If you have TV-One then chances are you’ve seen G. Garvin do his thing in the kitchen on his show, ‘˜Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin,’ which blends a little hip hop flavor with some down home style cooking. The Atlanta native has held numerous high profile chef positions with the Ritz-Carlton, as executive chef at Morton’s, Kass Bah, Reign and as co-owner and executive chef of G. Garvin’s restaurant in Los Angeles. Now he has completely dedicated his time to his show which will be on the road in season two.
Halftime: You started off in the restaurant business at a young age. What was it about the business that kept you coming back each summer?
G. Garvin: The easiest thing to say is that my mom did it, my grand mom did it and being from Atlanta it’s what you do, come home, do your homework, clean the house and cook dinner. My mom always said she would get me what I need and what I wanted I would have to get for myself. So the reason I started doing it was because it was an easy transition. She was always doing it and I was always hanging out with her. I learned so much between the ages of nine and fourteen that cooking was the easiest thing for me to do at the time.
Halftime: What made you want to pursue cooking as a career?
G: That didn’t really happen until I was seventeen or eighteen. I had an opportunity to go to California to open a Ritz Carlton there. So I had to make a decision on whether I was going to leave the only place I’ve ever known and really take this seriously. I had done such a good job and I didn’t want to let anyone down by going to California and goofing off. So I decided to take the job and at that point I really started to take it seriously and learn as much about it as I possibly could.
Halftime: In a previous interview you mentioned one of your hurdles in the restaurant business was getting people to understand why you wanted to do it when it was perceived as a ‘˜white’ thing. What type of issues did you face within the business that you felt was due to race?
G: It was one of those things where you’re recognizable. Around the time I was getting into it, it was a lot of European white people and it just wasn’t something that [black] people were doing. It was like anything else, they didn’t know how to accept it so they didn’t. I didn’t take it personally even though it was. I just decided that if they didn’t know I’d have to show them. Different things would happen but I decided very early I would either let it handicap me or let me prevail. Once you decide what you are going to do it’s just a matter of time. It’s like having a bad day you just have to wait till tomorrow. So I knew at some point it would have to end because I wasn’t leaving.
Halftime: Throughout your career what has been your some of your favorite moments?
G: My proudest moment has nothing to do with my career and that would be the birth of my two-year old. But within the culinary world I would say catering for President Clinton while he was in office and for the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. There are also a few other accomplishments like making the NY Times top ten list, making the LA Times tops ten list, and just recently we were # 3 on the top TV chefs list beating out everyone on the Food Network except Emeril Lagasse. So those are like my greatest hits.
Halftime: I read that you were initially considering developing a series of cooking DVDs prior to getting down with TV-One. What was the initial spark that made you want to do your own cooking show?
G: It was one of those things that just happens. I think if you look at entertainment every person who moves to Los Angeles from somewhere else has a hidden fantasy. If you look at the average person everyone wants to be an entertainer in some way because it’s believed to be the greatest job in the world. I wanted to be the absolute best in my field but I wasn’t really interested in Hollywood. I just loved food and happen to live in Hollywood. But once I got to a certain place in my career it was like a self creation. It was a matter of perfect timing, the next level, and being ready. So once I looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘˜where do I go from here?’ it was the next stage. I had some ideas and when the time came it all made sense and I pursued it like it was the end of the world.
Halftime: What was new or different that you felt you were going to add that was missing in the shows before you?
G: Well, the first thing is color. I would add a lil flava to the culinary world. TV in the culinary world was just bland. Obviously Emeril Lagasse is exciting and you had Wolfgang Puck who is truly an icon but outside of that nothing was really going on. So I knew that just being genuine and being myself would add something. Young African-Americans create a huge demographic and I knew if I was just myself I would be accepted. So bringing my own style and personality was easy because it was what it was.
Halftime: That leads right to my next question. One of the unique things about the show is how you relate to your audience. It’s pretty obvious that you’re a fan of and influenced by hip hop culture. How would you say you have been influenced by hip hop over the years?
G: It’s one of those things where when you’re young, black and in America without a lot of money there are only a few avenues you can turn too. Sports is one obviously, church and the third option is music. So I think to a certain extent we were all influenced by hip hop because it was what was on television. It was WWF and the Fat Boys, Sugar Hill Gang, and Doug E. Fresh. So what hip hop did for me is give me something to hold onto. I knew that this was always going to be genuine. It was FUBU ‘“ For Us By Us ‘“ and it really gives you a platform to create your own destiny. It’s sort of like the unofficial gang. Hip hop is the unofficial gang because everyone has a place they can call home. When you walk into the subway and you got seven or eight cats that are rhyming, that’s better than selling drugs or breaking into somebody’s house. That’s where we went. I used to dance, some cats was breakin, some were rhyming but it was always a place to go where we could be safe until the streetlights came on and we had to go home.
Halftime: I look at cooking as an art and many artists are often influenced by music. If there are certain tracks on does that influence how you do things in the kitchen?
G: Oh yea absolutely. There is always a track in my mind but unfortunately because of clearance issues I can’t play them on the show. It runs through my heart. It depends on what I’m dealing with. Recently, I had a bad breakup so I was kinda down and out. There were always certain songs I would play in my mind to keep me where I needed to be on my show. There are always some tracks running through my soul. Let Me Love You is probably my all time favorite because it just gets you there. The track is so hard. That song.. ‘Baby I just don’t get it do you enjoy being hurt, I know you smelled the perfume, the make-up on his shirt.’ It’s just funky and it allows you to be creative and just let your spirit flow free.
Halftime: Anytime you’re genuine there are always some detractors. I read somewhere that a person commented that watching you was like seeing Funk Master Flex with a cooking show because you were dropping the ‘˜nahmeans’ and things like that. Were you ever worried that being genuine would turn some people away?
