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A love for cooking rooted from humble beginnings. Owner and creator of the Rockford restaurant 15th & Chris, James Purifoy, began his cooking journey from his own childhood kitchen.

“I started off as a bowl licker, watching my mother and my grandmother in the kitchen,” he said. “When they finish making the cakes, I get to lick the bowl, so I was always fascinated in that aspect of the kitchen.”

Purifoy’s passion for cooking helped develop his talent for the culinary arts. The support he received from his family and friends motivated him to open up a restaurant.

“Everybody would be sitting at the table and loving the courses that I put out, and they would always be like ‘dude you need to open up your own restaurant,'” he said. “That was the start of 15th & Chris.”

Just like its name, 15th & Chris is located on the corner of 15th Avenue and Christina Street. The building used to be vacant for more than two decades. Before that, it was an ice cream parlor that Purifoy grew up with.

“I thought it was a perfect idea to bring some of those old memories back into the neighborhood,” he said.

15th & Chris has become a staple in the Rockford community. Some people even say it’s the best burger they’ve ever had.

However, it wasn’t always fun and games for Purifoy. Before he opened up his restaurant, he was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was in a gang and was involved in a shooting.

A decade behind bars was a wake-up call for Purifoy. During his time in prison, he worked hard and educated himself to make sure he would never end up where he was before.

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