Anna Bell’s Mac & Cheese: An Atlanta Staple that Honors Family and Tradition
Fifteen years. That’s how long it took Kevin Mobley, who hails from South Boston, Virginia to come up with the ideal replica of his great-grandmother’s mac & cheese recipe.
A tech entrepreneur who now calls Atlanta home, Mobley grew up living with Anna Bell, the family matriarch. During that time, he spent hours cooking with her in the kitchen, learning her ways. Among his favorite dishes to cook (and eat!) was her creamy, gooey, made-from-scratch mac and cheese.
“I watched her source local, fresh ingredients to deliver mouthwatering goodness every time,” he said.
Unfortunately, when she died – Mobley was 11 – her recipe died with her. Like so many cooks of her time, she never wrote down her ingredients.
But luckily, Mobley remembered them. Or at least he thought he did. He knew the wood-oven taste. He just had to recreate it.
And so, as a way to de-stress from the demands of building a software company, he took to the kitchen to cook, where he tried to emulate what Annie Glenn Breedlove had perfected. The hardest part, he said, was matching the local cheese she used.
Finally, after much experimentation and over a decade of trying, he found an English cheddar that he believes captures the woodsy smokiness of Anna Bell’s wood-oven baked mac and cheese. Continuing on his mission to use the best local products, he sourced his cream and milk from a local dairy.
Once the perfect product was created, he called his company Anna Bell’s Mac & Cheese, using the nickname his family used for his great-grandmother. He started selling it Saturday mornings at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Soon, word of mouth spread. It’s now available at area retail stores, as well as online, where it can be shipped nationwide.
Like so many other mom and pop food businesses, Anna Bell’s, which only sells mac and cheese, faced a series of challenges during the pandemic. However, Mobley was given a reprieve when the company was selected by the Hyatt Corporation ast part of its Hyatt Loves Local program. This means Mobley can now whip up his famous batches of mac and cheese in the kitchen of the local Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Atlanta, which enables him to produce larger quantities. Previously he had been preparing batches in the kitchen of a friend’s restaurant.
For Mobley, there’s a bigger mission with his famous dish, and that is to continue telling and shaping the story of African American traditions, something he believes his great grandmother would be proud of.
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