Calvin Marshall, a Garden Grove restaurateur who dishes out heaping portions of barbecue chicken, gumbo and peach cobbler, has been named Business Person of the Year by the Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County.
One of 16 children, Marshall learned the art of Southern cooking at his mother's side in Springfield, Ark. A former Orange County sheriff's deputy, he opened Calvin's Place in 1992 with financial help from his brothers and sisters. He said the business has grown every year and last year increased by 25%.
Marshall said he personally greets every patron and cooks nearly all food to order, making sure it is hot and fresh. Family members, including two sons and two sisters, take orders and help him run the business.
"In some restaurants, they act like they're doing you a favor by taking your money," he said. "You can't do that. The customers are your boss and if you don't treat them right they're going to go somewhere else."
To supplement the restaurant business, Marshall caters parties and weddings. Past clients include Warner Bros., Chapman University and the Internal Revenue Service.
Marshall has won a loyal clientele. Tracey Dorame, 37, has come to his restaurant for three years. On a recent evening, the bilingual aide for the Newport Unified School District brought seven people to the restaurant, including her husband and daughter.
"The portions are enormous, and you can tell everything is home cooked," she said. "I just love it here."