Chef G. Garvin isn’t shy when it comes to talking all things Southern.

Growing up in Atlanta, he now defines what Southern food and life is all about. On his hit TV show, Road Trip, which airs on the Cooking Channel, Garvin searches high and low for the best Southern-inspired dishes across America.

I spoke to Chef Garvin recently about what inspires him in the kitchen, how to throw the perfect summer barbecue, his buzzed-about Coca-Cola BBQ sauce and his pioneering one-man cooking demo.

You grew up in the South. What do you love most about Southern food?

Southern food is much bigger than just food on a plate. It’s about what comes with the meal – family, friends, sitting around a table and having a conversation. Sharing life’s experiences. Some of my favorites, though it’s hard to narrow down, include short ribs, oxtails and, of course, grits.

Describe your ideal backyard summer BBQ from the decor to the playlist, to the guest list, and, most importantly, your go-to dishes.

In the South, backyard barbecues are like a non-biological family reunion. Typically there are around 50 to 75 people. Our theme, “we don’t have to know you to feed you” is how we show love. We have multiple grills, table tennis, card games, and movie trivia. On the menu, a spread of fried chicken, sausage links, hot links, polish sausages, coleslaw, and potato salad. And a little Marvin Gaye or Kanye West in the background.

What makes your Coca-Cola BBQ sauce so special? Any tips for different ways to use it -- whether you are hosting a party for friends or want your dish to dazzle at a family gathering?

Barbecue sauce is very personal. Everyone has their go-to homemade version they like to whip up. Growing up in Atlanta, Coca-Cola always had a huge presence andthey supply many folks with jobs. I remember as a kid going to get a Coke after church because it was not just a soda, it was a treat. Using Coca-Cola in a barbecue sauce, I knew the flavors and the potential. You can go sweet or savory, or I add a little jalapeno or hoisin sauce to mix things up.

Chef Garvin

Having cooked in a lot of kitchens and with many chefs, who has inspired you the most?

Inspiration is a continuous thing for me. I am constantly inspired by people, places, and things. I enjoy watching my colleagues grow and get better in their craft. Anthony Bourdain’s blunt honesty is refreshing as well as his food. I also admire Chef Thomas Keller’s discipline in teaching the classics while still pushing the envelope.

Between opening restaurants, writing cook books, hitting the road with your TV shows and all your philanthropic efforts, do any particular experiences stand out as favorites?

Writing a cookbook stands out the most to me. I enjoy writing and telling the simplest components of a recipe. It’s a chance for me to share a deeper part of who I am and what I enjoy. But I also have enjoyed the experience of being on the road doing TV shows, speaking with people face to face and hearing how their dreams come true. And it was great to partner with Coca-Cola at this year’s ESSENCE Festival, where I got the chance to connect with a lot of people.  

To wrap it up, can you tell me a little more about your one-man stage show and culinary demo on August 7 at The Buckhead Theatre in Atlanta? How did this idea come to fruition?

This event is really a cooking demonstration taken to the next level. I will be cooking six courses on stage all while conveying my story. Each dish will represent a part of my life, for example, my grandmother will be represented in a dish accompanied with a particular song to explain what she means to me. Between the food, DJ, violinist, choir and atmosphere, it will be a great show.

Lauren Grier is the author behind the 
Climbing Grier Mountain (CGM). CGM is all about embracing curiosity. She thinks of her kitchen as a playground full of endless opportunities to make dishes that reflect life's experiences and shenanigans. Her recipes are fresh, flavorful, and adventurous. 

Lauren is one of our food bloggers for 
The Opener
an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture, and
writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.