One of our signature dishes is Shrimp & Grits and, as Chef Raymond Jackson told the Restaurant Hunter TV show recently, “No self-respecting southerner uses instant grits – we import our stone-ground grits from Oxford, Mississippi. “ So what’s so special about our grits? We think it’s partially Raymond’s skill – he carefully cooks the grits so they are creamy, not runny, a time-consuming process! — but we also credit Ms. Georgeanne Ross, “The Original Grit Girl.”
Georgeanne’s company, The Original Grit Girl, is a wholesale purveyor of stone-ground grits, cornmeal, masa and polenta which is shipped to chefs at restaurants around the country. What makes Georgeanne’s grits so special is that they are all natural — no additives or preservatives are used, and the finished products are never shelved, refrigerated or frozen – and ground on early 20th century farm equipment. The result is a taste that is both fresh and authentic.
Georgeanne started her business in 2001, inspired by her husband Freddie’s hobby, which is restoring old machinery. When Freddie found a 1912 Fairbanks Morse flywheel and a 1910 Meadows Stone Grist Mill the couple started experimenting with stone grinding, turning out 20 pounds of grits at a time just to keep the machinery in good shape and then sharing the grits with friends. When a visiting chef asked her if he could place an order for 40 pounds she realized there was a demand for the product, and, with help from her brother (a chef), the company was born.
Today The Original Grit Girl has a busy weekly schedule. Georgeanne accepts orders through Friday, then takes delivery of fresh corn from local growers on Saturday for grinding on Sunday. (The company’s grit separator produces over 600 pounds an hour!) The grits , cornmeal, masa and polenta are shipped or hand-delivered on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Georgeanne admits that grinding grits was never on her bucket list: “I grew up in Memphis. If they didn’t sell it at Kroger I didn’t think about it,” she joked to The Local Voice newspaper in 2012. And, to be honest, grits was hardly glamorous : The dish originated with Native Americans who introduced it to settlers and enslaved people, and it was mostly cooked and eaten at home. But in the 1980s a new interest in American regional cooking took hold, and North Carolina chef Bill Neal put shrimp and grits on the map when his version of the dish caught the eye of The New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne. Today, says Georgeanne, “Americans consume 100 million pounds of grits every year. ”
We like to think we are doing our share!