Amanda Wilbanks, owner of Southern Baked Pie Company, displays some of her pies at her storefront in Gainesville.

Amanda Wilbanks, owner of Southern Baked Pie Company, displays some of her pies at her storefront in Gainesville.

Amanda Dalton Wilbanks of Gainesville grew up cooking with her mother and grandmother, often making homemade biscuits and whipping up peach cobblers on Sunday afternoons. But it wasn’t until she married her husband, Alex, that she discovered the secret to the perfect pie.

“When we got married, my mother-in-law said Alex’s favorite pie was Buttermilk Pie, which I had never had before,” Wilbanks recalls. “She taught me how to make a French pastry dough and showed me how to make a Buttermilk Pie from scratch. It actually tastes nothing like buttermilk – it’s more of a sweet custard pie, similar to an old-fashioned chess pie.”

Wilbanks began making the pies as a hobby and giving them to friends and family as gifts. Soon she started taking orders for them.

“By December 2012, I had sold 500 pies, and I was running three ovens in my house,” she says. “So I leased a space in Gainesville in 2013 and started my business, which I called Buttermilk Pie Co.”

One by one, Wilbanks added new pies to her offerings – Caramel Pecan, French Coconut Custard, Chocolate Chess and Apple. She changed the name of the company to the Southern Baked Pie Co. in 2016 with the addition of savory pies such as Chicken Pot Pie, Tomato Pie and Southwestern Taco Pie.

Flavor of Georgia Contest

When a friend told Wilbanks to enter her Caramel Pecan Pie in the spring 2016 Flavor of Georgia Contest sponsored by the University of Georgia, she decided to give it a try. She ended up taking home the grand prize and won first place in the confections category.

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“I was shocked, because I entered on a whim,” Wilbanks says. “The publicity from the contest has had a huge impact on our business. We’ve grown a lot from all the exposure.”

Wilbanks plans to open two new  locations in Atlanta in 2016 – one in Buckhead on Peachtree Road and another in Alpharetta.

“Our Caramel Pecan Pie is our No. 1 seller,” she says. “It has a half- pound of large Georgia mammoth pecans in it. It’s a traditional Southern comfort pie that’s chock full of pecans. We roast the pecans so the natural flavors come out, and people love the buttery, flaky crust.”

The statewide Flavor of Georgia Contest started in 2007 as a way to showcase the excellence in Georgia’s food industry by providing publicity, exposure and networking.

“We typically receive about 100 entries per year, and this year’s contest had more than 130 products. More than a thousand products have competed since 2007,” says Sharon Kane, director of the Flavor of Georgia Contest for the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development. “Most of the finalists report increased interest in their products, and many benefit from increased sales, profits, publicity and website traffic. In 2016, nine of the 33 finalists had new contracts and agreements within 10 days following judging.”

Abby Jackson was a winner in the 2016 Flavor of Georgia contest.

Abby Jackson was a winner in the 2016 Flavor of Georgia contest.

Abby J’s Gourmet

Abby Jackson of Abby J’s Gourmet entered the contest in 2016 and won first place in the Salsas, Chutneys and Condiments category with her Blackhawk Field to Fork Sweet Fire Pickles.

“2016 was my third time entering the contest. I had entered my Blackhawk Bean and Jalapeno Salsa in 2013 and my Black Bean and Herb Salsa in 2015,” Jackson says. “I’ve been working on my pickles to get the heat and sweet combination just right, and I launched them as a new product in September 2015. I went with a clear label so people could see the thickness and quality of the pickles. The pickles have been my very best product so far.”

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Jackson has six products in her lineup of gourmet foods, including four salsas, one “Smokin’ Hot” Gourmet Sauce and the Sweet Fire Pickles.

“I’m planning to build on my Field to Fork pickle line,” she says. “There are tons of cucumbers grown in Georgia, and people can see with the clear label it’s a quality Georgia-grown product. People love pickles in America, and I want to take advantage of that.”

Since the contest, Abby J’s Gourmet has gotten several new accounts and mail orders from people all over Georgia.

“The exposure has been great,” Jackson says. “My pickles are being served in a couple restaurants now, and they’re sold in Pittman Family Farms & Country Market in Lyons.”

Jackson and her husband John also own Blackhawk Fly Fishing in Clarkesville along the Soque River.

“My passion is cooking, so I started cooking for our fishermen in 1998,” she says. “My Blackhawk Bean and Jalapeno Salsa started as a chili I made. David Zelski from Georgia Traveler ate five bowls of my chili and told me I needed to jar it. I took the meat out and had a gourmet salsa.”

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