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HILLSVILLE — When the best biscuit maker contest heated up among Hardee’s employees in four states, Mary Marshall of Hillsville kept her cool and baked away.
Boddie-Noell, the largest Hardee’s franchise in the United States, named Marshall on Feb. 23 as the champion after months of competition among 700 biscuit makers from 335 restaurants from Virginia, the Carolinas and Kentucky.
It took practice, Marshall told The Gazette, while sitting in a booth last Wednesday at the Hillsville Hardee’s. But she’s had the opportunity to perfect her “made-from-stratch biscuits” because customers make them fly out of the oven.
Marshall is partial to them herself.
“There’s just something about Hardee’s biscuits,” she said. “I don’t make biscuits at home any more — I come to Hardee’s.”
The restaurant chain worked out a good way to bake a quality breakfast staple.
Family-owned Boddie-Noell has been operating for 50 years out of Rocky Mount, N.C., and continues to make big batches of biscuits for its customers.
“In 2013, Hardee’s restaurants owned and operated by Boddie-Noell used more than 10.8 million pounds of flour and biscuit mix and 867,000 gallons of buttermilk to make the golden brown biscuits – enough flour, mix and buttermilk to fill more than 47 tractor-trailers,” according to a news release.
“All I have to do is to follow the procedure that they’ve laid out for me,” Marshall said.
If she does that, her biscuits turn out as pretty has the ones in the promotional posters.
The contest rolled out in October 2013 and culminated Feb. 23 with a banquet in Nashville, N.C., that named the four regional winners and Marshall as champion.
“Each biscuit maker was evaluated based on the quality of his or her biscuits, knowledge of proper biscuit equipment, cleanliness and care of the biscuit equipment, knowledge and execution of company procedures, grooming and appearance,” according to the news release.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Greg Alger, the general manager in Hillsville. “She’s a humble person, I think. She takes pride in what she does.
“Everybody here adores her,” he added. “When I hired her five and a half years ago, I didn’t know I was hiring a champion.”
Becoming the biscuit champion has been a long-time goal for Marshall — she even personalized her license plate with “MSBSKT,” or Ms. Biscuit.
Listening at the banquet, Marshall jumped out of her chair when officials announced that the winner hailed from a small town famous for a big flea market.
“We have some amazing biscuit makers in our company, but Mary is one of our new stars and her biscuits were really something special,” said Terry Lewis, Boddie-Noell’s vice president of operations said in the news release. “It’s a real tribute to her and her breakfast team at the restaurant.”
“I felt blessed because I get to use a talent that God blessed me with,” Marshall said. “I’d just like to thank first God for being with me through all this and helping me.”
She also appreciated the prayers, support and encouragement of Alger, District Manager Mike Nichols, Regional Director and Vice President Chuck Burke, regional training director Donna Chilton, as well as her family and crew.
Besides a plaque and other company recognition, one of the ways Boddie-Noell honors their top biscuit makers is with their photo on the tray liners.
“I’ve already told her I want the first autographed tray liner,” Alger said, laughing.
Marshall enjoys working with the crew at Hardee’s and feels like they’re family.
Will Marshall defend her biscuit champion title next year?
“God willing, yes,” she said.
“Got to have goals in life, don’t you?” Alger said.