors of Edna’s Soul Food Restaurant. Born to sharecroppers from Covington, Tennessee, Edna took her learned cooking skills from her mom and the business savvy of her dad and opened Edna’s Soul Food Restaurant in 1965. The restaurant was frequented by law enforcement, fire departments, city employees, clergy, hospital personnel and state and local government officials. Edna’s was a formal gathering place to house civil rights and political meetings and events with Dr. Martin Luther King and Rev. Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, Mayor Daley, Bobby Rush, Danny Davis, Harold Washington, Rosa Parks, then Sen. Barack Obama, and Presidents Jimmy Carter and John F. Kennedy. She also hosted many entertainers and professional athletes.
In addition to feeding the west side of Chicago, she was a part of the Taste of Chicago in 1989 – 1991. During the 44 years of the restaurant’s operation, many nationalities locally and abroad came to enjoy Edna’s soul food cuisine. Almost all of the family helped or was employed by her at some point. At any given time you could be served coffee, food, or paid your check at the restaurant to a family member. Edna was very active and visible in the community which garnered a great deal of respect. Her community involvement included:
• Sponsored summer trips to King’s Dominion (Theme Park) for area youth and provided all food free. Paid for children who couldn’t afford to pay for the trip on their own.
• Held yearly free cookouts for customers and employees in appreciation for helping her help others
• Provided meals for the homeless and hungry for 44 years • Hosted 75 students from a NW Suburban high school once a year for their diversity program
• Hired and trained over 100 convicted felons in the work release program to improve their chances of further employment
• Helped to mentor prostitutes and helped some with jobs at the restaurant to get off the streets and on a better life path.
• Worked with Habilitation Services (local shelter) to revamp and organize their food distribution program.
Governor Pat Quinn also honored Edna with a emancipation proclamation and street named after her on the corner of Madison and Kedzie. Edna received many accolades. She was photographed by world-renowned photographer Skrebneski whose work was entitled “Chefs of Chicago”. It was displayed at the City Gallery in the historic Water Tower.