It’s nearly impossible to ignore Chef Gerry “G” Garvin’s charm in the kitchen. His personality, like many of his dishes, is bold and full of flavor. The Atlanta native discovered his passion for cooking as a child in the kitchen with his mother. It was also through hardship with his mother that he learned the importance of giving back. As a domestic violence survivor, Garvin knows that community can save lives. He is an active supporter of the Jenesse Center, the oldest domestic violence intervention program in Los Angeles. Most recently, he has teamed up with Allstate Insurance for its Give it Up For Good campaign, where people all around the country are encouraged to share their stories of service.

On TV, Garvin explored restaurant gems in the third season of the James Beard-nominated Road Trip with G. Garvin on the Cooking Channel. His most recent show, Underground BBQ Challenges, takes one of his favorite ways of cooking to neighborhoods all around America. EBONY chatted with Garvin about his philanthropic efforts and the one dish he hasn’t mastered just yet.

EBONY: Your love for cooking extends far beyond the kitchen with an aim to better people’s lives through programs like One Bite and Culinary Boot Camp. Tell us why helping other people is important to you.

G. Garvin: I think that helping people is important because I feel like we all need to be loved and appreciated. Not everyone is from perfect family situations and I think those of us who have more should do more.

EBONY: What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had with a child in one of your programs?

GG: Watching a really, really tough kid allow himself to become just a kid and experience what we we’re trying to teach them. On what we call ceremony day, we present the kids with certificates. There was a really tough kid who cried when he received his certificate and whose life we changed in 7 days.

EBONY: What can people look forward to on your new show Underground BBQ Challenges?

GG: On the show, there is an ingredient that I give to contestants and they have to create a menu with that ingredient, then there is a wildcard ingredient halfway through the competition that they have to incorporate as well. It’s a battle of neighborhood vs. neighborhood with a $10,000 prize, which is pretty cool.

EBONY: What are some of your favorite things to grill? Do you have any rituals when you cook?

GG: I grill a lot of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which works well for my workouts. I also grill of shrimp and proteins. I like to keep my grill really nice and clean, so I’ll use a kitchen cloth with some canola oil and roll it up to clean it. I try to use brushes as well to keep things from sticking to it. A lot of people start throwing things on the grill and chicken starts tasting like ribs and ribs start tasting like chicken, so I think it’s really important to have a clean grill.

EBONY: In what ways does cooking allow you to express yourself where words cannot? Why is it so powerful to you?

GG: I think that most great moments at one time or another will surround food and when you love food the way that I do it is extension of the who you are. To share that quality time over a meal is very, very special. Oftentimes, I don’t think you need to say you love someone when you spend time and effort to enjoy and prepare a meal for them.

EBONY: Are there any meals you’ve created in the past that you look back at now and say, “What was I thinking?”

GG: Red velvet cake has always been a challenge for me. I once made it for Tom Joyner and he wanted to make it for himself, so I had to test it over and over. Red velvet cake is just not my friend.