Jovon Harvey Junior’s first press coverage came when Jeanine Summerville wrote a Spotlight article for Frost Illustrated about his then burgeoning cake business christened Simply Cakes.
Harvey suffered an injury playing high school football, and dad Jovon Harvey, owner of restaurants The Grill and McKinnie Tap (both now closed), sarcastically intimated that his boy, with nothing to do, go and make a cake. Harvey Jr. did just that and produced a cake so good, he quickly got paid to do it. He soon was making desserts for his father’s restaurants.
His father was known for his sandwich The Big Merc and his rib tips; his barbecue fries were his specialty. Harvey baked banana pudding and cakes: caramel, red velvet, and cheese.
When the Frost article dropped, the seventeen-year-old had just received his permit from the health department--certified, licensed, and legal to bake.
Harvey is 24 years old now and the brother is in desperate need of a vacation or a slow week or something. He needs to start saying no more often. He wants to lean more into doing weddings.
But “I don’t think the city will let me,” Harvey said of his workload. “This weekend is the first [one] in over a year that I have zero cakes because I took the weekend off.” Three customers are waiting for his break to end.
Harvey calculates his average output to be at least five to six cakes a weekend since 2013. “Things are going good. I’m really grateful.”
He bakes all manner of desserts: cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and dessert tables, in all manner of shapes like sculptures of people, purses, buildings, and animals. Liquor cakes, with empty bottles of whatever on top.
“I don’t think there is not a cake I haven’t tried yet.” Harvey’s still waiting for that cake request to test him.
His work has graced the tables of Orchard Reception Hall in New Haven, where he has a contract, and The Knot reception hall in Lima, Ohio. He prides himself not just on the look but the taste of his creations.
This is all pretty good for a part-time gig; Harvey full-times at Parkview North and is the father of his three-year-old Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backwards).
As with most cooks or bakers, Harvey’s origin story can be traced back to a relative. His cooking comes from grandma Essie Bass, the former cook at McKinnie, the extraordinary machine who’s been cooking since she was 12, who raised two of her sisters in addition to her own seven children, and whose mom died when she was two.
Bass just turned 71 in July; since the Frost article, Bass has lost four of her children, according to Harvey, who’s been trying to recruit her to cook together. “Cooking is therapeutic for us,” Harvey said.
He attends baking conventions across the country, learning and growing, meeting celebrity chefs and bakers like Cake Boss Season 1 reality-show winner Dana Hebert, who’s African-American. A black man who bakes cakes and even cupcakes is rare, according to Harvey.
“Everybody’s cooking,” Harvey said, and nobody bakes. But some do. Some win reality competitions and get offered book deals.
Plans are on the table for Harvey to teach classes on baking and on business ethics. He applied for reality-show Cup Cake Wars as a contestant; he won’t find out if he’s in until June 11, 2019.
Our newspaper will follow-up with the baker man when that happens.
Jovon Harvey Jr. | Simply Cakes, Custom Cakes, Cupcakes & More | 260.515.9181 | SimplyCakes.com