Sue Garrett never planned to become an online sensation. When the Harpersville native started posting photos of her meals to her personal Facebook account, she had no idea her passion for cooking would quickly turn into a culinary adventure she would share with hundreds of thousands of people via social media.
Garrett, known to Internet food fanatics as “Mama Sue,” has amassed over 692,000 followers and 238,000 likes on her Facebook page, Mama Sue’s Southern Kitchen, since its inception in 2020. The Montevallo alum’s YouTube channel and eponymous account on TikTok has nearly 34,000 followers.
Choosing UM because of its proximity to his hometown, Garrett graduated in 1977 with a degree in elementary education and went on to teach at Vincent Elementary School for 20 years. Her husband, Harold, also taught there. She served as assistant director for five years before retiring in 2002.
“I wanted to be a teacher and I knew Montevallo had a very good education program,” Garrett said. “I was married and had a baby, so I traveled every day, even in the summer. It was just a wonderful school.”
Garrett’s love of cooking had been passed down to her from her mother and aunts throughout her life, but making cooking content was a new frontier. She got her feet wet when DeLoach Farms in Vincent asked to create some cooking videos using their vegetables for promotional purposes. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Garrett was convinced by his daughter Amy to start posting cooking tutorials on Facebook. Amy created the page for her and she was stunned by how quickly it started to spread.
“It was growing every day, and it wasn’t just local — it was all over the United States,” Garrett said. “People were asking me for different recipes, then they started asking if I had a cookbook. I didn’t at the time, but I thought I probably could because I had done one for our church years ago.”
To date, she has produced three cookbooks and sold around 90,000 copies. Her favorite recipes are meatballs and strawberry shortcake, which are always a big hit at church and family gatherings.
But Mama Sue’s Southern Kitchen isn’t just about entertaining an online audience or feeding a family. Garrett finds spiritual satisfaction in interacting with his audience, calling it his ministry. Her slogan, “Be salt and light,” which can be found in her logo, on her merchandise for sale on her website, and often in her publications, comes from Matthew 5:13-16.
“When I created my page, I told my daughter that I wanted to use something that would let people know about Jesus,” Garrett said. “Jesus tells us to be the light of the world. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a private message on my Facebook page asking me about it.”
Her ministry helped her through a difficult time in 2021 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and began chemotherapy. During this time, she couldn’t cook much, but she still checked in with her followers and used her platform to encourage women to get mammograms and continue to spread God’s word.
An important experience occurred just before her diagnosis when a young woman approached Garrett to express sadness and anger from her traumatic past. Garrett gave her his personal phone number and told her to call if she ever wanted to talk.
“She called me and said, ‘I’m really ready for you to tell me more about Jesus,'” Garrett said. “And I prayed with her and she accepted Jesus. The next day I was diagnosed and of course I had to tell my followers because they would know when I lost my hair. I received the sweetest letter from her. It means more to me than any cookbook I’ve ever sent.”