For seven years, Barbara “Barb” McGarrah has made many families smile with her homemade holiday goodies and treats sold at her gourmet restaurant, “Barb’s Gourmet Brittle.” The Florida State University graduate said that Barbs Brittle took off on it’s own.
“Originally I made brittle during the holidays for everybody in my family,” said Orlando native, McGarrah. “It was very difficult to find peanuts so I asked my dad, who sold roasted and boiled peanuts in Orlando. He said he could get me some but I had to get 100 pounds. So I had extra brittle because 100 pounds seemed like a lot.”
McGarrah began making brittle through college.
Majoring in fashion design at FSU, Barbara had a creative flare while making brittle. She received a newsletter here in Tallahassee about the Senior Citizens Center Craft show.
“It was my first craft show,” McGarrah said. “I needed to get rid of all the extra brittle my dad gave me so I decided to go to the show and sell my brittle. This show was the beginning of a franchise. My son, who lives in New York, said he did not understand why I was selling brittle at a senior citizen show where half of the people don’t have teeth and the other half don’t eat sugar!”
But McGarrah decided to debut her now famous peanut brittle, and it turned out to be a hit among the Tallahassee residents.
“They loved it at the show,” McGarrah said. “Some said it was the best brittle they ever tasted. But I still had peanuts left!”
After doing another craft show, “Barbara’s Gourmet Brittles” became her bread and butter. Graduating from Florida State University in 1984, McGarrah decided to put her fashion sense on the back burner and pursue brittle making full time.
“Little by little I started making candy more than I sewed,” McGarrah said. “I enjoy making suits but there were only certain types of suits you could make. With brittles you can be creative as you want.”
Now McGarrah has over 100 different types of recipes for her homemade brittle and several types of homemade brittle ice cream. Some favorites among customers are the traditional peanut brittle, and pumkinliscious, butter pecan and peanut brittle ice cream.
When asked about her brittle ice cream, Barbara said commercial ice cream was not the way for her to go.
“When the idea of ice cream came about, originally I thought about using plain store bought ice cream. I wanted to be original since the brittle was homemade,” McGarrah said. “I then started making my own ice cream because then I can adjust it to the addition of the candy and at the same time have a more unique product.”
When talking about her history of cooking, McGarrah proudly cited her warm traditional family upbringing filled with a lot of memories of cooking.
“Cooking came easy for me. My mother was an excellent cook and Grandmother was always at our house cooking and spending time with us,” McGarrah said. “I had eleven siblings and it was difficult for us to go out to eat so my mother cooked for us all the time. I was always interested in cooking at a young age so I learned how to cook early on.”
McGarrah even admitted to having a passion for cooking other delicious recipes that doesn’t involve candy.
“I can cook a lot of different kinds of foods,” McGarrah said. “I’m very good at cooking southern cooking like mashed potatoes, collard green, macaroni and cheese, turkey; just a wholesome southern meal.”
Although her passion for southern cooking remains important, Barb’s Brittle was a hit among her candy-craving customers. Even her employees love her homemade treats.
Uloma Oziri, a senior Psychology student at FSU from Ohio said that she’s been working there for a little over 2 months.
“It’s a stress free environment and Barbara is fun to work with,” Oziri said. “She’s a great person.”
When asked about the brittles, Oziri replied by saying, “I’ve tried pretty much all of her brittles and I love them.”
McGarrah loves what she does and is happy everytime a costumer smiles.
“It’s like ‘wow,’ how many people around the world are enjoying my homemade brittle,” McGarrah said. “On Christmas day it’s always amazing to think of the people munching on Barb’s Gourmet brittle.”
Barb’s brittle located at 1617 North Monroe st. near lake Ella. You can log onto the website http://www.barbsbrittle.com and make personal orders.