by Steven Sanchez
Craving metal or burgers? Cravings owner and musician, Grant Mohler, can provide both.
Heavy metal and burgers are two great tastes that taste great together. For Grant Mohler, he’s one lucky individual to make both of those things into a career. Not only is he the vocalist of local heavy metal band, Crushing The Deceiver, but is also the owner/cook of the Clovis restaurant, Cravings. A cook by day, but rock star at night, a very unconventional man Grant is, and his life is best exemplified by his restaurant and music.
No lie, in a very semi nod to music-based establishments like Hard Rock Café, the interior of his place is a shrine to everything that is metal. It may scare of the stereotypical Clovis patron, but to somebody like me who is a rocker, and on behalf of that community, Cravings is a place we’ve waited to call our own. On the walls you see concert posters, promotional black and white photos of metal bands, an autographed photo of current Kiss lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, and at the centerpiece of it all, a framed collection of signed photos and a guitar pick from the prominent metal band, Testament. Definitely a haven for headbangers to congregate to get their snack on.
While this eatery may have a particular theme, it caters to everybody from all walks of life. The restaurant is a metaphorical representation of who Grant is as a cook and as a vocalist. When you see him with his hat, glasses, shorts, and the rest of his décor, which is the prototypical image of a metalhead, conventional wisdom may not think of him as a business owner. And don’t let the loud, thunder crashing music and growling vocal echoes fool you, this music may fit on the soundtrack of a horror film, but no one would guess that he’s a Christian and a family man. One would be taken aback by the rolling drums and ear piercing measures, but if you pay attention to their lyrics there’s deep, thought provoking messages in his songs.
For example, “Forever Free”:
“Torn, crippled, beaten down, locked in this cage/Shackled by chains of malevolence, enough to go insane/I can’t lose hope/I won’t play this game/I will pray to God and call His name/Sometimes we lose/In order to gain/Life’s greatest lessons are taught through pain/I will break out with God’s light in me/He gave it all to set me free.”
This entrepreneurial music man is a person of giving and service. Their menu is like a track list on the back of a CD, whether if you want a Bacon, Pastrami, Guacamole, or Tri Tip Burger, or Ragin’ Cajun Sausage, he’ll cook it up for you. And they also provide delicious vegan options. It was a privilege to interview this renaissance man, making a name for himself in the kitchen and on stage. And I’ve been given recent news that he’s getting back into doing entertainment promotions. Not just playing shows but putting them on, too. We chatted with him about the responsibilities of running a business while being a singer, which job is the toughest, and his favorite memorabilia in the restaurant.
KRL: When did Cravings first become an establishment, and what was the idea behind it?
Grant: Cravings was not my brainchild. It started from Scott Hinman; he opened the place eight years ago, and he came to me to partner with him almost five years ago. I bought him out, and I’ve been sole owner since last year on September 1.
KRL: What’s it like juggling the responsibilities of being a metal singer with being the owner/cook of a restaurant?
Grant: It’s extremely stressful, but it’s one of those things where it’s a high risk/high reward thing. Overall, it’s been cool since this is my first year running it myself. Making it my own and incorporating the music into the theme of the place.
KRL: There’s rock and metal memorabilia on the walls. Out of all the things here what would you say is your most prized possession?
Grant: That’s easy, it would be my Testament piece. They’re my favorite band. Catching the guitar pick from Alex Skolnick was really cool.
KRL: Your restaurant is located in Clovis, and it’s not known for heavy metal enthusiast consumers, so was there concern on putting these decorations up that it might scare off some people?
Grant: I was hesitant at first. Some of the artwork I have may be too extreme for some people, so they won’t be seen anytime soon. At the same time, I want to make it mine, I want to show that this is where local bands come and hang out, even the Aerosmith and Hollywood Vampires keyboardist, Buck Johnson, came here, too.
KRL: Being a singer and owner, you have your fans on one side and then your customers, which group of people is hard to handle, rowdy fans or obnoxious customers?
Grant: Actually, it can be the customers sometimes, but people can give bad reviews online so you got to be conscious of customer service and make sure everything goes well.
KRL: On a personal note, how would you categorize yourself, a singer first, then a business owner second, or the other way around?
