Top biscuits

Published 10:20 pm Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mike Clark, a biscuit maker at Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits on Bridge Road, recently competed in a regional contest to earn a spot in the company’s national Master Biscuit Maker Challenge. Clark will find out later this month if he made it to the final stage.

Mike Clark takes the business of biscuit-making very seriously.

The soft-spoken 19-year-old moves like a machine as he kneads biscuit mix in a large silver bowl, rolls the dough on the counter and then cuts 15 perfect circles into it.

He’s focused and silent as he follows every step of the procedure he learned when he started six months ago as a biscuit maker at the Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits restaurant on Bridge Road.

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Earlier this week, Clark got the opportunity to show off his skills when he was chosen to represent franchise owner Kerry Karali’s stores in the regional Bojangles’ Master Biscuit Maker Challenge in Hampton.

Karali, the owner of the franchise, said he’s always noticed that Clark was quick and efficient at what he does.

“He takes a lot of pride in what he does, and that’s what makes him stand out,” Karali said.

Clark, who lives in Portsmouth, knows the exact height, perfect temperature and ideal consistency to make biscuits that look like they were plucked right out of the menu photos.

“Out of everything in the kitchen, I enjoy doing this the most,” he said. “I love what I do.”

At the competition on Monday, Clark pitted his biscuits against those of four other biscuit makers contending for the chance to represent the region in the national championship next month.

The competition requires biscuit makers to make a batch of biscuits in five minutes or less, while following the company’s procedure as closely as possible.

Jim Dickey, a Bojangles’ franchise business consultant and one of the challenge’s judges, said the entrants are evaluated on their time; how closely they follow the biscuit-making procedure, which gives instructions on how the biscuits should be made for ideal look and taste; and the quality of the finished product.

“We want them to look like the picture on the menu,” Dickey said.

The contestants also have to pass a 20-question test on the Bojangles’ procedure.

Clark said it was a little nerve-racking having the judges stand over him while he worked.

“The judges watched me the whole time to make sure I was following procedure,” he said.

Clark said the keys to making great biscuits are practice and patience.

“I learned fast,” he said. “It takes a lot of dedication to get it done.”

Although Clark’s competition is over, Dickey said, the other half of the region has to hold its own contest before a regional winner can be announced. Clark expects to learn Oct. 17 whether he has won.

The winner will go on to the national contest in Charlotte on Nov. 9 and 10 to compete for a $1,000 prize.

“I think I stand a good chance of winning,” Clark said. “But the money’s not the payoff. I just want to make everyone proud.”