Salsa. Peaches. Spicy pickled eggs. Mild pickled eggs. Queso blanco. Farmhouse pickles.

These delicious — and canned — visual aids were used Wednesday by Cherokee County entrepreneur Barbara Bradshaw, owner of  Rusk-based Gourmet Gardens, to “spice up”  a  lunchtime presentation to the local Kiwanis Club.

During these comments at Lupe's Mexican Restaurant, Bradshaw offered samples of these canned goods to the 20-odd Kiwanis member audience. Most were more than happy to oblige.

Bradshaw: “I just want your opinion on these peaches.”

Audience Member: “They're really good!” (This particular sentence was repeated quite a bit.)

Bradshaw explained to the group she was only 46 when she created Gourmet Gardens 20 years ago. She said she did all the necessary cooking on a used 3-burner stove.

These days, she buys her peaches from Greece, her olives from Spain and her mushrooms from India. Her canned goods are subsequently carried at major chains such as Buc-ee's.

This work over the years earned Bradshaw a fiercely loyal customer base and national acclaim.  And her success has not gone unnoticed by the entertainment industry.  

Next week, she will speak with representatives of the Turner Broadcasting network who are exploring the possibility of  a TV reality show revolving around her and her company.

“The lady with the network is coming out Monday or Tuesday so she can figure out the angle she might want to take with the show,” Bradshaw elaborated Friday. “I don't want to be portrayed as a comedian or stupid or anything like that. Just as someone who works hard.”

One of Bradshaw's most sought after products is chow-chow — the popular, East Texas garnish that often graces servings of  pinto beans, black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and collard greens. (Possibly even hot dogs and hamburgers.)

Thousands of customers gobble up Bradshaw's chow chow on a regular basis, putting it in the top 20 ranking of her 150 items, she said.

“Chow chow is a big seller,” she said.  

For many Kiwanis members in her audience Wednesday, it was inspiring to hear about a middle aged entrepreneur achieving such success.

Bradshaw said her specific secrets to success are tenacity and drive.

“When a door opens for you, you can't drag your feet,” she said.


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