Grant: People know me as a singer, I was in bands that got worldwide recognition. But my reputation in the restaurant business is growing. The restaurant pays the bills, and I really love it but my biggest passion is in music.
KRL: This fascinates me, how are you able to make that transition going from screaming into the mic and rocking out and then having to settle down and come to work to cook?
Grant: It definitely gets to me sometimes. I understand that rock ‘n’ roll treatment, people asking for a photo of you or an autograph. I signed up for it, but I prefer to have real conversations with people. You go from signing posters one moment, but when you’re me and you come to work, that stuff isn’t what’s necessarily important to your employees or customers. I enjoy both.
KRL: Your restaurant has vegan options like the burger and hot dog. I’ve noticed that the vegan craze is getting bigger and huge chains are implementing plant-based foods onto their menus. With you, was it a simple process to go along with that program or was it a challenge?
Grant: The vegan options were already implemented before I came on board. We get a good response from people who are vegans. I’d really look into doing more vegan or vegetarian options in the future.
KRL: Not a lot people know that a lot of rockers or metal heads are vegans or vegetarians.
Grant: When we opened for Nile and Terrorizer, I was ordering food with them a lot of the members in both bands ordered plant-based foods. It made me realize that’s why these guys have been at it for so long. Maybe partying and going crazy back then it may have worked, but you have to take care of yourself if you want to keep doing it, so I understand.
KRL: People who see the artwork of your album covers or by hearing the music might have a certain reaction to it, but after reading your lyrics, it’s very thought provoking. People wouldn’t know that you’re Christian if they were to base it on that. Do you ever feel that the presentation of the band might get in the way of what it is you’re trying to say?
Grant: Yes, I do juggle that a lot. I don’t want to scare people away because we’re actually a Christian band, but we play metal music. But those bands are known for scary images and lyrics that are satanic sometimes, and I don’t want to lose fans because of it. With us we got fans coming up to us saying, “I never knew a Christian band can sound like that,” and we can compete with some of the heaviest bands out there. The content is different, and our music is positive, worship metal, and I was scared to do those things because I grew up into brutal death metal. With this band, I stopped doing that stuff, and with my wife’s ultimatum, I chose that path, but in the end, I want people to get a positive reaction from our music.
KRL: For someone who’s been involved with the local music scene here in the Central Valley, to an outsider looking in, how would you describe it to them?
Grant: Being in it for twenty-eight years, to be in the scene as long as I have, to see where it has transformed now is incredible. Back then there was so few bands so it was really competitive, fighting for venue spots, and there wasn’t that many venues either. Now, people got each other’s backs, they’re more supportive now. We go to each other’s shows. That wasn’t a thing back then, and now there’s so many shows and they get good turnouts. Touring up and down the state, I can say that Fresno has one of the best scenes in California in my opinion. Based on community and togetherness, I put it up there. Just Fresno alone, we got something like fifty active bands in the genres of rock, metal, and punk, it’s booming.
KRL: Your restaurant definitely stands out. For those that are getting into the restaurant industry, what advice would you give them in terms of setting themselves apart from other establishments out there?
Grant: Just try to do something that nobody is doing. With us, we cook our food over almond wood, you get that taste of the almond and the smokiness right off the bat! We don’t have our condiments set in stone, when we call your order you decide what toppings and condiments you want. We have no walk-in freezer, we just have a regular refrigerator. Six days a week I shop for local produce. We have four different types of sausages supplied to us from Fresno State from the farmer’s market, so we support the local college. It’s worth it. With our tri-tip, it’s not sliced, we serve it shredded. You can put it on anything. Be bold, be yourself, be different.
KRL: Do you feel you have to prove yourself in trying to convince people that you’re a business owner while being a singer?
Grant: I’ve always had to prove myself. I grew up poor, and my parents did the best they could. Whatever I wanted I had to go out and get myself. I’ve had to prove to both communities that I deserve to be taken seriously in both endeavors. I’ve been working full time in the restaurant industry since I was fourteen. That’s where I got my work ethic.
KRL: What’s your personal favorite item on the menu?
Grant: It’s actually named after me, my old business partner used to call me G-Money, so we have the signature G-Money Burger, comprised of two beef patties, Swiss cheese, and shredded tri-tip. I definitely recommend it.
Location: 2220 Herndon Ave #102, Clovis, CA 93611