A Black-owned family restaurant just 10 miles outside of Atlanta is passionate about keeping Gullah-Geechee cuisine alive. Despite a difficult year amid the pandemic, the establishment has doubled as a safe space for the Black and LGBTQ community.
Gregory "Gee" Smalls, the owner and executive chef of Virgil's Gullah Kitchen and Bar joined "Good Morning America" alongside his husband and co-owner Juan Smalls and son, Gregory "Little Gee" Smalls, to share what inspired their small business and how they've refocused to stay afloat and feed the local community.
"Black folks in the LGBTQ community have really poured out their love and support for us. This is a home away from home. They are appreciated and affirmed and loved and accepted rather than just tolerated," Juan Smalls said. "We serve as an inspiration to other people to pursue their dreams, their passions. Anything is possible if you just do the work."
Virgil's introduced its traditional fare to the College Park community in 2019 tapping into Gullah-Geechee cuisine. Gullah-Geechee is among the oldest segment of Black culture in the Unites States.
According to Gee Smalls, where else "would you get the best soul food other than the first black culture in America?"
"In our culture, we strongly believe in the power of our ancestors and spiritual guides," Gee Smalls said, adding that he knows his dad is "continuously guiding that."
The soul food restaurant, inspired by Gee's father, seasons its dishes with spices and herb blends that pack lots of flavor without too much spicy heat.
Check out how to make one of the signature dishes from Virgil's Gullah Kitchen and Bar below.
Shrimp and Grits with Crab Gravy
3 slices of bacon (optional)
1 cup of diced yellow onion
1/2 cup of diced green pepper
1/2 cup of diced red pepper
3/4 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of browning sauce (I use kitchen bouquet)
1 lb of claw or lump crab meat
1 lb of medium shrimp
8 cups of seafood or crab stock, or 3 tablespoons of crab base
Flour and water to thicken
Old Bay seasoning
Fry bacon to a crisp in a large stock pot. Add butter and saute the onions and peppers in the melted butter.
Add seafood stock (or 8 cups of water plus the crab base) and browning sauce, bring to a boil. Then add crab meat.
Add small amounts of flour and water at a time, until you reach desired thickness.
Season to desired taste with salt and pepper. Add shrimp, and let cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
16 cups of water
4 cups of grits
3 tablespoons of chicken or veggie base
3/4 cup of half-and-half
1/3 cup of butter
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons pnion power
1/2 tablespoon pepper
2 cups of cheese of choice (like shredded cheddar)
Bring water, chicken base, butter and seasonings to a boil in a large stock pot.
Slowly stir in the grits, avoiding lumps.
Bring to a boil and add half-and-half.
Reduce heat to medium and stir in the grits.
Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.