Josephine Wade began cooking when she was 13. The daughter of sharecroppers, Wade was babysitting her siblings one day as her parents worked when she realized she needed to make them dinner. She went out to their garden, picked some vegetables and went inside to whip up a gourmet cabbage dish.
By the time she was 19, Wade knew she wanted to open her own restaurant. In 1986, Wade opened Captain’s Hard Times in Chatham, although she eventually changed the name to Josephine’s Southern Cooking.
Over the years, Wade amassed a huge following, with celebrities like Aretha Franklin showing up for her soul food. She became a staple on Chicago’s South Side and was seen with community leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and part of 79th Street, near her restaurant, now has an official, if honorary, designation: “Mother Josephine Wade Way.”