Christina Halstead, executive chef at the Café @Williams Hardware in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, had a feeling she had a winning recipe when she entered the 2016 Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest.
While she knew she’d have tough competition in the contest, she said she felt confident her new twist on a classic recipe was grand-prize worthy. Her “BLT on Pimento Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit with Red Pepper Jelly” recipe is just one of the specialty dishes she serves at the Café @ Williams Hardware, a casual café known for popular menu standouts such as its Reuben sandwich, a pecan-encrusted chicken salad and a long list of scrumptious desserts.
For her award-winning recipe, Halstead amps up a buttermilk biscuit with the perfect amount of pimento and cheese and adds arugula, thick-cut bacon and a homegrown tomato—all topped with a pizzazz of red pepper jelly.
“I knew it in my heart, I just knew it,” she says. “I’ve never had a feeling like that. I know this biscuit is amazing. It has it all.”
As the Grand Prize Winner, Halstead earned a $40,000 check from General Mills Foodservice plus $10,000 to share with a local charity of her choice. Beyond the monetary prize and all the accolades that come with winning the contest, Halstead appreciates having the opportunity to hone her culinary skills and develop a new menu item that continues to draw excitement in her community and bring in new business.
“I wanted to get better at making biscuits,” says Halstead, who loves to experiment and play with combinations of flavors. She spent months doing her research and ultimately chose Gold Medal™ ZT Buttermilk Biscuit Mix to get the results she was looking for. She says, “the mix provides a great base for adding unique flavors and allows me to add my own twist.”
Her distinct variation comes from adding pimento and cheese to a buttermilk biscuit for a Southern flair. The combination of the buttery, flavorful biscuit balanced with the tomato, arugula and pepper jelly results in a truly unique version of a familiar menu item that works well for breakfast, lunch or in between.
Halstead reports the BLT continues to be a top seller at the café as a regular special on the menu and has even inspired her to launch a new product to sell at retail.
“Winning the Neighborhood to Nation Recipe Contest has been beyond my expectations. We have been running the biscuit as a special for about nine weeks and its popularity has not even slowed down,” adds Halstead. “I have started making my own pepper jelly, and I've had so many requests for it that I am working on getting it into the retail market.”