Reality Bites for Loreal Gavin

The butcher-turned-cooking-show-contestant trades her cleaver for a closeup.

Editor’s Note: Loreal Gavin got the axe on the cooking-competition show Food Network Star on Sunday, July 27.

In her casting video for Season 10 of reality-television show Food Network Star, then-26-year-old motorcycle-riding professional butcher and pastry chef Loreal Gavin described herself as “a little baby grandma inside of this curvy lady,” a mash-up that explains a lot about her cooking as well. Early into the 11-week run of the show that culminates this month, she  impressed the judges with her sour-cream pound cake (from her grandma’s recipe) with creme fraiche, bourbon, and bacon. In another episode, she schooled co-host Alton Brown on how to prep a piece of meat for chicken-fried steak, a skill she honed during the three years she worked at Kincaid’s Meat Market.
But last year, Gavin bought a one-way train ticket to San Francisco to follow her musician boyfriend. After a week in the city, she realized she had made a mistake. “I was desperate. I didn’t want to call home, so I was looking on Craigslist for jobs and places to stay. That’s where I saw the Food Network ad,” she recalls.
“Butchering is something that other people in the competition might not be as polished at. But it exudes confidence. And sometimes when you’re going down—when a dish doesn’t work out the way you want it to—you have to keep a smile on your face.”

Loreal Gavin’s Favorite Things

(1) New Day Meadery: “It’s so clean, and it has that big-city feel.”
(2) Indiana tomatoes: “With some cracked black pepper.”
(3) Recess: “I have always been a fan of Greg Hardesty and all of the stuff he does. I had some steak tartare there once that was too legit to quit. And a bottle of Malbec. It was a good night.”
(4) Good Earth Natural Food Co.: “Even though I love meat, I’m pretty famous for doing a detox from time to time.”
This article appeared in the August 2014 issue.