No one can cook like a Southern cook, and that’s a fact. Amanda Wilbanks was born into this rich, regional legacy, but had no idea she would be perpetuating it. From the time she was small, she scurried around the feet of her mother, grandmothers, and aunts. She overheard dinner table conversations which began with “How did you make this?” and ended with “Well, it is simply amazing! I must have that recipe!” Amanda witnessed how family titans of cooking compiled cherished recipes into family notebooks, copied and distributed to the next generation. Heirlooms with “great taste”, to be sure!
For their part, the men in the family contributed to the effort by planting summer gardens and tending them. For many years, behind Amanda’s grandfather’s house, her papa and dad had a bountiful garden. Her mother and grandmothers “put up” (that is, canned or froze) fresh-from-the-garden produce year after year after year. And, Amanda’s great-great-grandfather was famous for growing his own rhubarb, then making a killer rhubarb pie! Farm-to-table was a way of life in Amanda’s family.
Amanda never set out to be a professional chef, although she has always possessed a strong creative bent. Her first “career” lasted only about a year, because it did not feed her hungry soul. Amanda has the spirit of an entrepreneur, inherited from her daddy’s daddy, who was not only a person with great charisma, but was also a dreamer of dreams. Like him, Amanda has the tremendous ability to capture a vision and see it through. So, as 2012 dawned, she left that first job, and threw her talents into designing her own wedding, slated for April of that year.
Then, six months later, as new family met old, newly-wed Amanda spent two weeks in the kitchen with her mother-in-law, Sandy, two weeks which ultimately sent her life spinning off into a marvelous, new culinary direction.
Amanda discovered the magic and beauty of French pate brisee pie crust. This new love turned into a near obsession.
The Wilbanks home was soon filled with the constant aroma of baking pies, as Amanda perfected her signature crust and dug into old family recipes for fillings. Buttermilk pies became so plentiful that Alex, Amanda’s husband, demanded she either stop baking or start selling those pies. His waistline was getting wrecked!
Not willing to give up her new-found addiction, Amanda went to her first, local craft fair in 2012, armed with a dream,1500 business cards, a rented tent, her bemused family members (her aides-de-camp) and dozens of scrumptious pies. What a weekend! Each night, she and her (now amazed) family stayed up until the wee hours, baking, because each day she sold out of pies. Along the way, she schmoozed, shook hundreds of hands as she handed out business cards and smiled as she told each person, “If I can get just one bite of my pies in your mouth, you will be a customer for life.”
Built on the back of hard work, vision, email and Facebook marketing, her company was born.
At first, Amanda continued to attend festivals and market the pies while still baking out of her home. As orders began to pour in over the holiday season she had to add another monster oven to her tiny kitchen. And, then, she had to add another!
One year later, since running 3 industrial ovens out of one’s home is perilous, the first storefront opened.
Today, five years later, Amanda is the founder and CEO of Southern Baked Pie Company, headquartered in Gainesville, GA, with 3 beautiful retail bakery locations in Alpharetta, Buckhead, and Gainesville, as well as online alliances with several retail powerhouses such as Dean & Deluca, Garden and Gun Mercantile, and Williams-Sonoma. Southern Baked has an online ecommerce and wholesale division, where pies are purchased and shipped all over the United States and will soon have the capability to ship internationally.
Amanda is also a wife to Alex Wilbanks, mother to two precious boys, Austin (8) and Dalton (3), and cookbook author. In her most recent cookbook, Southern Baked: Celebrate Life with Pie, Amanda divulges the recipe that made her pies famous: the signature Southern Baked All Butter Crust. Her work has been featured in Taste of the South, Garden and Gun and various other esteemed publications. She is also a frequent guest lecturer. Visit www.southernbakedpie.com to learn more about Amanda.
Amanda’s mantra and mission have remained unchanged since Day One: Celebrate Life with Pie! And that is what she does everyday.