Hardee's biscuit maker from Coats voted best in franchise.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

  Maria Hernandez, right, of Coats Hardee's won Boddie-Noell Enterprises' 2016 Best Biscuit Maker competition. General Manager Felicia McNeil accompanied the mother of three through all four stages of the competition.
According to Rountree Communications President Rick Rountree, a small Hardee's location in Virginia Beach introduced the first breakfast biscuit to the brand. The biscuits were handmade behind a window at the storefront to prove to passing customers that they were being "Made From Scratch." Since then, the company has embraced the biscuit and solidified its place on the American breakfast menu.

Boddie-Noell Enterprises is the largest Hardee's franchise owner in the United States with 340 locations across four states and had a huge hand in introducing the breakfast biscuit to the chain.

"The biscuit is an important part of Hardee's as a brand," he said, "So, we have to get it right." The franchise has been holding Best Biscuit Maker competitions every year since 1983, with the 2016 contest starting in October.

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.

"This is the country of opportunity. I feel like I'm living the American dream."
- Maria Hernandez
The competition's judges included trainers, general managers, district managers, regional directors, vice presidents and other executives in the restaurant division of Boddie-Noell at the five levels of competition.

"Since most restaurants average about three biscuit makers per restaurant - there are over 1,000 biscuit makers who compete," said Mr. Rountree.

"They start out on the local level - then they go from that to the regional level "" which might be 30-plus restaurants "" then they go to the full regional which might be 80 or 90," he said.

Coats resident and 16-year employee of Hardee's, Maria Hernandez, mixed, kneaded, cut, baked and buttered her way through them all, to the final four of biscuit making at the franchise headquarters' test kitchen in Rocky Mount.

"I didn't even think that I would win," she said.

Mr. Rountree said biscuit makers in the final four are always nervous.

"I was nervous all the time. Especially one day before the competition," Ms. Hernandez said. "I took my day off, trying to relax, but I was nervous all day when I was not working." Ms. Martinez says her specialty is biscuits but more than biscuits make her special.

She immigrated from Guanajuato, Mexico, 17 years ago, and stayed in Charlotte for a year before coming to Coats.

Not only is she Boddie-Noell Enterprise's Best Biscuit Maker of 2016, she is a crew trainer and mother of three.

Her children, 27-year-old Edgar, 24-year-old Jaqueline and 11-year-old Juan Nunez, are proud of their mother's award. Her mother and sister cried when they saw an online interview of Ms. Martinez in acceptance of her award. Her two brothers, in Benson and McGee's Crossroads, are also proud, but most important support for her comes from the crew in Coats.

"They put all their faith in me. They were pushing me and telling me, - You're going to get it, Maria. You can do it!" - she said.

"There is a real strong sense of team at restaurants like this," Mr. Rountree added. "Usually the first thing the biscuit maker does is call the restaurant - because they are all on pins and needles waiting to hear." "I enjoy working with everybody and I enjoy everything I do right here," she said. "When I am making biscuits, I enjoy it the same as working on the table and fixing." Ms. Martinez started at Hardee's of Coats without knowing how to speak English.

"I was feeling sad, I was feeling frustrated," she said.

"I heard everybody talking and said, - One day I am going to have a conversation with them." - Ms. Hernandez studied at CCCC for three years, took many ESL courses ultimately earning her GED.

"That's where I learned my English and I was practicing my English right here with them." She thanked Sandra McLain for teaching her for two weeks on how to make biscuits 16 years ago. She also thanked General Manager Felicia McNeil and her Hardee's "family." She thanked some members of her old crew and the crew she trained in Angier and said she now feels "more secure." "Nothing can put me down. You can do anything," Ms. Hernandez said. "This is the country of opportunity. I feel like I'm living the American dream."

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