Photos courtesy of Keith Garrett.
Under a blazing hot Watts sun, Watts native and flavor master Keith Garret told a journalist amidst a Watts crowd awaiting his food: “After high school, I was just tryin’ to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I spent about a week praying about the situation sincerely. I said, ‘Lord, I don’t wanna do this no more. No more 401K-ing it. Don’t wanna sell my mom’s house. It ain’t right. I want better.”
Garrett is a believer in the power of three things: God, Watts, and the almighty human connector that is food. Since launching All Flavor No Grease (AFNG) on his driveway in the South LA neighborhood at 108th Street, he has built up an army of tens of thousands of followers and garnering attention from Dining on a Dime to Eater LA to Business Insider.
And now, the man is taking up a residency, beginning every Monday at 5PM on November 21, in none other than North Long Beach’s Muldoon’s Saloon, shellin’ out his famed shrimp quesadillas and more.
The importance of this goes beyond the fact that Long Beach stomachs can now partake in what some of have called the best quesadillas in Garrett’s all-American take on Mexican classics (and Southern staples like gumbo—yes, gumbo that looks flat-out #foodporn-like). While (typically white) Millenials and their Gen X older siblings and Baby Boomer parents sappily seek stories of inner-city struggle escaping and evolving into success (typically through the precise parts of society that brought them struggle in the first place), Garrett refuses to leave Watts.
What he represents is one of hundreds of thousands of stories not represented in LA County: the steadfast denizens who refuse to leave the place that have built them, for better or worse. They’re invested. They’re bullish. And they’re the precise type of people that marginalized communities need.
“You feel me?” is Garrett’s idiosyncratic send-off message on the daily, as the loquacious self-taught chef is known to have full-blown conversations while creating full-blown gastronomical masterpieces—all in the heart of Watts. He talks of his struggles, even ones that hit frighteningly close to home, such as when his 26-year-old friend and catering partner Travione “Tray” Mason was tragically shot shortly after Garrett had begun to make a name for AFNG.
But Garrett pushes through because he believes that God has big plans for him, Watts, and AFNG.
Welcome to Long Beach, Watts—thanks for spreading the love, the food, the faith in something better, and especially for sharing the gift that is Keith Garrett. We feel you. All the way.
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