Rock Hill Bojangles worker seeks Master Biscuit Maker title

dworthington@heraldonline.comNovember 10, 2013 

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— Employees and patrons of the Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits restaurant on Herlong Avenue are hoping Tuesday is more than Bo Time. They’re hoping it is Rosa Time!

Rosalva “Rosa” Avila, a native of Jalisco, Mexico, has been making biscuits at Bojangles in Rock Hill for six years. She is one of a crew of five who arrive at the restaurant each morning at 4. She turns the gas ovens on, checks her work station and supplies, and then starts making the from-scratch biscuits, turning out 45 to 50 at a time. She has to make sure there are enough hot biscuits from when the doors open at 4:55 a.m. until noon, or shortly thereafter, each day.

Her biscuits are so good that customers will peak over the counter to see if she is baking. They will also stop her in the dining room to praise her. “Are her biscuits good? No, they are the best,” responded one thankful patron.

On Tuesday Rosa will see if she is the best of the best for all of Bojangles.

She is competing against seven other Bojangles bakers – including Elizabeth Young from Myrtle Beach and Kelly Waldrop of Spartanburg – to determine who is the Master Biscuit Maker for the company, all 550 company-owned and franchise-owned stores. It’s the 17th time Bojangles has picked the best of its best. The competition is at the company’s Support Center in Charlotte.

It is the second straight year that Rosa has made the finals. She hopes that is an advantage.

Last year she said the attention from company judges and the glare of television lights made her nervous. “This year, I’ll look at the biscuits, not the people,” she said.

Selecting the best biscuit maker is serious business. Judges have an eight-page sheet to determine who is the best. The most points possible is 342, and each “mistake” is a deduction.

The judging starts when the bakers walk into the room. Their biscuit-making uniform must be “clean, neat and wrinkle free” and complete with “name tag, hat and belt.”

The bakers are done when they deliver a tray of biscuits to the wrap station and shout “Hot Fresh Bojangles Biscuits!”

Judges then check each tray of biscuits to see that they are the proper dimension, 3 1/2 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches tall. Each biscuit must also be golden brown, rough in texture and completely cooked.

While all Bojangles employees go through the same biscuit-making training, some, like Rosa, excel. Their biscuits have a signature taste.

“I think it’s because she cares, cares about the quality, cares about the customers,” said Sheila Branch, one of her managers.

Rosa said her success may be because making biscuits has become second nature. She makes each batch the same way.

While preparing biscuits last week, Rosa let one of her secrets slip. To make sure the biscuits are the precise size, she frequently cleans her biscuit cutter. Dough accumulates inside the ring of the cutter and that affects the shape, she said. She also makes sure to cut at a 90-degree angle to her work station.

Time and technique matter in the competition.

Each baker who completes the baking process – from pouring the pre-made mix and adding a shaken carton of buttermilk to putting the dough in the oven, 375 degree for a gas oven, 400 for an electric oven – in five minutes or less gets 25 points. Rosa is hoping she can get her time down to 4 minutes.

There are also points for hitting the optimal biscuit yield. The standard is between 45 and 50 biscuits per patch. A perfect batch is worth 25 more points.

Each finalist in the master biscuit competition gets a $500 cash prize. The ultimate winner gets the Master Biscuit Make trophy and a $2,500 cash prize.

Rosa has her fingers crossed, hoping for a good day for herself, her fellow employees, her patrons and most importantly her family. She and her husband Christian have six children and one grandchild. Three boys are students at Northwestern High School and two are in elementary school. When she’s not baking biscuits, she and her husband can be found cooking for their children.

If she wins, don’t count on biscuits, or traditional Mexican food, to celebrate. While her children like the biscuits, they don’t like Rosa’s or her husband’s Mexican meals. Most likely a celebratory dinner for the Avila family will be pizza or pasta.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066 dworthington@heraldonline.com

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