Virginia Ali and her husband Ben founded the world famous Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C. in 1958. The U Street Corridor of D.C., where Ben’s Chili Bowl is located, was known as “Black Broadway” because top performers would play sets in bars and theaters in the area, and they would usually eat and hang out at Ben’s. Such celebrities include Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bill Cosby. During the Civil Rights Movement, “The Bowl” was a hangout place for activists and even Martin Luther King, Jr. paid a couple of visits. Mrs. Ali has served on the Board of Directors for many organizations over the years including For Love of Children. She and her husband have been inducted into the D.C. Hall of Fame in 2002 for their landmark restaurant’s role in many important D.C. historical events. In 2004, Ben’s Chili Bowl received the “American Classic’s Restaurant Award” from the James Beard Foundation. On August 22, 2008, Ben’s Chili Bowl celebrated its 50th anniversary and Ben and Virginia were awarded the Key to the City by Mayor Adrian Fenty for their entrepreneurship and significant contribution to the spirit of U Street and history of Washington D.C.
Acclaimed Chef, Cookbook Author, Television Host, James Beard Nominee, and Philanthropist. All words that describe Chef Gerry Garvin, simply known as G. Garvin. Chef Garvin launched his culinary career in his hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, at the Ritz Carlton-Downtown as the youngest line cook in the gourmet dining room. He was soon chosen by the luxury brand to move to Palm Springs, California where he open the Ritz Carlton-Rancho Mirage and worked under Chef Jean Pierre Dubray.
With a promising career ahead, Chef Garvin relocated to Los Angeles, California, and took on a position as the dining room Sous Chef at Noa Noa. After spending 3 years there, he headed to the Four Seasons, Beverly Hills and later went on to become the Executive Chef of Morton’s and Kass Bah. After spending some time in Los Angeles, Garvin returned to Atlanta to work with the Buckhead Life Group at Veni Vidi Vici and Pricci. He later returned to Los Angeles and partnered with Keyshawn Johnson to open Reign Restaurant.
After a successful start at Reign, Chef Garvin opened his signature restaurant, G Garvin’s, where he continued to cater to and host high profile dinners for clients ranging from Former President Bill Clinton, to Halle Berry, to the Former Prime Minister of Israel.
Chef Garvin is also a notable author. His first cookbook, “Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin” released in October 2006. Its widespread success quickly prompted a second printing and won an American Literacy Award and a nomination for a NAACP Image Award. It was also chosen as a participant in the 2006 Library of Congress National Book Festival.
Garvin’s highly anticipated sophomore effort, “Make it Super Simple with G. Garvin”, a collection of recipes for super simple, healthful and delectable dishes, was released in February 2008. A third cookbook, “Dining In”, released in October 2008, and features all new, fine-dining recipes that provide even the most inexperienced cooks with recipes and guidance to create the most impressive gourmet meals at home. Garvin has mastered offering a one-size-fits-all approach to cooking with sophistication and simplicity, proving that even the most basic cooking palate can create flavorful dishes.
Chef Garvin expanded his brand, making a name for himself by appearing in the homes of millions, for 7 seasons on the TV One Network hit show, Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin (airing in the US and Brazil). His increasing popularity earned him a second series on the same network, entitled G. Garvin: The Road Tour. Eventually, the Food Network’s Cooking Channel tapped him to host the series, Road Trip with G Garvin.
As a serial entrepreneur, Garvin has developed and launched Low Country Restaurant in the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport; Garvin’s Spices; a line of Gourmet Nuts; a series of oils and vinaigrettes; and a variety of gourmet cookies. He also develops recipes for notable clients like Kraft Foods, Tyson Foods, SodexoMAGIC and The Coca-Cola Company. Restaurant consulting, yet another aspect of the Chef’s business, allows restaurateurs to realize their vision by overseeing all aspects of new operations, polices and procedures, recipe development and the creation on menus, placement of Executive Chef’s and General Managers.
Garvin’s impressive resume and philanthropic efforts have warranted accolades such as the 2007 Man of the Year award by Women Moving Forward in Business and Third Best TV Chef by Southwest Airlines Spirit Magazine in 2006, behind Jacques Pepin and Emeril Lagasse. Additionally, Garvin has been a popular guest on both The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Good Morning America.
