Chef Chat

Chef G. Garvin Road Trips to Houston, Pit Stops at Pizzitola's: The Episode Airs Tonight

With his trademark Southern flair and down-to-earth flavor, G. Garvin spotlights Houston's own Pizzitola's, home of real barbecue and famous for fall-off-the-bone ribs, tonight.

Airing tonight on The Cooking Channel, Road Trip With G. Garvin takes in "The Best of the Bayou," with the Atlanta native stopping in to grab a quick lesson at the pit with master Carlton Gould, along with Texas barbecue legend, and Pizzitola founder, John Davis.

Pizzitola's, open since 1935, remains a Houston institution. After 70 years, the same brick pit still slowly tenderizes hardwood-flavored meats, with pit masters taming the fiery beast. Owner Jerry Pizzitola is keeping tradition alive, and daily crowds keep pouring in.

On the road again, Chef G. stops for a minute to chat and chew:

Where did this idea, Road Trip With G. Garvin, spring from and why a road trip?

It's a little Anthony Bourdain, a little Andrew Zimmern, with a whole lot of G. I run around the country, check out local spots and meet people who aren't necessarily trained chefs. But they make great food with Southern flavor. I love food, and I love to travel, so [Road Trip] seemed a great combination for me. I've been to Charleston, to Houston, even up to Brooklyn and New Jersey. I've been all over.

Why an episode titled "The Best of the Bayou"?

I didn't want to just go to New Orleans. Everyone knows Louisiana's got great Southern food and great tradition. But I didn't want to try just gumbo or po' boys. I wanted to find places outside of Louisiana and to introduce other great eateries. We included Houston, the Bayou City, known for its excellent barbecue. But again, I wanted to try something smaller, more local. So we chose Pizzitola's.

What is it about Southern food that brings you to it and inspires you?

I grew up eating great meals in the South. Homemade food, oxtails, meatballs, short ribs. It's a huge mix; there's soul food and Southern food. But nowadays, Southern food is also prepared by really great, professional chefs. I do Southern-inspired food, but with a twist. For example, my recipe for braised short ribs includes a ragu on pappardelle pasta. That's my specialty: a little fusion, mixing genres but maintaining Southern traditions as the base.

What specifically brought you to Pizzitola's?

Pizzitola's had a great story. It was started by one person, John Davis, and then taken over by a non-African American, Jerry Pizzitola. But Jerry didn't do a hostile takeover. Instead, he kept the integrity of the place. And I loved that he maintained the integrity. Jerry's a really nice guy, and Pizzitola's a great place to go. Not just great barbecue, but a great story.

So, what's the verdict on Pizzitola's in terms of food and experience?

The flavor of the east Texas hickory wood was really identifiable in the ribs. I just remember them saying, "We don't do skinny ribs!" They were super ribs, not baby back. The folks at Pizzitola's were really adamant about them not being skinny. [Laughing].

What did you think of our great city of Houston?

I love Houston. And Houston's a lot of country. There are lots of places there, so it's hard to choose just one. On our off time from shooting, me and the crew went to little hole-in-the-wall places around town that were great. Almost all were Road Trip-worthy.

Why should viewers watch Road Trip With G. Garvin?

Bourdain, Zimmern, we're all co-workers and all on the same team. Road Trip is different because it's not just about the short segments on camera, but the people and their back stories. The people we meet are not just chefs, as many are not formally trained. But the people we spotlight, their stories and situations are very important to me. I spend time with the personalities, and so my interviews are different and more familial. These are great little places, and I give you the tour-guide experience, where you actually remember what is unique. I introduce viewers to personalities and chefs who you wouldn't normally see on TV.

Road Trip premiered just this spring. What's this experience been like?

I've been doing TV for seven years, first with Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin that ran on TV One. Now, with Road Trip on The Cooking Channel, my demographic is different. I get to bring Southern-inspired food with a twist to a wider audience, not just African-American. And The Cooking Channel is a great new home.

With Road Trip, I'm looking to do a great show, that's fun and interesting. I aim to do the absolute best job I can. I'm not trying to sell you any places but just trying to share great stories.

I'm a chef who's on TV, not a TV chef. I've worked at great restaurants, had my own, and continue to develop new recipes for my books. I still get my fix for great food and great cooking.

What's next for G. Garvin?

My fourth cookbook is coming out and a new full-service restaurant opening up in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Also, if you're in the area, Studio Kitchen, in hip West Atlanta, provides a great space for culinary events.

To see the full episode, "Best of the Bayou," spotlighting Houston and Pizzitola's, tune in tonight at 8 p.m. CST on The Cooking Channel.

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Sapna Patel
Contact: Sapna Patel