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It’s Black History Month! We wanted to find a unique way to celebrate the important people and events that created our local black culture. So, what better way to connect and experience another’s culture than with food?
We reached out to Kathleen Garmon, co-owner of TKG’S Wing Heaven, and asked her to share a recipe that can be easily replicated at home. Check out her delicious Southern Fried Okra recipe and a brief interview about her life, experiences as a black business owner in Decatur, and her favorite foods below. Try this recipe at home and let us know what you think! Or better yet, stop by TKGs and let Kathleen know in person.
Southern Fried Okra
Recipe by Kathleen Garmon
TKG’S Wing Heaven, 760 S Franklin St.
1 lb Okra (fresh is best)
1 medium vine ripe tomato
1 small onion
2 medium slices of bacon
1 teaspoon butter
½ cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1. Prepare the okra by rinsing, clipping the ends, and cutting each piece into 3-4 cubed sections. Set aside to drain.
*Pro tip from Kathleen, “I like to cut my okra segments as an angle for eye appeal!”
2. Fry bacon slices to a light crisp, let cool, then crumble. Then add bacon crumbs back to the skillet over low heat.
3. Dice onion and tomato then add to the bacon crumbs.
4. Add butter and water then cover and simmer over a low-to-medium heat for about 10 minutes.
5. Add in okra, salt, pepper, and sugar (optional). Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes uncovered until lightly fried.
6. Plate and enjoy!
A Convo with Kathleen
Q: Tell us a little about this recipe you’ve chosen to share.
KG: I chose this recipe out of many, due to its simplicity to make and being one of those dishes that I loved to watch my mother, Verile Wilson Flagg, prepare for our family. Besides those reasons, one skillet is used to cook—EVERYTHING! You can easily multiply this recipe to feed the masses!
Q: It’s been said that the best way to experience another culture is through food. Do you believe this to be true?
KG: I believe the best way to experience culture is to—experience one’s culture through individuals who represent your cultures of interest. Personally, I believe individual foods are by-products of who people truly are—Individually!
Q: Can you share a little about yourself, your business, and how it got started in Decatur?
KG: I am a Decatur, Illinois native. My husband, Tom, is from the Boothill of Missouri. Tom and I met in August of 1986 and Married in September of 1987. To this day, we still remind each other that when we first encountered each other it was truly, “Love at First Sight!”
The name, TKG’S Wing Heaven was inspired by having the first and last initials of Tom’s and mine along with our children’s names attached to the name of the Wing Heaven Franchise. Respectively, the
“T” represents Tom, Tom Jr., and Thomas, the
“K” represents Kathleen, Ki’ona and Kathy, the
“G” represents our last name, Garmon and last but not least, the
“S” represents not only the plurality of our family members, but in addition, the title of Sr., in honor of my husband, Tom Sr. And so, there you have the inspiration that stands behind the conceptual name of: TKG’S Wing Heaven.
To charge the lobby atmosphere at TKG’S Wing Heaven, I like to intrigue our guest who ask the question, “What does TKG’S stand for?” by responding with, “The King (Jesus) Gives Salvation!” (T)The (K) King (G) Gives (S) Salvation! We love seeing their eyes light up afterwards. We call this the inside “Light Bulb” moments. AMEN.
The story behind our humble beginning began a long, long time ago. Personally, I have pondered over the thought of opening and operating a Soul Food Restaurant since the early 2000s. I still have notes, menu ideas, floorplans and layouts of the vision as it was originally thought out, however across the years, I’ve progressively tweaked the original plans many times.
In 2014, one of our “Ts” twins moved up to, Grand Rapids, MI, with his In-laws, Pat and Peter, to learn the Lock-Smithing Trade. While there, they were frequent patrons to one of the local Wing Heaven Franchises, that just so happened to be located on Burton Ave. That Wing Heaven site was owned and operated by Mike and Paula (a great couple).
Tom, Sr. and I would travel to Grand Rapids to visit with Tom, Jr. and the family (we are often reminded that we were really going to see the grandbabies) as often as we could. Sometimes, WEEKLY! One evening, during the Summer of 2014, prior to an early morning departure back to Decatur, IL, Tom and his bride, our daughter, invited us to dinner at Wing Heaven on Burton Ave. Tom Jr., said to me, “Ma, you’ve got to try these wings!” Well, Tom, Sr., and I took one bite into those delicious, mouth-watering, fried to perfection, perfectly sized wings cooked up by Mike and Paula and needless to say, we were impressed!
After researching the Wing Heaven Franchise, I reached out to one of the representatives with additional inquiries about the process. In December of 2014, TKG’S Wing Heaven was conceived—my long-lived dream of owning and operating a restaurant was finally coming to reality! It took our family roughly 6 months to find our current location and 5 additional months for us to renovate the site into a bonafide TKG’S Wing Heaven Restaurant. At the age of 50, with the Blessings of God and the love, help and support of my family and friends, we first opened the doors of TKG’S Wing Heaven on Saturday, December 5th, 2015 in my native city of Decatur, IL. And, as the old saying goes—the rest—my dear is history.
Q: TKG’S Wing Heaven is woman owned, minority owned, and veteran owned. That’s amazing! Can you speak on any struggles you’ve encountered trying to get your business up and running while facing those specific obstacles?
KG: I am an African-American. My husband Tom is a 23 ½ year Army Retiree. Our combined 35 plus years together represent ENDURANCE! I often tell people that anything worth having is worth working hard for. This is true for us be it family life, church life, work life, personal life and or business life at TKG’S Wing Heaven.
Having established this, even though opening TKG’S Wing Heaven in Decatur was not the easiest task we’ve accomplished thus far, we have embraced the challenges, obstacles and struggles towards a more favorable outlook by holding fast to knowing that through it all everything has served its purpose and, in the end, all of it has been worth it!
Q: If someone comes into TKG’S Wing Heaven for the first time, what would you recommend they order?
KG: Personally, I would recommend TKG’S Wing Heaven’s Traditional, Season-Fried Chicken Wings to a first timer any day of the week. Why? Because each wing would be like them biting into and embracing the feeling of eating Sunday-fried chicken any given day of the week.
Q: What is your all-time favorite food?
KG: My personal, all-time favorite food is: Charcoal Grilled and Smoked Ribs cooked by our youngest twin, Thomas! With or without sauce, our son Thomas’ ribs are SMASHINGLY DELICIOUS!
TKG’S Wing Heaven is located at 760 S. Franklin St. Their operating hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 11:00 am – 7:00 pm. They are closed Sundays, Mondays, and holidays. At TKG’s Wing Heaven, you will always receive service with a smile.
TKG’S Wing Heaven offers a huge menu which includes traditional (bone in) and boneless wings, fish and shrimp options, loaded baked potatoes, funnel-cake fries, beignets, Pepsi products, Kool-Aid, and more. We invite you to visit tkgwingheaven.com for a complete list of menu options and other valuable information.