We get into the heart and soul of this southern-style kitchen with Gretchen Shoemaker AKA "Nana"
Check out out LIVE interview on IGTV, too!
Photo credit: Georgia's Restaurant - Pictured: Gretchen Shoemaker
It's like coming back home when dining with Georgia's Restaurant at the historic Anaheim Packing House, whether it's your first or fiftieth visit. Even now, guests come back frequently to take out family buckets filled with crispy fried chicken and dine Al Fresco on their side patio or the shaded green at Farmers Park.
"We had the pleasure of meeting the owner, she is so sweet and hospitable. She made sure we were never without fresh hot corn bread straight from the oven. You can't go wrong with the chicken sandwich with the fried onion rings inside. The Cajun fries are so flavorful & mouth - watering. Always a delightful experience and never disappointed with the food. 10/10 recommend" - Yelper Alyssa A.
Photo Credit: Daniel Sanchez - Georgia's Patio
This family-owned kitchen is serving up much needed comfort with home-cooked cravings and a soulful side of southern hospitality. With menu items like cornmeal battered fried chicken, creamy mac n' cheese, bacon gravy smothered pork chops, tender marinated tri-tip and perfectly prepared greens, one may assume 2 things:
"The owner has got to be named Georgia!"
"Georgia must have been born and raised in a southern kitchen."
Photo Credit: @MariahTauger - Georgia's Owners/Partners/Family: Left: Marlon Michado, Center: Nika Shoemaker-Michado, Right: Gretchen Shoemaker "Nana"
We got to talking with 2 of the 3 Georgia's business partners: Gretchen Shoemaker, the charming lady lovingly known by many family members, customers and crew as "Nana," and her beautiful daughter, Nika Shoemaker-Machado.
Packing District: Where did you grow up?
Nana: Ardmore Pennsylvania a small town outside of Philadelphia
Photo Credit: visitphilly.com
Nika: Nana started her love of southern cooking when her clients started requesting dishes from the south. She started cooking recipes and making them her own. She was always creole inspired. [Growing up,] Nana watched her mother and grandmother."
The Story behind the name: "Georgia's"
Photo Credit: Georgia's Restaurant - Left: Gretchen Shoemaker, Right: George Shoemaker
Nika: The love of Nana’s life was her husband George. She knew that she couldn’t name the restaurant after herself “Gretchen”. Gretchen is not a name that you would associate with southern cooking. That is why she incorporated her love of George and her daughters. Using George and adding a letter from each of her daughters- I from her second born Nika, A from her last born Kyra and S from her first born Shawn. Each letter also showing the placement in each of their names as well as their birth order.
Packing District: Did you attend cooking school or school of hard knocks?
Nana: School of hard knocks.
Packing District: What other kitchens / roles did you work before you got here?
Nana: I owned my own catering business. I ran it from my home.
Packing District: What did you want to be when you grew up?
Nana: My love of history was leading me to teach.
Packing District: Do you have a mentor who helped you get to where you are as a chef?
Nana: My best friend Rosemary Hinko became my mentor. She was a strong woman who was very successful in a male dominated career. Rose instilled in me the confidence that my homegrown skills in cooking belonged out in the catering industry. Unfortunately, Rose is no longer with us but she continues to mentor me from above.
Photo credit: Georgia's Restaurant - Left: Rosemary Hinko, Right: Gretchen Shoemaker at a catering gig.
Packing District: Where do you look for inspiration?
Nana: From my loved ones and friends that I am blessed to have in my life.
Packing District: How do you inspire your staff?
Nana: I am very appreciative of all of my staff. I feel very strongly about expressing my gratitude to each and every staff member. Always treating others with respect.
PD: Do you have a daily mantra? If so, what is it?
Nana: Listen first in order to be heard
PD: How do you juggle work/life balance?
Nana: I embrace life in order to enjoy life.
PD: Describe the most perfect dish you have ever made. (Is this on your menu?)
Nana: Nana’s famous chili. I promised that recipe to my oldest daughter.
PD: What is your proudest moment or accomplishment?
Nana: Taking my catering business and transforming it into what Georgia’s is today.
PD: Do you have any fun celebrity encounter stories?
Nana: As a waitress, I served James Brown and Etta James. The fun was my $25 tip.
Nika: She worked as a waitress from 1964 to 1968. Her celebrity sightings were about 1966.
PD: What is your favorite song?
Nana: Celebration by Kool and the Gang
PD: Do you have any secret talents outside of the kitchen?
PD: Where is your favorite place in the world to enjoy a meal? What is the meal and beverage?
Nana: My mother’s kitchen, her fried chicken, potato salad and iced tea.
PD: Do you have any funny/unusual inside kitchen jokes, rituals or sayings?
Nana: If you taste before it’s time. The dishes are your responsibility.
Photo Credit: Anaheim Public Library - Gretchen Shoemaker
PD: What is the key to a successful restaurant?
Nana: The people
PD: What is your next mountain to climb?
Nana: At my age, all my mountains have been climbed
PD: If you had to choose another business to start up, what would it be?
Nana: None, Georgia’s is a representation of my greatest dreams.
PD: Can you share a recipe with us to share with our food adventurers?
Nana: Slow Cooker Cornbread Pudding Casserole
Nana's Slow Cooker (Oven Optional) Cornbread Pudding Casserole
2 boxes cornbread mix
2 cans organic corn, drained
2 cans creamed corn
2 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups jack cheese, grated
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos, diced
4 eggs, beaten
2 sticks melted butter
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon creole seasoning
dried parsley to garnish
Mix cheese together and reserve half of the cheese.
Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl.
Do not use the reserved cheese it will be for use after the cornbread is almost ready.
Add cornbread mixture to your greased or buttered slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours depending on your slow cooker
To bake in the oven preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake in a 13×9 casserole dish for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Top with remaining cheese the last 20 minutes of cooker and garnish with parsley when done if desired.
Georgia's Restaurant is located at the historic Anaheim Packing House -
440 S. Anaheim Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92805