Sue Garrett never planned to become an online sensation. When the Harpersville native began posting pictures of her meals on her personal Facebook account, she didn’t imagine that her passion for cooking would rapidly evolve into a culinary adventure that she’d 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 start in 2020. The Montevallo alum’s YouTube channel and TikTok account of the same name both have nearly 34,000 followers.
Choosing UM for its closeness to her 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 principal 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 commuted every day, even during the summer. It was just a wonderful school.”
Garrett’s love of cooking was passed down to her from her mother and her aunts throughout her life, but making cooking content was a new frontier. She got her feet wet when DeLoach Farms in Vincent requested that she create some cooking videos using their vegetables for advertising purposes. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Garrett was convinced by her daughter, Amy, to start posting cooking tutorials on Facebook. Amy set the page up for her, and she was stunned by how quickly it started to spread.
“Every day it was growing and wasn’t just local — it was all across the United States,” Garrett said. “People were asking me about different recipes, then they started asking if I had a cookbook. I didn’t at that time, but I thought I probably could because I had done one for our church years before.”
But Mama Sue’s Southern Kitchen isn’t only about entertaining an online audience or feeding a family. Garrett finds spiritual fulfillment in interacting with her audience, referring to it as her ministry. Her tagline, “Be salt and light,” which can be found in her logo, on her merchandise for sale on her website and often in her posts, comes from Matthew 5:13-16.
“When I created my page, I told my daughter I wanted to use something that would let people know about Jesus,” Garrett said. “Jesus tells us to be the light of the world. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get a private message on my Facebook page asking me about it.”
Her ministry helped her during a tough period in 2021 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and started chemotherapy. She couldn’t do much cooking during that time, but still checked in with her followers and used her platform to encourage women to get mammograms and to continue to spread the word of God.
One prominent experience came just before she was diagnosed, when a young woman reached out to Garrett to express sadness and anger over her traumatic past. Garrett gave her 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 were going to know when I lost my hair. I got the sweetest letter from her. That means more to me than any cookbook I’ve ever sent.”