It would be easiest to call Gina Willis an internet sensation. But their game has much more to offer.
This story is as simple as the fact that Gina loves to cook. She does it every day. And now she’s regularly busy choosing which catering jobs she wants to tackle.
Yes, she is SO in demand.
“I only baked for people.” She told me recently during a visit to her home in Savannah. “You couldn’t have told me it was going to happen like this.”
Those of you who haven’t heard of Gina Willis will now be glad you have.
She will be the first to tell you that she is not a professional cook.
Nor is she an expert. In her own book, she’s nothing special, other than someone who loves food, loves to cook, and loves to work hard every day to get better.
As a result, their brand has exploded. As? First off, she owes celebrity chef BJ Dennis a huge thank you.
“I actually met Chef BJ on Instagram,” she says. “We just started talking about food and Gullah/Geeche dishes. Then he invited me to an article in Bon Appetit Magazine. I made my smothered crab and bam!”
With all due respect to Emeril Lasgasse, who coined this sentence over a decade ago, this “Bam” came a few years ago and completely changed the course of Gina’s journey.
“A week later I was in Atlanta for an Atlanta Magazine shoot, I was in Essence. It was such a small blurb, but for me it was important to me.”
Of course it was.
That was a few years ago. Now Gina has as much catering work as she would — honestly — like to take on.
The phone rings regularly when people ask them to host this or that event. All looking for their twist on some classic Southern dishes.
Her following on social media numbers in the tens of thousands.
Her daily delicious posts regularly attract attention from around the world. She’s pretty much mastered in the art of visualizing food.
If it’s true that people eat with their eyes, then we’ve really seen everything we need to know. Their dishes, which range from hot honey fried chicken to crab-stuffed salmon to short ribs and beef pilaf, will make your mouth water just staring at your phone.
And she does it all in the kitchen of the house she shares with her mother. No fancy studios, no fancy equipment, just a talented lady, an oven and an iPhone.
“I take cooking very seriously.” She says, “I practice every day. When I beat an egg for myself, I want the egg to look right.”
Visualizing in a digital world is one of their secrets, the other is not a secret at all. It’s passion, that’s obvious. Gina tells me that she’s regularly approached by people trying to recreate some of the magic she’s created for herself. She tells them all that knowing how to cook is only part of the equation. Roll up your sleeves and get to work, that’s another.
“You must pay your dues.” She says: “It’s not as easy as it looks. You may cook well for your family, but for the masses? This is something else.”
This piece of advice, as simple as it sounds, gets lost on so many. But Gina has it. For now, she says she enjoys preparing meals for visitors who rent vacation homes downtown. She’s also considered a pop-up dinner here and there (yes, open to the public), but that will be happening shortly.
If you are interested in Gina’s services, you can find her contact information and one of her three cookbooks on her website whatsginacooking.com.
It would also be wise to follow her on Instagram @whatsginacooking and be prepared to gain a few pounds just by looking at the beauty she is shedding daily.