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Gary Ann Giovanni Culinary Papers

Identifier: Ms-2006-011

Scope and Content

The majority of this collection contains detailed information about the various catering jobs and "Open U" YMCA classes that Gary Ann Giovanni handled during her ten years in Blacksburg, Virginia. There is some material related to her sister Nikki Giovanni, most related to various speaking activities or awards. Other items of interest include printed menus and recipes from Giovanni's attendance at the Greenbrier's cooking school, as well as food-related ephemera (pamphlets and other media produced by various food companies or publishers).

Series I: Family contains personal information about Gary Ann Giovanni and her family. The material about her sister, poet Nikki Giovanni, contains information about her activities and awards that she received.

Series II: Community Involvement highlights Giovanni's community involvement in non-culinary activities. Material pertaining to St. Paul's African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc./Blacksburg Alumnae Chapter, and miscellaneous references to Giovanni's Oakland ties (chiefly with activist Mitch Snyder) make up the bulk of this series. In addition, the material about the AME and the Delta Sigma Sorority contains information of interest to those researching these institutions and their role during the time Giovanni belonged to them. Conferences and projects that Giovanni was associated with are well represented.

Series III: Professional Activity-Culinary contains catering jobs and YMCA Open University Classes, which form the bulk of this series, and recipes, menues, and handwritten notes. Each catering job file is listed by client name and date, and contains menus, recipes, information about clients, grocery lists, and receipts with food prices. Most of Giovanni's catering jobs were for faculty and administration at Virginia Tech. YMCA cooking class files contain student-attendee lists, menus, recipes, and sometimes general information about the cuisine if the class focused on an aspect of international cooking. The series also contains some handwritten recipes and food-related ephemera, the latter of interest to those researching food media and publications/pamphlets. Greenbrier menus and recipes enhance the series.

Series IV: Professional Activity-Non-Culinary contains employment-related materials, primarily from the YMCA.

Series V: Ephemera is contains Black culture and culinary-related materials.


  • 1997 - 2004


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.

Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: Please contact Special Collections and University Archives ( or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Gary Ann Giovanni was born in September 1940 in Knoxville, Tennessee and attended Central State University in Ohio. She married young, divorced, and then married Joe Black, the first African American player to pitch in a World Series and had one son with him.

In 1973, Giovanni graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Giovanni volunteered with Fannie Lou Hamer in delivering Christmas turkeys in Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement. She attended the California Culinary Academy, studying with master pastry chef Bo Freiburg, as well as with pastry chef Jim Dodge at the Stanford Court Hotel, chef Herbert Keller of Fleur de Lys, and many others.

For five years, Giovanni owned and ran a full-service catering business in Oakland, California. Giovanni worked for SeaLand Corporation in Oakland, California until 1994 when she retired and moved with her mother to Blacksburg, Virginia, where her sister, poet Nikki Giovanni, lived.

While in Blacksburg, Giovanni opened a catering business with Rebecca Isenhour which they named B.I.G.G., the acronym representing both of their initials. At the same time, Giovanni taught numerous well-received classes through the YMCA's Open University program. She studied at several of the Greenbrier's cooking workshops. In 2005, Giovanni was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She died that August in Blacksburg, Virginia.


3.5 Cubic Feet (3 boxes)


This collection includes the papers of Gary Ann Giovanni, a chef, caterer, and cooking teacher active in Blacksburg, Virginia. The collection contains records, menus, and recipes from her catering jobs and from the cooking classes she taught for the local YMCA Open University. Materials also relate to the various community organizations for which Gary worked or volunteered, and some materials are associated with her sister, poet Nikki Giovanni.


The collection is arranged into five series:

Series I: Family is arranged by person.

Series II: Community Involvement is arranged by organization.

Series III: Professional Activity-Culinary is arranged by subject. General information about professional acticity is followed by Sub-series A: Catering and Sub-series B. Teaching at the Open U, each of which are arranged by date.

Series IV: Professional Activity-Non-Culinary is organized by subject.

Series V: Ephemera is arranged by subject.

Source of Acquisition

The Gary Ann Giovanni Culinary Papers were donated to the Special Collections in 2005.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Gary Ann Giovanni Culinary Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement, and description of the Gary Ann Giovanni Culinary Papers began in May 2006 and was completed in August 2006.

Gary Ann Giovanni Culinary Papers, 1997-2004
Amy S. Vilelle, Archivist
2007 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US