Though it’s been nearly 40 years since Georges Laguerre (BFA 1980 Film and Video) graduated from SVA, he has never forgotten the most important quality instilled in him as a student: ingenuity. It’s something he has applied to a 30-year-plus career in the food industry, carving out his own path with a beloved and critically acclaimed chicken place in Los Angeles, which he ran for 13 years, a coffee shop in his home country of Haiti and now a second coffee shop in Miami, opened just over two years ago. “Have respect for whatever job you do,” he says from behind the counter of TiGeorges Kafé, located in the Little Haiti Cultural Center of Miami.
Laguerre (affectionately called TiGeorges, meaning “little George,” by those who know him best) grew up immersed in the coffee business in Haiti before moving to New York City at 12 and eventually finding his way to SVA for college. After completing his senior thesis film, for which he traveled back to Haiti with classmates to capture the country's tradition of Carnival, Laguerre made the cross-country trek to Los Angeles. It was there that he reconnected with his passion for food, particularly recipes taught to him by his grandmother. The trip changed his life and inspired his celebrated 2016 memoir/cookbook, No Man Is an Island (Rare Bird Books), co-authored with Los Angeles-based writer Jeremy Rosenberg.
In addition to rich, aromatic Haitian coffee, the Miami shop specializes in snacks like pain patate (a small, dense cake made from sweet potato and ginger) and full lunch plates of chicken fricassee and tender goat. It also offers a line of products: peanut butter tinged with Scotch bonnet peppers; jars of pikliz, a spicy slaw condiment; and bags of Haitian “blue” coffee beans, all of it sourced by Laguerre himself and sold in nearby stores and online. TiGeorges Kafé is the kind of neighborhood joint that attracts friendly, familiar regulars and curious newcomers drawn in by the warm atmosphere and walls covered in a rotating selection of local art. His customers might come for a coffee or tea and end up staying for a meal or even a stimulating conversation. And Laguerre has never forgotten the skills he picked up during his time at SVA, to be original and stay true to himself—whether he’s behind a camera, or the clay pot in which he roasts coffee beans.
While Laguerre's Miami outpost is currently closed due to the pandemic, he continues online sales of his coffee, at coffeehaitian.com, as well as his his pikliz and peanut butter, at lakayproduct.com. No Man Is an Island is available on Amazon.
This feature was adapted from articles in the spring/summer 2020 edition of the Visual Arts Journal.