Two weeks ago, I was privileged to attend the Biscuitville 2018 Bake-Off Championship Finals (for Management) at Biscuitville’s headquarters.
Now, when I’ve thought of biscuits in the past, I didn’t think of anything exciting or outstanding or really even interesting. Before I got into the “food blogging” business, I didn’t think about biscuits at all, really. But, now that I’m fascinated with food and the food process (not to be confused with processed food), I totally rethink everything food. Even down to basics.
I was invited down and there and enjoyed watching the management finalists do their thing. I know what you’re thinking. Biscuits are flour, shortening, and milk, right? Yes, this is true. But, in that room, where we were all watching a big screen connected to a webcam that was showing us everything going on in this kitchen, all eyes were glued to the “action” happening.
It truly was fascinating.
So, what was going on, here, you may ask? You see, Biscuitville has “certified biscuit makers.” This means that biscuit that you get at Biscuitville isn’t made from any ol’ joe. It’s made from people with extensive training and, well, certification. From what I understand it’s a bit of a rigorous process that takes time and dedication. You don’t just get up to the counter and start making biscuits. And, once a year the company holds a bake-off competition, both with regular employees and with management which includes shift leaders and “operators,” which is Biscuitville’s name for the managers of their restaurants.
The science behind the making of these biscuits kind of goes unnoticed until you realize that they’re all doing it the same way and that the techniques are all identical. But, each person does add their own little twists and flair. It was interesting to watch all the contestants watching the others closely. They’re all friends and were cheering each other on, but it was played off as “ribbing.” They were supportive of each other but each wanted to win.
There were six entrants and to watch them set up the station to their preferred, personal, comfortable workflow status was actually very interesting. While they were all doing the same thing, some put their sifter in a different spot or placed their shortening in a little corner that made them comfortable. Then, we watched them measure their flour (the timer started with the flour hit the scale), add the shortening, mix the two before adding the milk, all the way to flouring the work surface and rolling out the dough, it was truly a spectacle. Again, each identical but each different in their own ways. Then the contestants that were observing from the meeting room would count how many biscuit discs were cut out from the dough, then reworked and then recut until all but a small ball of dough was left.
“She got 22 on that first cut, wow!” I heard.
Claps and applause were given after each contestant came from the kitchen, so yes it is a competition but there was plenty of professional courtesy going on.
What were the stakes, you may ask? Well, first there’s bragging rights. These biscuit makers take this really seriously. The contestant, along with the restaurant they’re representing gets to say, “look we did this!” It also lets the customer know their “home store’s” biscuit makers are top notch.
Another thing is the prestige. Biscuitville makes sure that their certified biscuit makers are recognized, even if they don’t win the competition.
And, there’s money. The winner gets cash money. I won’t say how much but it’s substantial. Actually, being as this was the finals, each of the contestants was already winners. They had won the semifinals to reach this spot and each finalist also got cash prizes just for getting through to this round.
The winner was Maria Cabrera who just became a US citizen a few months before and also was starting her vacation on that day. She was rated on speed, efficiency and who got closest to the “ideal biscuit,” which included, height, weight, a flat bottom and a ridged top. The flavor should speak for itself, as the same ingredients go into each, but the biscuit itself was the grading standard. This was Maria’s first time participating in the competition at all. According to her bio, she has been a part of the Biscuitville FRESH SOUTHERN® family since 2013. Starting as a Shift Manager in Mebane, she later transferred to Maple Avenue where she became an Assistant Manager. Maria then continued in that role at Alamance Road for almost a year before becoming Operator there. She says that Michael, her husband of 16 years, and their three children are what brought her to Biscuitville. Her family keeps her motivated, and there’s nothing she enjoys more than seeing happy customers and motivating people to their full potential.
Second place was Amie Cook. Amie is the operator of the Riverside Road in Danville restaurant (past Management Champion in 2011 and 2012; finalist in 2016, 2017).
Third place was James Cline. James is the operator of the West Market Street in Greensboro restaurant (past Management finalist in 2017).
The other three contestants were: Ruben Negron, the operator at the Walkertown restaurant. This was his first year as a finalist.
Velma Hailey, the operator of the Aberdeen restaurant and past Management finalist in 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2017.
Heather Mabe, the operator of the English Road restaurant in High Point restaurant and this was her first year as a finalist.
I have to say that what impressed me the most was the passion by with all of the contestants showed in their skills. It’s not just biscuit making to them. It’s a way of life and I don’t feel that any of that is too cliche. They poured their soul into making those biscuits, not just the ingredients. They busted their tails to get there and they take their jobs seriously. Even beyond the competition, the finalists want, collectively, for your Biscuitville experience to be a remarkable experience.
I apologize for not taking pictures of the actual event (other than to show what our perspective was), but while I was given an opportunity to glance into this remarkable event, I am going to leave some things to the imagination. You can watch the biscuits being made at your local Bicuitville.
I appreciate the opportunity to be able to observe and talk about it on this blog (and the podcast this week). Thank you, Kelly, at Biscuitville and Scott, Steve and Rebecca at Capture.