In addition to being a hamburger magnate, you’ve done 29 steak missions to serve the troops. Tell me what all they entail.
They entail cooking for soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen downrange, in dirty, ugly, sweaty, nasty, dangerous places. They entail an appetizer, which is a piece of bacon rolled around a jalapeño, an 8-ounce tenderloin steak, cornbread, Ranch Style Beans, coleslaw, and a Klondike bar. We’ve done four aircraft carriers. The last one was the USS Carl Vinson, in the Persian Gulf. We served 4,000 guys on the flight deck in four hours. There were 14 of us working eight grills. If you go to steakteammission.org, you can see pictures of it.
I’m talking to you in January. You’re headed off to do another mission in Turkey in a couple weeks?
Incirlik Air Base, near the city of Adana. We’ll serve about 1,800 to 2,000 servicemen.
How did you get involved with cooking steak dinners for soldiers?
I was in the Texas Army National Guard for 33 years. I was a liaison to the world. My buddy Butch Saint was a three-star general down at Fort Hood, and I kept bugging him for stuff. So he called over this lieutenant colonel by the name of Tommy Franks and told him, “You’re the Harvey keeper. This is Harvey. Whenever he needs something down there, get it for him. Unless it’s completely illegal.” So we became friends. Then Franks gets promoted to four-star general and winds up the CENTCOM commander during the second Gulf War. So after 9/11, I called him up and said, “Hey, doodoo. I want to go.” He said, “F— you, Gough.” I kept bugging him. I called him back one day and said, “Hey, doodoo. What if I took 1,000 steak dinners to the soldiers in Afghanistan?” He said, “Make it 2,000, and it’s a deal.” That was the first mission, and it just kept going from there. We’ve done about
How long ago did you sell Goff’s Hamburgers?
A guy named Jim Francis and his son, Jimmy, had a franchise deal with me to use the name and recipes for 10 years. They opened the one across from SMU and another near Preston and LBJ, which was a bad location. But when their franchise deal was up, they forgot. In January 2015, I called them and said, “You guys ain’t got a franchise no more.” They were surprised. I told them I’d sell them all the Goff’s stuff, period. By then I’d been doing nothing but steak stuff for a decade. So when the Goff’s on Preston closed, I leased the space and opened Harvey’s Charcoal Hamburgers. Our idea is to get this running decent and then expand.
The Hickory Smoke Sauce was a big deal at Goff’s. Did you have to change it to avoid getting sued?
All the recipes have changed a little bit. They’re not exactly the same, but they’re close. They can’t say I’m copying them or
using their recipes.
What happened to your statue of Lenin that stood out in front of the first Goff’s, on Lovers?
Sold it on eBay to somebody in Arkansas. Never saw it again.
At Harvey’s, this is the first time you’ve worked with your wife. What’s that like?
It’s difficult, because she likes to do things her way. She’s 38 years old, and I’m 76. The minds just don’t work the same. And she’s French and I’m not.
Who’s the bigger jerk to customers? You or her?
Me. She told me early on that I have to be on my best behavior. I’ve tempered a little bit.
Do you still threaten to shoot guys that come in with long hair?
No, that’s old-time s—. When we’d been open just a few weeks, a lady came in that I recognized. She said, “Are you going to insult me?” I said, “No. I’m on my best behavior.” She said, “Well, I may not order then.” I said, “Come on, old bag.” She loved it. But there were some new customers who overheard and didn’t understand. It’s gonna take them a while.