Picking up some steaks at Kincaid's this weekend? Say hello to 27-year-old meat cutter Loreal Gavin while you're there, and you just might be chatting with the next Food Network star.
While living in California last fall, Gavin answered an ad and tried out for the reality program Food Network Star. The show, which airs at 9 p.m. Sundays, began its latest season June 1 with 10 finalists — including Gavin.
I caught up with Gavin while on her lunch break recently to find out how the young meat cutter and private chef — who grew up with her grandmother, attended culinary school at Sullivan University and has worked at "about a million jobs" — wound up competing.
NUVO: So how did it all happen?
Loreal Gavin: I sold pretty much everything I owned in September of last year, and I bought a one-way ticket from Indianapolis to Oakland to reunite with a guy I had been dating. After about a week of being there, I realized the honeymoon period was pretty much over, and I'd made a horrible mistake. I figured I had already screwed myself, so I figured I might as well laugh my ass off and try out for Food Network. I saw an ad on Craigslist.
NUVO: What did you have to do to try out?
Gavin: At the time, the BART subway system was shut down, so I had to take a ferry from Oakland to San Francisco all by myself that day. I remember chaining my bike up once I found the hotel and putting these high heels on and running up the street like Peggy Bundy, all beehived up and everything.
NUVO: How'd it go?
Gavin: I was actually an hour late. You could tell like hundreds of people had been there, but no one was there, and it was just two producers from JS Casting. And they were like, come back Monday.
NUVO: What'd you have to do that time?
Gavin: So I made a dish, and once again I had to take the ferry over with a basket on my bike. I had a frozen apple dumpling in a foil ball. And I tried to find somebody in San Francisco to let me bake the apple dumpling, but no one would let me for health code things.
NUVO: What'd you do?
Gavin: Chefs have to think on their feet, you know, so I saw Sur la Table, and I was like, I have an idea, let me demo one of your ovens. So yet again, it was just like Peggy Bundy for days. I'm in high heels again with a hot apple dumpling walking down the street in San Francisco. I was like excited and kind of laughing at myself, and not really taking it all that seriously, because I didn't believe that out of all the hundreds and thousands of people or whatever that would try out, that I would be one that they would call back.
NUVO: But they did. What were you doing at the time?
Gavin: It couldn't have happened at a better time, because I was struggling. I was living in a hostel, where I was paying with my significant other at the time over a thousand dollars a month for a room with no kitchen or no bathroom of your own. I'm an artistic person, and I had no guitar out there; no transportation.
NUVO: How'd you find out the news?
Gavin: About two months later, they finally got in touch with me. I had just enough money to get back home to Indianapolis. I bought a one-way ticket back, and I worked at the butcher shop at Christmas, and then I flew out. It didn't feel real until I saw myself up on TV for the first time.
NUVO: What was that like?
Gavin: I'm like, I'm fat, is what I thought. And then my other thought was thank God for Spanx, because I wore those all the time on the show.
NUVO: What's it like working at Kincaid's while knowing you're on TV?
Gavin: It feels really, really weird. I don't own a car; I just ride my bicycle everywhere. And I don't own a TV. And it's just the weirdest thing sometimes to be like, I'm on TV and in magazines, I'm all over the internet, and I have no car. I'm like the epitome of limited resources, but I feel really free. I think it's just the universe telling me stay humble and count your blessings and good things will come to you.
Jolene Ketzenberger covers local food at EatDrinkIndy.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JKetzenberger.