Local female chefs create custom Thanksgiving meals for Afghan refugees, others in need for holiday

CHICAGO (WLS) -- With kitchens across Chicago in overdrive in the 11th-hour crush ahead of Thanksgiving, Rohini Dey realized this holiday needed something unique.

"Yesterday I woke up and said, 'I want this Thanksgiving to be different,'" she said. "This has been two years of incredible, not just COVID, but social change."

Dey is the owner of Vermilion and founder of Let's Talk Womxn. Thinking about her own family, she realized others aren't as fortunate as her.

"Our worlds have been turned upside down. I'm fortunate to have a daughter and family with me, but I know that's not the case for so many."

With a River North restaurant kitchen at her disposal, the female restaurateur reached into the arsenal of female chefs across the city.

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"How many meals can you donate? Even if it's just dessert or whatever," said Deann Bayless, co-owner of Frontera.

Now, 16 chefs from across the city are customizing full meals for working mothers, the homeless, and 100 Afghan refugee children.

"They are here, fled their country. These are children that are sitting without their parents alone. It just breaks my heart," Dey said.

Twenty hand-prepared meals of Mexican cuisine are headed to a group of Afghan refugee children who are spending their first Thanksgiving in the United States alone. And what makes this unique, is it meets their unique dietary restrictions.

"This is not just boxed vanilla meals, this is proper Thanksgiving feast," said Dey said.

"Most of them needed to have a halal meal because they're Muslim, and I said, 'Our beef is halal,' maybe we can do something with that," Bayless said. "We are so enriched by all this world around us -- different cultures - I'm so happy to be part of it."

The food is freshly boxed, bagged and ready for 350 eager bellies who will celebrate this Thanksgiving with a special touch from female kitchens in Chicago.

"What good are we if we can't, as a society, boost each other beyond our tiny little universes -- and on this day. This Thanksgiving season, it really brings to the fold really being there for each other," said Dey.
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