In the heart of Gretna community, 19-year-old Jayana Corker is proving that age is just a number when it comes to achieving culinary dreams.
Corker is the owner of Jay’s Royal Eatery, a thriving sweet potato pie business that she started in her own kitchen.
“I was looking for something to do,” Jayana shared.
Dismissing the WNBA plans, she thought about her grandmother baking her made-from-scratch-cakes and pies.
While visiting, the 2023 Godby High School graduate asked for the sweet potato pie recipe.
“I gave it to her exactly how my mother gave it to me,” said grandmother, Bessie M. Rumlin Corker of Gretna. The more than 60-year-old recipe was a hand-me -down family staple from her mother, Annie Laura Rumlin Bradley, who was a popular baker in Gadsden County.
“I told her exactly what to do step by step,” said Rumlin Corker. After carefully watching her grandmother Jayana, a Tallahassee native with deep roots running through Gadsden County was able to duplicate the recipe from the first batch. Sharing samples with family first and later friends, she waited for honest feedback.
“Don’t change a thing,” advised her grandfather, Deacon Dexter Bradham.
The satisfying samples were pleasing enough amongst the family.
Observing her daughter ditching the recipe and preparing the sweet potato pies by memory, Amanda Bradham Corker recalls the first bite.
“It tasted like an old recipe from grandma’s kitchen,” said Bradham Corker. “I told her she was on to something bigger.”
Jayana admits things started out slow. With her family’s help she gained customers.
Maurice Smith immediately became a repeat customer after receiving a sample from Jayana’s mother at work. Maurice has ordered several sweet potato pies since then, including six pies in a short amount of time.
“That’s the best tasting pie I’ve ever had,” said Smith. The filling is deliciously flavored to taste.”
Smith’s wife Melissa shares a similar response, “From the first bite it was good.”
The aspiring restaurateur became comfortable with the encouragement and support from her grandmother.
“I told her to take the pies out and get her name out to the public,” said Grandma Bessie.
Jayana soon began selling her slices at J & A Seafood Restaurant in Quincy Florida. The shop is owned by her father and uncle.
Shrimp Stop Restaurant in Tallahassee carries her slices as well. This past Thanksgiving holiday her request for her sweet potato pies were capped at 22.
Despite her young age during her senior year Jayana dual enrolled at Lively Technical School Culinary program.
During the time she balanced both school and the business.
“I would do my school work in culinary class and at home bake and prepare orders,” Jayana added.
Today she’s enrolled at Tallahassee Community College studying Business Management. She doesn’t experience many challenges but is thankful she has her family and best friend Amariya Nix to help her through those difficult times.
Nix, who admits she’s not a sweet potato pie fan, gave in after tasting the sample twice. “It was the graham cracker crust,” Nix added.
Looking ahead, Jayana has ambitious plans for Jay’s Royal Eatery, aiming to expand her business to include her signature seasoned chicken wings and more. Her goal is to own and operate her food truck in the near future.
Jayana’s journey proves that a dash of passion and a sprinkle of determination can create a recipe for sweet success.
Kiwanis White – Gadsden County News Service