G: Listen, man anytime you’re on TV everybody wants your job. Rule #1 is if you can’t be secure and do what you do then you shouldn’t be on television. Everybody has an opinion, but I guarantee you the guy that wrote it when that red light turns green he can’t do it. If he can create a dish, keep your attention, keep it funky, keep it genuine and deliver the knowledge behind the food then come talk to me. Pan to pan if anybody in the country think they can stand next to me come and see me. I would love for him to come and see me in the kitchen. He can bring any dish he wants to bring and I’ll shut him down and he’ll be writing something else. But in that sense no it doesn’t bother me.
Halftime: Do you have any plans to have any rappers appear on the show as guests?
G: Well, it isn’t about what you do, it’s what you bring. I’m open. The women are always asking me to put LL on the show. There are some rappers I play ball with that have expressed some interest but it’s really about what their bringing. My show isn’t a hip hop show though it’s slightly influenced by hip hop. It’s also influenced by my grandmother and the executives at TV-One that ride me like a horse to make sure we stay on course. So it’s influenced by a number of different areas. So I can bring on a rapper if he has a great dish. If you have a rapper and he has a dish that he was raised on then yes I’m absolutely open to it if it fits into the show.
Halftime: Since I don’t know who in the industry has cooking skills, personality wise who would you like to have come by the kitchen?
G: Probably Jay-Z because of the respect, Puff, because he is a brilliant young man and my favorite would be Mos Def. Mos is one of those cats. He’s like me he stuck it out. I was in deals with different places before TV-ONE and it never felt right. Mos he aint a commercial rapper, his lyrics are for real, his style is irreplaceable, he’s a rapper-actor-producer, and he’s intelligent. He’s one of the cats who ain’t about the jewelry, the spinners and the women. He’s saying something and he speaks to America through his words.
Halftime: For you personally what are your all-time favorite hip hop records and who are some of your favorite artists?
G: Some of my favorite artists are Mos, Common, Jay-Z, Biggie, Doug E. Fresh, and RUN-DMC. Albums are hard to say because there are so many of them but to pick a few I’d say Radio, shit BBD had a hot album with Poison. It’s just endless with albums.
Halftime: I’m sure it has to be weird being a celebrity now. What have been some of the strangest encounters you have had with people randomly coming up to you?
G: I think celebrity is really a state of mind. Everyday is a learning process. For me it’s so new and you try to always be nice to people even if you’re in a hurry. You’re in the airport or in the line and they like, ‘˜Yo man you got some chicken in your bag?’ and you’re like nah man but I really gotta catch this flight. You just try and think of everyone as you were before you were that person. At the end of the day everybody is nice and have been so supportive to me that you just reach out and touch them. It is really strange sometimes because you have these brothers that are 6’6 and 250 talking about, ‘˜Yea, yea I really liked them crab cakes.’ I’m like aiight man, I appreciate it’¦don’t kill me. You get used to it and you just learn to make it work. There are days where it’s difficult but you signed up for it. For me I don’t mind going to work everyday and I’m gonna keep doing it till I stop loving it and I don’t see that coming anytime soon.
Halftime: Is there one that really stands out that is out of the ordinary?
G: Oh yea, a girl came up and gave me her panty’s once.
G: Nah, for real she took them off right in front of me. She was serious about it. She was like I love you and reached up under her skirt and gave me her panties. I was like umm damn. Then there are other things that happen but this is PG rated nahmean. But please don’t get it twisted, it goes down!! But you have to be aware and conscious of the decisions you’re making because it’s at rock star status as a chef.
Halftime: My girl kept bugging me to ask you a question about LL. So I figured I’d ask how annoying is it for people to constantly bring up the fact that they think you look like LL?
G: You know what man it’s so annoying that you learned to adapt. It’s harder for me because I’ve always been an LL fan. It becomes so annoying that overtime you just put it into your world. I get people chasing me, I get demos dropped in my car, I get scripts, I just get everything he gets so I just learned to live my life as he would because there is no way around it. It could be worse but it’s something you get used to. It ain’t no new thing man, you talking like fifteen years there’s been LL sightings. I used to hate it but there ain’t nothing you can do but say nah my name is Gerry, nah my name is Gerry… People are like let me see your arm, lick your lips’¦
Halftime: Haha! Can you tell me a bit about your restaurant and how you managed to balance that with your extracurricular activities and the show?
G: Well the restaurant is being sold as we speak. My lease is coming to an end. We tried to buy the building but we were unsuccessful. So it’s easier now because it’s closed. My life is driven by prayer and when the TV opportunity came about before any money was discussed I prayed. I said if I can handle this let it ride and if not then let it be. You really have no control over it. It all works if you’re ready for it and if you’re not it simply doesn’t. It was tough but it was manageable because the man upstairs told me I could do it.
Halftime: What else can we expect from you in the future? A new restaurant?
G: There are lots going on. I just signed a new deal with TV-One and we’re planning on doing hundreds of shows. This season we’re taking the show on the road and hitting New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. I’m signing a young chef to my production company and developing a show for her and we’re just building the network. I’m still a big part of making sure this network succeeds and that’s my focus. We still like each other after two years so it’s still looking good for everybody and we’re gonna try and create some great shows starting in March.
Halftime: Lastly, what advice do you have for any of our readers who are interested in becoming a chef and aiming for the level of success that you have attained?
G: First, when you decide that this is what you want to do get into a really good place, it doesn’t have to be a great place. Get into a really good place and spend as much time as you can in it and in your free time continue to work on your craft. Learn to embrace the word ‘˜No’ because you will hear it all the time and just embrace the challenge. You work with the best, you learn from the best and then you become the best.