Steel Magnolias Defies the Odds

Shawndra Russell

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

The restaurant business isn’t for the meek, with some studies showing failure rates as high as 60-80% for new restaurants. Yet, for the prepared and persistent—like Steel Magnolias owner Keira Moritz—the doors can remain open.

“Many folks think they want to open a restaurant, [but] the restaurant business is a tough business, and it’s not for the faint of heart or those who think the day consists of eight work hours. You have to be 100 percent dedicated to doing what it takes no matter what, and learning daily and constantly evolving. You also have to know that restaurants do not run themselves and you must keep a regular pulse on it,” Moritz says.

After spending ten years working in corporate America in the West, Moritz returned home to Valdosta to open Steel Magnolias in 2012. “Corporate America was one of the best experiences of my life. I was able to travel and see so many different things,” Moritz says, “but, I had come to a new stage in my life where it had become important to me to move on to some of my other goals, one of which was to open my own restaurant by the time I was 30…plus I thought it would be nice to have my business in a location [where] I didn’t have to give my family up any more.”

Yet, living by her family isn’t the only source of inspiration; getting the chance to work with local vendors also energizes her. “I drive my food philosophy on what we can get local, plus what I think the palate of South Georgians like, mixed with what I like. I like things to be understandable and approachable for all, not too fancy not too many ingredients,” she says.

When asked about her dedication to a farm-to-table menu, Moritz says it’s a no-brainer: “We have great producers close to us—why would someone choose not to use them? I choose to support the people in my community that work to produce their own product such as I do, because that is no easy feat. I choose to keep my money local when I can for my community, and I believe that what is produced local is all around better; it’s better for you, and your community.”

Speaking of community, Steel Magnolias is already ingrained into Valdosta’s fabric. “I love having people walk in my door and knowing them by name. I get hugs from guests, high fives and folks rooting for the Chefs in the kitchen as they leave,” Moritz says, adding, “that’s what you get from being a Valdosta business; it’s a good kinda love.”

For 2014, Mortiz and her staff are all about growth. “My business is still new, even at two years. We did well our first year, even better our second, and I can’t wait to see year three with our new contacts and relationships and not only my staffs growth but my growth as an owner. We still have so much to do,” Moritz says. To achieve this progress, Moritz challenges herself and her team to constantly learn and live by the motto that “we will not always get it right, but they also know that when we don’t get it right, we make it right, and it’s one of the best qualities and philosophy’s we work by. We make sure to honor it because it is much easier to do the right thing than the wrong.”

Moritz was also kind enough to share a recipe with us for her Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie. “I am a dessert addict; someone can totally win me over with cake,” she says.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie


For the filling:

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

8 oz. cream cheese

1-cup creamy peanut butter

1-cup confectioners sugar

¼ cup sugar

For the crust:

2 packages chocolate graham crackers

½ cup honey

½ cup chocolate sauce


For the crust:

Process graham crackers until crumbled

Combine with the honey and chocolate sauce

And press equally into pie shell.

For the filling:

Whip cream with ¼ cup sugar. Mix all other ingredients

Until smooth and fold into the whipped

Pour mixture into graham cracker crust and refrigerate

Cream mixture until well blended

Chill for several hours before serving.