For Mary Ann Franklin cooking is, not only a way of life a way of life, but a way to give back to others.
“This is what God put in me to do and I've been doing it ever since." Franklin said. "I like good food. And I like people that like good food."
Franklin first started cooking at the ripe age of eight under the guidance of her mother while growing up in Los Angeles.
"My mom was an excellent cook, in fact, she was the best cook I know. I was the one that would help her in the kitchen cooking."
In 2000, Franklin opened her own restaurant called Mary's Heavenly Bites in Delano where she serves homestyle cooking and soul food.
“I thought I was going to work for the prison. I had filled out the application, was going through the interviews and everything.” Franklin said. “This is what I thought I was gonna do. god had other plans. In a vision, he told me to open a restaurant."
Mary's cooking has become a local favorite in Delano.
“I get good reviews on Yelp!” She said. “I get people traveling, coming from North to the South."
Mary's Heavenly Bites even serves authentic Filipino food with the help of Franklin's longtime friend and employee, Roland Lacerna.
“I cook from my heart. I don't throw nothing together."
But things haven't always been easy.
Franklin has struggled to keep her business afloat financially, and in 2016 Mary was diagnosed with polymyositis, an inflammatory muscle disease.
“This is what I love to do and I didn't think I could do it no more. And plus I was here and the rent was piling up,” Franklin said.
Yet Mary still manages to run the restaurant and even cooks food for the homeless and for local prisons. The day we met she was cooking turkeys and stuffing for Kern Valley Prison and Wasco Prison.
“Any homeless person that comes here, that needs food or wants food, we feed em.” Franklin said. “We don't turn nobody away."
Mary says her faith in God is what keeps her going.
“I've worked myself into what i am now, trying to do all of it, trying to make things happen. but we gone see what god do now.” She said, laughing and clapping. “This is in God's hands now. I’m just being obedient."