Chicago chef prepares hundreds of meals for migrants arriving in city

Chef Art Smith said shortly after 11 a.m. on Monday, he got an email from Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office marked "Urgent" saying it needed 200 dinners and 200 breakfasts for a group of Venezuelan migrants who recently arrived in Chicago.

He didn't hesitate, and even included in the meal a taste of home.

"What I'm hoping is they open that box, and they'll just feel loved," said Smith.

He and the staff at Reunion — his newest restaurant at Navy Pier — sent 200 dinners and 200 breakfasts to Chicago's newest Venezuelan migrants.

"When duty calls, you do it," he said.


In the boxes were not only the chef's famous hand-battered fried chicken, but fresh arepas — a Venezuelan staple.

"We want to welcome them with a meal that tastes like home," said Smith's husband Jesus Salgueiro. "This is our staple. We use this for any meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Salgueido is from Venezuela and has 15 family members who fled to the U.S.

"You can't imagine the emotion that I feel being able to help my people. You can't imagine these families coming through the jungle of Panama. You hear horrible stories. Families die on the way here."

"Chicago gets beaten up all the time for its challenges," said Smith. "Every city has its challenges, but let's show the world that we are a city of hospitality. We are a city about welcoming people, about feeding people."

If you are interested in helping out, go to, there are plenty of ways to donate money, volunteer, or give clothing and other items.