CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - It has been the topic of discussion and division. Does the word "Chi-Raq" carry a negative connotation or can it be used in a positive way?
One Chicago native is hoping to change the meaning of the word by opening a restaurant on the South Side called "Chi-RAQ Cuisines.”
Antwan Jeffries grew up around violence and was close to living a lifestyle of gangs and crime, until he discovered his talent behind the grill.
The 21-year-old is a Chicago native, Le Cordon Bleu graduate and now restaurant owner.
“I know I wasn't always good, but I know that people do change,” he said. “I was part of the problem, the ways I was going about to get money and try to obtain things I seen and wanted.”
Thanks to the Chicago Art Beat Studios program, he got his GED and found his talent of cooking.
He's now using that talent at Chi-RAQ Cuisines - an American, Jamaican and Italian restaurant and small grocery store.
That name is controversial for customers, though.
“I think that would cause more shooting,” said resident Harold Dorsey.
“It implies that the entire city is like a warzone,” said Leeza Cox.
“I put it up there because I live here and I've been a part of the problem and I understand why it's called that and why kids feel the way they do,” said Jeffries, who explained he grew up calling the city 'Chi-Raq.'
He hopes now through his success story he can make the term a positive thing.
“That's what I am here for, to show that you can make something negative and turn it into something positive with all the odds against you,” he said.
Chi-RAQ Cuisines has a double meaning. First he wants to bring a positive meaning to the term and he says Chi-RAQ stands for Chicago - Real - Authentic - Quality food.
It's located near East 79th and Jeffrey on the South Side.