Shannon Gray never made a biscuit until two years ago. But she had some borrowed magazines stacked in her living room back then.
"One was Southern Living," she recalled. "There was a recipe called 'Best Buttermilk Biscuit Recipe Ever.'"
And while this wife and mother was a great chef with fresh veggies and meats, she was intimidated by baking and thought bakers were culinary geniuses. "Elite chefs."
"However, I had every ingredient right there in my cupboard for those buttermilk biscuits," Shannon remembered. "I made it. It was horrible!"
Even though she followed it to the letter. Driven to drop the best biscuit in the world, Shannon took to the task. She called her mom for tips; she called a church friend for more secret techniques.
"I was determined and tapped into my creative side God gave me," she said with a laugh.
She wanted to make a biscuit that would "blow peoples' minds!"
When she was satisfied with her now-secret basic biscuit recipe, she raided her cupboard and fridge and started throwing things in the dough. Blueberries, candy bars, spinach... nearly everything she had.
Today she has what she says is a "Biscuit Bible." And that book of Shannon-inspired-and-created biscuit recipes is the mainstay to what could be called North Mt. Juliet's (Wilson County and beyond) most talked about new restaurant endeavor in a while.
Sweet Biscuit Company
Her Sweet Biscuit Company opened just three weeks ago and it's literally been "devoured" by biscuit-lov'n' people who crave her magical array of sweet and savory biscuits.
"I'm told they are magical," Shannon said humbly. "Yep, people moan when they taste them!"
She said she's just mixing flour and buttermilk.
"But, it's because of Him, I know what to put in the middle of it," Shannon explained.
Though Shannon moved to Mt. Juliet just last October, everyone now knows her as the biscuit lady already. She was relocated to Mt. Juliet for her husband's work. They had to choose a place to stay in the Nashville area. But because her husband grew up near a river, "he wanted to be near water."
Mt. Juliet was a no brainer, dubbed the city between the lakes.
Shannon grew up in Mississippi on acreage.
"My mom was a fantastic cook," she said. "And her dad had a huge farm. I remember fresh tomatoes, green bean trellises like a castle walkway, and shelling butter beans."
Her love of creating and food came when she was about 9 years old.
She grew up and got a teaching degree and moved to North Carolina and taught kindergarten for three years. At age 26 she moved to England to teach. When she got back to the South, she yearned to open an English tearoom like one she frequented in England.
"But I then lived in a meat and potatoes type town" she said. That town was Columbus, Mississippi. However, bent on opening some type of restaurant, she opened the "Green Olive" in 2004.
Married to Mike and mother to newborn Evan, she asked her mom for help. It was long hours and her mom finally said, "You've got to sell this."
"Two years after we opened, we closed, I had a 10 month old I needed to be with," she said.
Her heart was always in the kitchen, she said. She stayed home with Evan,. and when he went to preschool she utilized what she said were her uncanny organizational skills and began a home organizer career that took off like crazy. Actually, she made a killing out of this career.
"But, I was alone in those houses all the time," she said. "I'm a social person and I knew I wanted to do something with food again."
'Blow your mind' biscuits
Mike was aware of his wife's Biscuit Bible and was thoroughly supportive when in October Shannon started looking for a little place to make biscuits and serve them up to her community. But first, she tried out her biscuits on anyone and everyone.
"I dropped them off at my son's school, at church and more," she said.
Shannon started substituting in Mt. Juliet schools, and soon everyone asked her for her biscuits. People started ordering, and paying for the cloud-cake-like biscuits. Soon she knew she had enough of a following and needed a storefront.
"I found my quaint little biscuit tearoom on North Mt. Juliet Road, and it's been a rodeo ever since," Shannon said.
She leased the place, fixed it up and set up her menu.
Her menu is seasonal. There are 10 summer flavors, with fruit and glazes. How do blueberry crisp, strawberry lemonade, peach, chocolate covered strawberry biscuits, white chocolate sound?
There's also a savory variety. She offers soups, homemade chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches.
Her specialty biscuit is offered occasionally and is two buttermilk biscuits squashed together with delicious fillings such as cheesy ham, and spinach.
Shannon gets to work at 4 a.m. everyday to make biscuits with her seven employees.
"Yep, I go to bed at about 8 p.m.," she revealed.
She said this fantastic embrace from the community is phenomenal. She loves her employees.
"I've trusted Him," she said. "It's been hectic and crazy, but He put the desire to cook in my heart, and I've trusted Him everyday in this venture. He's brought me so many employees I'm so proud of. Some I've saved from boredom, some from depression. We are a family here."
There are five tables in her little place, and eight outside for when it cools down a bit
"I'm completely shocked at how responsive people are. I'm completely in awe."
People come from Franklin, Nashville and Antioch to bite into her biscuits. She's definitely looking to open in other locations in the future, perhaps Franklin and The Gulch.
"The whole idea of a gourmet biscuit is cool," she said. "We change with the seasons, so we keep it exciting."
Light and fluffy like a cake is how she best describes her concoctions. Yes, there is a bit of a wait for a table, but you can order on the phone and take home.
"Mt. Juliet is very loyal and understanding," she said. "So many come back, and back, and back!"
Sneak peek: Shannon already has her fall menu planned. Don't tell anyone, but there will be a caramel apple biscuit and a sweet potato biscuit with a caramel glaze.
"I'm working on a chocolate covered roasted almond biscuit and even a butternut squash biscuit," she divulged.
For full menu and hours go to sweetbiscuitcompany.com