From pop-up dinners to pandemic relief, D’Andre Carter and Heather Bublick serve


Graphic by Angeli Mittal

Heather Bublick and D’Andre Carter, founders of Feast & Imbibe and Soul & Smoke, have been honored by the Evanston Chamber of Commerce as Businessperson of the Year.

Jorja Siemons, Assistant City Editor

When thinking of his introduction to the art of cooking, D’Andre Carter remembers making peach cobbler in his grandmother’s kitchen.

“Cooking was always a celebrated thing in my household,” Carter said.

After studying at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Chicago, Carter worked his way from intern to executive sous chef at Moto Restaurant, the Michelin-starred molecular gastronomy restaurant in the Fulton River District that closed in 2016. There, he met his wife, Heather Bublick, who worked as a chef.

Now, over ten years later, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce is honoring Carter and Bublick as Businessperson of the Year for their entrepreneurship at Feast & Imbibe, the catering company they began in 2013. The couple also owns and operates Soul & Smoke, established in 2015, which is a more casual dining experience known for its barbeque.

Bublick said Feast & Imbibe started with pop-up dinners, where they would serve gourmet food in people’s homes for dinner parties and events. Because people spread the word and continued turning to Bublick and Carter for catering needs, the couple was able to start their business.

“The community turned us into a catering company,” Bublick said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Feast & Imbibe catered corporate and non-profit events as well as weddings with sweet and savory modern American cuisine ranging from buttermilk chicken and waffles to raspberry tarts.

“They became a staple in not just my life but in the people in my branches’ life,” said Jared Davis, a personal banker at Evanston Community Bank & Trust.

Davis met Bublick and Carter three years ago at Evanston MashUp, and said he couldn’t get away from their table because the brisket sandwiches were so delicious. Now, he said he is a “big cheerleader” for them and their business, recognizing the power of a Black and woman-led restaurant.

Nevertheless, everything changed last year because of the pandemic.

“Very early on, before stay-at-home orders and things like that, our calendar was decimated,” Bublick said.

Because they already had meals that were recipe-tested, Bublick said Feast & Imbibe opened its doors on March 17 and gave away 30 meals from 3-4 p.m., no questions asked.

When the statewide shelter-in-place order took effect on March 21, Feast & Imbibe began delivering meals to residents’ homes and were giving out roughly 300 meals a day by mid-April.

In August, Feast & Imbibe joined forces with World Central Kitchen, a non-profit emergency food relief organization that implemented a “Restaurants for the People” program during the pandemic. The nonprofit matches local restaurants with food-insecure communities, and then pays for their meals to keep both small businesses afloat and community members fed.

“Because we’re a caterer, cooking for mass amounts of people is very much what we do,” Bublick said.

According to Bublick and Carter, Feast & Imbibe is currently sending 300 to 500 meals a day into Chicago.

The business’ senior event producer, Sarah Arel, said while the majority of Feast & Imbibe’s meals go to nonprofit organizations — not to people directly — Feast & Imbibe has still received positive feedback from recipients.

“Once in a while somebody will call and be like, ‘your shrimp and grits were the best I’ve ever had,’” Arel said.

Bublick and Carter’s business Soul & Smoke has also adjusted to the pandemic, offering to-go meals ordered online through pickup and delivery.

Additionally, the business purchased a food truck last summer, and has been doing regular neighborhood pop-ups in the Chicagoland area to serve beef brisket, mac and cheese, garlic mashed potatoes and more. According to Arel, the food truck is a way to continue hosting events while allowing for social distancing.

Rosalyn Jones, an employee at Feast & Imbibe for eight years who has known Carter since elementary school, said the couple’s creative spirit propels them forward as businesspeople.

“They’re always looking for innovative ways to present the business,” Jones said. “You can see that fire in their eyes when you talk to them about food.”

Bublick said the Evanston community has been a great support system as they continue to adapt to the pandemic, pointing specifically to Facebook groups like Support Evanston Restaurants and Support Evanston Shops, Salons, and Studios.

“It’s emotional as a business owner when you work so hard and then potentially have everything ripped out from underneath you in the blink of an eye,” she said. “The Evanston community has been so amazing.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @JorjaSiemons

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