You might say that Kristen Marshall and Betty Stallion are biscuit warriors for Ronald McDonald.
McDonald’s, the fast-food restaurant whose mascot is the famous red-wigged clown of the same name, is holding a biscuit bake-off competition in Greenville today. Marshall, who works at the McDonald’s at Greenfield Heights Boulevard in Havelock, and Stallion, who works at the Grantsboro location, are among seven selected for the event.
The winner advances to the finals in Cary on May 8. The local winner will receive a cash prize and the final winner, a trophy.
Bill Purcell, owner of 14 McDonald’s restaurants in the region, chose the two women from among his employees to compete.
“This is an opportunity for us to showcase our biscuit makers,” he said of the competition, adding that “we make all our biscuits from scratch.”
After an interview, Marshall and Stallion took a few minutes to prepare a batch of biscuits on the little stainless steel counter that is set aside for that purpose.
It all starts with buttermilk, Marshall noted, as she poured some into a bowl and stirred in what appeared to be a pre-mixed flour. She was mum about what goes into the biscuits other than flour and dairy, however. You know, trade secrets.
“I mix all the dough and stuff and I roll it all out,” she explained. “We all use the same size rolling pins and the same size cutters.”
The rolling pin, about 18 inches wide, is plastic with metal wheels at either handle to provide an industry-standard depth to the dough.
Stallion took over with the rolling pin, flattening the dough then folding it over and flattening it again.
“We all fold it so it has the same flaky layering,” Marshall explained.
The ideal biscuit is 1 1/2 inches thick and can’t be more than an inch and three quarters. Eighteen are placed carefully on a tray, packed fairly close together so they rise upward but not side to side. The tray is slid into a plastic bag and then refrigerated half an hour before baking.
The same flaky biscuit is served for all the biscuit-based breakfast meals, from Egg McMuffins to sausage gravy and biscuit.
So, with so much regulation, how can anyone make a biscuit different enough to be noticed at a bake-off?
“There are little technical things you can do that change the flavor,” Purcell pointed out. One hint he offered was that his workers hold the rolling pin underhanded instead of overhanded, thus placing less pressure on the dough and helping keep the final product fluffy.
Stallion said that biscuit-making greatness is a matter of heart.
“We make ‘em with love, first of all,” she explained. “We have our guests in mind when we make them. Our guests:what do they think when they eat their biscuit?”
What they think, both women hope, is home cooking.
“I love doing it,” Stallion said.
And working in a fast-food restaurant chain? “I like the atmosphere,” she said.
Marshall added, “I like the teamwork, the camaraderie.”
Each rises and shines early: Stallion reports in Grantsboro at 5 a.m. With Havelock being a 24-hour restaurant, Marshall shows up even earlier, at 3:30 a.m. After morning biscuit-making is done, they lend a hand in other restaurant matters.
The amount of biscuits the ladies turn out depends on the day. Most Mondays are light, while weekends and summers are busy breakfast times.
Today’s competition runs from 2 to 5 p.m. at the new McDonald’s at 4410 E. 10th St., Greenville. The winner will go on to compete against bakers from the Triangle and Sandhills area in May.
Bill Hand is a reporter for the Sun Journal.