July 7, 2020
Brenda Gantt — shown here with William and Banks, two of her five grandchildren — has more than 413,000 followers on her Facebook page, Cooking with Brenda Gantt, after a video of her cooking biscuits went viral. She says all of her grandchildren love biscuits. (Photo courtesy of Brenda Gantt)
Chris Harwell said it was mostly just a joke, but he was always kind of serious.
He really wanted there to be a Saturday afternoon that he could drop his wife off at Brenda Gantt’s house so Gantt could teach her how to make biscuits.
“My wife, Reagan, bakes very well, but biscuits were one thing we had never ventured into,” Harwell said.
The couple was from the Pensacola area, and while that’s not too far away, they’d never seen the likes of Southern cooking the Andalusia area had waiting for them when he got a job there after college.
“When we moved, one of the big things we knew would be important for us would be to get plugged into a church and find a body of believers we could walk alongside and build relationships with,” Harwell said.
‘So many great people’
That led them to Bethany Baptist Church, where they met “so many great people,” including Gantt and her husband, George, who sat directly across the aisle. They welcomed the young couple into their church and into their home — and that’s where Harwell met those biscuits.
He’d heard about them before — he’d been told on many occasions that Gantt made “the best biscuits.”
And he wasn’t the only one asking about them either. Gantt said several of the young men in the church had asked her to teach their wives to make biscuits. A lot of the next generation doesn’t know how to cook things like biscuits “the old-time way,” she said.
For her, cooking was second nature. She had made biscuits for her husband, George, all through their 50 years of marriage, right up until he died in 2018. She still cuts them out with a cut-off Chef Boyardee can she started using right after they married — a “prized possession,” she said.
And over the years, Gantt has prepared biscuits in bulk too, ranging from early morning meals for families at her bed-and-breakfast, the Cottle House, all the way to making around 900 biscuits in one day at a fundraiser breakfast at her church.
She had the process down to an art.
“So one Sunday I was going to make biscuits, and I thought, ‘I might as well video this and put it on Facebook and these guys can show their wives,’” Gantt said.
She held her phone in one hand and made biscuits in a bowl with the other hand, and then she uploaded that to her Facebook page. Within a week, the Harwells were buying White Lily flour and giving it a try themselves.
‘It was a shock’
And as it turns out, they weren’t the only ones. Between the lack of old-time cooking knowledge and the fact that everyone in the country was indoors trying new recipes because of COVID-19, it wasn’t long before Gantt’s video had more than a million views.
“It was a shock,” she said. “I’m still in shock. This happened completely by accident.”
It wasn’t long before she started getting requests for more video tutorials — dumplings, fried pies and a bunch of other things. With the help of her son-in-law, she set up a Facebook landing page — Cooking with Brenda Gantt — and began posting more. Recent recipes include ham potpie, homemade french fries and stuffed zucchini.
Loves to cook
As the page grew — more than 413,000 people now follow Gantt — she said she was “as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof” because she’s “not an actress” — she just loves to cook.
But people are drawn to her food and her Southern hospitality — something Harwell said is completely true to life.
“What you see on Facebook, that’s her,” he said. “She’s a wonderful person.”