Southern Supper Series: Amanda Wilbanks of Southern Baked Pie Company
We are proud to have a growing number of culinary creatives as Summit alums–their businesses run the gamut from operating restaurants to developing products for market to creating culinary content. In this series, we are talking with them about their personal food favorites at home as well as how they took their business “to market”. Today we are chatting with Amanda Wilbanks of Southern Baked Pie. With family recipes, Southern charm and an all-butter pie dough that melts in your mouth, Amanda and her team of bakers create gourmet sweet and savory pies for all of life’s special occasions and celebrations that have a growing following and are getting attention from the press as well.
Down Home Cooking
What are five ingredients always in your pantry?
- Olive oil
- Jif Peanut Butter
- Kosher Salt
What are five ingredients always in your fridge?
- Duke’s Mayo
- Power Greens – a mix of spinach, kale, and red chard
- Tomato paste
- Dijon mustard
- San Pellegrino
What is your favorite local, seasonal produce right now and why?
Summer tomatoes. There are so many things that can be made with delicious, summer tomatoes from just cutting them up and serving them with a little salt and pepper to making a savory tomato corn pie (get the recipe as seen in Garden and Gun Magazine!)
If you had to choose one last meal, what would it be and why?
A tomato sandwich. I know that sounds so simple, but there is nothing better than tomatoes sandwiched between two pieces of Sunbeam bread that have been slathered with a generous helping of Duke’s Mayonnaise and sprinkled with a little Crazy Jane’s salt and black pepper.
If you could only have one cookbook, what would it be and why?
Honestly, I would choose my own cookbook, Southern Baked: Celebrating Life with Pie. It combines some of my favorite recipes from my childhood and family members. I truly treasure the memories behind every dish in the book. Given the choice of a second book, I would choose Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking. The recipes are incredibly easy to read and follow. To put it simply, it makes cooking more approachable to everyone.
Who are some up and coming culinary names in the south … some visionaries we should be looking out for?
What is your “signature dish”?
Chicken Pot Pie and Caramel Pecan Pie – these two are constantly fighting for the spot of best seller in the pie shops. I personally love the Chicken Pot Pie. It is the ultimate comfort food and I don’t think our family goes a week without having it for dinner.
To Market, To Market
How did you get into the culinary business?
I started baking pies out of my home after my mother in law came in town for a visit. She taught me how to make my husband’s favorite pie, Buttermilk Pie, and also how to make our amazing pie crust. I started making them for neighbors and friends and eventually the orders grew far larger than my kitchen could handle. I then decided to open a store in Gainesville, Georgia, and here we are!
You are a UGA alum (go Dawgs!). What was the most valuable training/lesson received there?
I graduated from the Terry College of Business with a marketing degree. Professor Kevil Ellis taught me the four steps to the sales process and how to identify a customer’s needs. Learning that has been invaluable. I learned from my marketing classes that branding and proper positioning is key. The look of the pies to the packaging and website is SO important and my classes taught me that before anyone even tries your product, their mind is made up based upon the presentation. I can remember spending 6 months on deciding the color of our boxes, because it just had to be perfect!
What do you wish you had known going into the culinary business?
I wish I had known how challenging it can be to manage people.
Is there a person or a dish that influenced you to make a career out of your love of food?
From a very young age, I loved being in the kitchen and cooking. I wanted to have my hand in all of the pots and bowls. I used to stand in a chair in my grandmother’s kitchen, because I wasn’t tall enough to see over the counter, and make biscuits every Sunday after church. My mother served dessert after every week-night meal. She is who gave me my love for baking. Sitting down at the table and having dinner or cooking with family and friends is something everyone should make time for.
What was your first major lesson learned on the job?
The first major lesson I learned on the job is that lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your ability to process and think clearly. My very first Thanksgiving at the pie shop was quite interesting. I stayed up baking for 36 hours straight. Through the hustle and bustle, I didn’t realize I had overbaked. As I was preparing to close the store at 6 o’clock on Thanksgiving eve, I looked up and saw close to 40 boxes on the top shelf. I opened a box, and much to my surprise, found a pumpkin pie inside. I had overbaked 40 whole pumpkin pies. I wanted to cry. I did cry. Today I operate my business very differently. I almost always get 8 hours of sleep each night. I’ve come to realize that rest is essential for my physically and mentally. I think the best and am more creative after getting a good night’s rest.
If you could take over an Instagram account for the day, who’s would it be and why?
Sara Blakely, because she’s a female powerhouse and a total inspiration to women everywhere.
If you could ask one person or brand to take over YOUR Instagram account, who would it be? Why?
Cameran Eubanks from Southern Charm – I love her personality and she is hilarious. Everyone needs a good laugh sometimes!