Diaspora

Bronzeville Winery, landmark attraction of 4400 Grove mixed-use development, opens – Hyde Park Herald

Bronzeville Winery, 4220 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
Left to right: Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox, Bronzeville Winery managing director Amy Jennetten, executive chef Whitney McMorris, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and co-owners Cecilia Cuff and Eric Williams cut the ribbon on the new business, April 20

Reporter
Bronzeville Winery, 4220 S. Cottage Grove Ave.
After a months-long delay caused by the pandemic and supply chain issues, the Bronzeville Winery has opened at 4420 S. Cottage Grove Ave. in the publicly funded 4400 Grove development.
Several other Black-owned commercial businesses that received grants from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund are set to open in the development, which also has 84 residential units, two-thirds of which are set aside at below market rate.
The development is located along one of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West corridors, designated to spur business development through public and private funding in several under-developed neighborhoods.
“This is what neighborhood revitalization looks like on Cottage Grove and throughout the South Side,” said Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice D. Cox. “The Bronzeville Winery is not just a restaurant, an eatery, and a wine bar — I think of this as a love letter. It’s a love letter between the community, Eric Williams and Cecilia Cuff, and it will make all Bronzeville residents experience something: the reason why they fell in love with Bronzeville in the first place.”
Co-owners Williams, who owns The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd St., and Cuff, a 20-year hospitality industry veteran, broke ground on the Bronzeville Winery about a year ago and said it would open last summer.
Cuff said she and Williams understand the opportunity and responsibility they have to be as inclusive as possible with their business.
“That was reflected in every single decision, because the people who made these floors, made these lamps, made the chairs, we’re all able to make a circular economy that will be able to keep the money in our neighborhoods,” she said. “We want every other business to rise to the challenge, because it is possible. And I think being a responsible entrepreneur, that is something that we really wanted to take seriously.”
Williams, in an interview, stressed that there are wines for everyone at his business: “Different price points, different tastes, different varietals. It was really curated so that there was something for the beginning wine person and something for somebody who has a really experienced wine palate.”
Sommelier Derrick C. Westbrook, formerly of 57th Street Wines, 1448 E. 57th St., did the program. Ian Julian, formerly of the James Beard Award-nominated Haitian restaurant Fritai in New Orleans, is the bar manager, and Whitney McMorris, formerly of Spin Chicago, 344 N. State St., is executive chef.
Left to right: Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox, Bronzeville Winery managing director Amy Jennetten, executive chef Whitney McMorris, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and co-owners Cecilia Cuff and Eric Williams cut the ribbon on the new business, April 20
McMorris has been a chef for 13 years, and she said Cuff and Williams gave her free rein to develop the new menu. “I was able to keep an open mind and be myself. I didn’t need to jump through any hoops to create what I wanted to create,” she said.
She said her cuisine is hard to define because it is an amalgamation of several different cultures. “My menu is ‘modern American cuisine,’ but it pretty much gives me the freedom to make all things,” she said. “One of my major goals is for people to eat things they say or think they don’t like, like mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, things like quail that they need to be more comfortable with, things like tartare, raw meat. These are the things that people are afraid of, raw oysters, umi, barnacles.”
Sourcing is important to her, especially produce from women- and Black-owned farms. Omni Ecosystems, 4131 S. State St., is growing their in-house microgreens.
“I am a quality over quantity chef,” McMorris said. “I don’t need the most expensive ingredient. I can offer you a nice, beautiful rainbow trout roe, and I don’t need it to be sturgeon caviar for you to get the experience of it. It can be affordable but still quality-focused, and still beautiful and delicious.”
“Most of the time, the expectation from a Black chef is, I don’t want to name items specifically, but what you’d expect from a Southern or soul food restaurant. That’s what sets me apart and why expectations are exceeded, because that is what people expect from me. They do not expect me cutting watermelon, curing it, smoking it, brining it and searing it, and it cutting like a meat and not being sweet, being savory and umami,” she said. “I’m most proud of those moments. That kind of cuisine is not to be expected of me.”
McMorris said the menu will be limited at first, to ensure “a nice, steady flow” for staff and guests, but she said she has “a million ideas” up her sleeve, particularly along the lines of molecular gastronomy. “I am coming for everybody in this industry,” she said.
Cox, for his part, predicted that Bronzeville Winery will become “a major destination,” one that “will draw thousands of folks to Bronzeville, and I think it is what equity looks like. It is what resiliency looks like. It’s what the Chicago South Side will look like,” he said.
“I feel strongly that Black and brown talent shouldn’t have to leave their community in order to exercise their superpowers. They need to do it right here at home,” he said. “And it’s happening here on Cottage Grove. It will happen on other commercial corridors under Invest South/West, and you will see a renaissance of the South and West sides.”
Lightfoot said the Bronzeville Winery team is one of several in the city that has received a grant from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund; last year, Cuff said her business got $250,000 from the city.
That program, Lightfoot said, brings entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds access to mentorship, capital and other resources.
“Under my administration,” she said, “we have changed around the dynamics of this program to make the moneys real. We don’t just want press releases and smiling faces. We want vertical construction and jobs: employment and viability in neighborhoods. That’s where we know we are really making a difference.”
a.gettinger@hpherald.com
Reporter
Aaron Gettinger, a third-generation newspaperman, studied sociology at Stanford University and the University of Chicago and joined the Herald in 2018.
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Partly cloudy and windy during the evening. Showers developing after midnight. Low 63F. Winds S at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph..
Partly cloudy and windy during the evening. Showers developing after midnight. Low 63F. Winds S at 20 to 30 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph.
Updated: April 23, 2022 @ 3:14 pm
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