To further his indelible mark on culinary history, Chef Garvin is touching and changes lives through his G. Garvin Foundation and its primary program, the G. Garvin Culinary Boot Camp, which is geared towards young adults ages 16-19. Through this seven-day camp, Garvin introduces young people to a new career choice, the culinary arts. His efforts aid in breaking down the diversity barriers within not only the culinary industry, but in society as a whole, where chefs of color are often categorized more often by race than profession.
Chef Jeff Henderson is an award-winning chef, bestselling author and popular public speaker — and an ex-offender, having served nearly a decade in prison for drugs. Having run kitchens as Executive Chef at the renowned Café Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, he has become one of the most inspirational African-American chefs in the country.
In 2001, Jeff made history in Las Vegas, when he became the first African-American named “Chef de Cuisine” at Caesars Palace. He eventually became an executive chef at several top restaurants including Café Bellagio, where he worked until 2006.
Jeff’s remarkable story of finding his passion for cooking during his 10 years of incarceration and turning his life around was captured in his New York Times Bestseller COOKED (William Morrow, February 2007). His story is now being turned into a major motion picture by the team that made The Pursuit of Happyness: Will Smith and his production company Overbrook Entertainment, Escape Artists and Columbia Pictures.
Jeff has received widespread national attention on numerous TV and radio programs and print publications, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The Montel Williams Show, CNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, People and USA Today. As a passionate and powerful speaker, Jeff’s appearances are in high demand across the country through his company The Henderson Group.
Jeff currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife and three children.
She has been heralded by The New York Times as “a Renaissance woman,” by television anchor Chuck Scarborough as a “domestic goddess,” by The New York Daily News as “one of the most important African-American style mavens of all time,” and honored with a 2012 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance by Food Arts. A broadcast talent, entrepreneurial spokesperson and multiple award-winning recipient across a wide range of fields, Smith also earned kudos when she returned to the stage in her Off-Broadway debut in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” the award-winning play by Nora and Delia Ephron. In 2012, Smith was inducted into the American Chef Corps, part of the U.S. Department of State’s newly-formed Diplomatic Culinary Partnership with the James Beard Foundation. Until recently, she ran three B. Smith restaurants: on Theatre Row in Manhattan; Sag Harbor, NY; and Washington DC. But then her life changed. In 2013, at the age of 64, B. Smith was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Since then, she and her husband Dan Gasby have worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the disease and its effects on the African-American community in particular. Their book, Before I Forget, interweaves their narrative with practical and helpful advice. Readers learn about dealing with the day-to-day challenges: the family realities and tensions and ways of coping. They also learn about research that may lead to treatment in the next few years.
Groundbreaking Fashion Model
A native of Pennsylvania, Smith began her career as a fashion model, gracing the covers of 15 magazines and becoming the first African-American woman on Mademoiselle’s cover in July 1976. In addition to TV commercials for Mercedes-Benz, she has served as a spokesperson for Verizon, Colgate Palmolive Oxy and McCormick’s Lawry seasonings products.
For nearly a decade, Smith hosted the nationally syndicated/cable television show “B. Smith with Style” that aired on NBC stations in more than 90% of U.S. households and in 40 countries. Her effervescent personality and creative ideas continue to impact national audiences via her appearances on programs such as “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show.” She and Gasby have also produced four specials for TV One, the lifestyle cable network for African-Americans.
Transcultural Lifestyle Pioneer
Smith is at the forefront of a transcultural movement. Her flair for décor, demonstrated in the ambiance of her restaurants, led to the development of her first home collection, which debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2001. The B. Smith with Style Home Collection is the first line from an African-American woman to be sold at a nationwide retailer and includes bedding, tabletop and bath products.
From duvets to doormats, Smith’s décor line continues to grow with a variety of pieces for entertaining and home and incorporates her signature “Afrasian” design concept, which merges core African and Asian elements.
Smith has authored three home entertaining books: B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends (Artisan Press), the first tabletop entertainment and lifestyle book by an African American; B. Smith: Rituals and Celebration (Random House), a James Beard Foundation Award nominee, one of Food & Wine magazine’s best cookbooks of 1999 and an American Library Association Black Caucus Literary Award winner; and B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style (Simon and Schuster), with 200 recipes and flavorful tips for reducing calories. Her latest book, with husband Dan Gasby and Vanity Fair contributing editor Michael Shnayerson, is the story of her fight with Alzheimer’s. “Before I Forget” (Harmony Books) was published January 2016.