By: Nicole Kucharski
This past Sunday, I visited the infamous Maxwell Street Market (open every Sunday during the 365 days of the year) in hopes of discovering great food and some interesting people. Maxwell Street Market runs every Sunday during the 365 days of the year and features an array of ethnic foods, groceries, and colorful personalities. I came to find all of the above, in particular, a cook named Mr. Bill. Wide-grinning and positively outgoing, Chef Bill instantly caught my attention with his selection of savory grilled meats. After some small talk, I unwaveringly accepted Chef Bill’s invitation to sample his turkey tips. After just a few moments of talking to Chef Bill, I decided to dig a deeper and find out a little more about the Maxwell Street Market and his overall involvement in it.
Me: Mr. Bill, what do you like most about this market?
Mr. Bill: Meeting different people from different walks of life. Also, serving the people making them happy. I get a joy out of people eating my food and smiling like your girlfriend over here (referring to my friend, who was busy chomping down on some turkey tips).
Me: What is your specialty?
Mr. Bill: I do mostly Italian. Outside of the market I have a catering service in Maywood. It is called “Catering by Mr. Bill.” I also do the Thanksgiving meal, the whole meal. One of the things I made is the smoked jerky fried turkey.
Me: How many years have you been involved in the Maxwell Street Market?
Mr. Bill: Well, for the last 9 years they hadn’t let anyone of color on the Maxwell Street Market. It was only hispanic. So this is the first year, since April 11th, that they started letting people of color down. April 11th was my first time down here.
Me: Why did you decide to join the Maxwell Street Market?
Mr. Bill: Basically, Maxwell Street started out over on Halsted and I’m not being racial, or anything like that, but it was predominantly black many years ago. Now it’s mostly Hispanic but a lot of blacks come down here to market, and people get tired of tacos and burritos. See I do jerk chicken, barbecue, green beans, and fried corn. I do peach cobbler and sweet potato pie. I do real food not fast food.
Me: Do you think people will continue having appreciation for these kinds of markets?
Mr. Bill: Oh yeah. They appreciate it because they have so many bargains. Everybody that comes here is a regular. You see that guy right there (point to a sitting customer)? He’s a regular. I have people that come from Oak Park, Harvey, to eat my ribs.
Me: Do you think this market is going to flourish, considering the current economy?
Mr. Bill: Well, you know, everybody says that we’re in a recession. Black folks have been poor all of their lives. This ain’t a recession, we’ve been hustlin’ all of our lives. So I don’t see a recession. You see, if I smoke cigarettes I’m going to buy them. If I have a big car and need gas, I’m going to make a way to get gas.
Me: Do you have a favorite cheap eat$ place in the city?
Mr. Bill: Smoke Q’s, the barbecue house on Pulaski and Grace. They have a great beef brisket.
Me: Thank you for your time. The turkey is delicious. I’ll have to be back another sunday.
Mr. Bill: Alright, anytime.