Keith Garrett of All Flavor No Grease in Watts continues to give the people what they want.
Keith Garrett believes strongly in three things: God, Watts, and food.
The middle one (Watts) has always been in the tall, heavyset man's heart. Garrett is a product of the South L.A. neighborhood; he’s never left. His friends are there, his family is there. When big city publications type up stories about inner city kids from underserved neighborhoods "making it out," they inevitably lean on the invisible forces that are keeping so much of the community down. But rarely is there talk of the bonds that make a person want to stay: the people, the place, the familiarity.
I can’t ever leave this spot. People know me here
Garrett talks freely, about his community and his place in it, as he cooks up self-styled versions of Mexican food from a driveway off 108th Street. A school bus rolls by and honks its horn; Garrett waves, knowing at the very least the driver will be back by later on to try his food.
He answers phone calls and talks about what’s on his menu for the day (there is no menu, by the way, just Garrett himself offering options). He bullshits with friends and chats with neighbors and sends out photos to his 10,000 Instagram followers, freestyle rapping into the camera, or snapping pics of a quesadilla that came out just right.
On his account, @AllFlavorNoGrease, Garrett is as charming, motivated, funny and serious as any fitness model or white girl life coach from the trophy generation. That’s where he talks about God, the goodness in the world, and how getting what you want is mostly just about asking. "I just know that whatever I need is going to fall out of the sky, right in front of me," he says while taking position under his shade tent, readying for a line of customers. "You feel me?"
Mr. All Flavor No Grease himself wants to know that people feel him, they understand what he’s saying and agree with where it’s all going. "You feel me?" isn’t just his own speech disfluency, filling in the gaps between structured thoughts. Usually, asking whether or not you feel him is the thought.
Official health permitting is on the way
Stand at that propane griddle long enough, just bullshitting, and Garrett will tell you about other struggles he’s had in his life, and how God is giving him everything he needs to succeed. Official health permitting is on the way, and he swears a food truck won’t be far behind. "Once I get this thing on wheels and mobile, that’s it. I’m talking five trucks in five years, blowing it all the way out."
For now though, it’s just the food, the friends and the neighborhood he swears he won’t be leaving behind. "I can’t ever leave this spot. People know me here, this is like my… home base. I might go off and do other stuff, but I’m going to keep coming back here, doing it for the community. Maybe I’ll do Taco Tuesdays, and sell tacos for $1."
He starts scrolling through his phone with one hand, looking for a picture of the tacos he makes, while the other turns and presses a quesadilla that threatens to spill over with carne asada, cheese, and his own version of pico de gallo. It all stays intact somehow (the quesadilla, the whole operation) because Garrett wills it to. The quest for the image over, he turns to taking a few shots of his work in progress, posting the results to Instagram and getting hundreds of likes within the hour.
Those likes come from the food photos, sure. Overclocked burritos earn a squeeze of housemade green salsa and a dab of sour cream; close-ups of seafood gumbo verge on pornographic. But they’re also likes for what this one man, Keith Garrett flying the All Flavor No Grease banner, is trying to do. His recipes and his intentions are incredibly singular, and in Los Angeles its hard to find that level of uniqueness anywhere else.
No one’s copied Keith Garrett yet, because you can’t. And that's no bullshit.
All Flavor No Grease sits in a driveway at 728 E. 108th St., Los Angeles, CA 90059. Hours vary, but Garrett is usually up and running every day by 2 p.m., and sells out by 9 p.m.