The Dublin Cookie Co is a mix of old traditions and an entrepreneurial approach, says Jonathan deBurca Butler
GIVEN that it had been a good 15 years since she had last played rugby, Jenny Synnott was perhaps as surprised as anyone else to find herself togging out for a training session at Old Belvedere Rugby Club on a rainy night in early 2009. Newly arrived from Boston, the now 43-year-old, was looking for a social foothold in Dublin and having played a little rugby during her college days in Vermont, she decided the famous Dublin club would be a good place to start.
“I had been there a while when Jenny joined,” says Elaine Cahalan, Jenny’s wife. “We were friends and then about two years after she joined Old Belvo we got together.” Elaine herself had originally moved from Kilmichael in Cork in 2004 to study a Master’s in Cognitive Science.
After completing her studies, the idea was to return home to her parents’ dairy farm but 13 years on and she keeps on missing the bus back home.
Last October, the couple decided to tie the knot in a “beautiful ceremony” in Dublin.
Somewhere between friendship, love and vows the couple also discovered a mutual “entrepreneurial itch that needed to be scratched” and one evening at home together they sat down and thrashed out some ideas.
“Jenny always cooked for us at home,” says Elaine. “And when we used to go and play rugby she’d bring these cookies on the bus and everyone loved them. We used to make them for friends and relations too.” Almost immediately it became clear, there was a cookie jar sized hole in the market and Jenny’s recipes were so fantastically tasty that it was an obvious choice.
“I’ve always baked cookies,” says Jenny. “It’s a bit of a tradition in New England. My mum and grandmum would bake them but there were these elderly neighbours growing up, sisters we called The Miss Atwoods who always had ingredients ready so that myself and the other kids in the neighbourhood could come over and make oatmeal raisin cookies with them and share them around. It’s a very special memory to me and we always keep oatmeal raisin cookies on the menu in their memory.”
From that first brainstorming session in their apartment came the Dublin Cookie Company. Elaine recalls making €100 on their first day at a food market in a Malahide GAA club. She was delighted until “we got home, totted up all the expenses and found that they had in fact made a loss”.
“But the great thing was there was people queueing up for our product,” says Elaine, “and we wanted more of that.” From weekend markets, the company started turning up at food and music festivals such as Electric Picnic. And in 2016, they took the plunge (their second that year) and opened their first store on Thomas Street in Dublin.
On the day I pop in, the café is packed. Its location just a few just steps from the National College of Art and Design makes it something of a hub for trendy students who delight in seeing the cookies being handmade by Jenny in the open kitchen. The contrasting smells of Lemon Burst Cookies, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, Mayflower Cookies and the dozens of others on offer are enough to send a cookie monster like myself into overdrive.
Jenny takes me behind the counter (choc-a-bloc with cookies of course) and shows me the ropes. Typically, she explains, a batch of cookies can be whipped up in less than half an hour.
“Making the dough takes about 20 minutes,” explains Jenny “and then we can cook them in about six minutes here with our big oven.” The simplicity is quite striking and it is with that in mind that the couple have decided to launch their own ready-rolled cookie dough later this week at The Taste of Dublin.
“We want people to get together and enjoy the experience of food,” says Elaine, “both the making and eating of it. So it was with that in mind that we came up with the cookie dough.”
While both Jenny and Elaine admit that working with a partner or spouse might not suit everyone they say it is ideal for them. Each brings something different to the table (apart from cookies that is). While Jenny is the baker and the person who looks after the day-to-day running of the making those tasty treats, Elaine looks after the books and comes up with ideas around events and marketing.
“Another way of looking at it is that Jenny looks after the today,” says Elaine, “and I look after tomorrow. I think we work so well together because we are actually very different and we see things from a different viewpoint.”
“I love it because I get to know my wife in every way,” continues Elaine. “People are often very different in work places and have very different lives. So it’s great to see her in all these different ways and I love spending so much time with the person I love the most. For me it’s a dream come true,” says Jenny, “because I’m with this person who is my inspiration. There are tough days; days when we are just not going to agree on something. But I would have given up ages ago if I did this on my own. On the days that I get frustrated and down, Elaine is up and positive and vice-versa.” But do they get a break from the business?
“We find it impossible not to talk about it,” admits Elaine. “It’s both of of our workplaces, we’re in it together and for the first two years it was our entire social scene as well, we didn’t get to do or see anything else so we had nothing else to talk about. We’re only now getting home before seven at night and we try and go to plays or go for walks just to give ourselves other horizons. It’s very hard but we’re both so passionate about it.”
A match made in cookie heaven.
Get yourself a taste of Dublin Cookie Dough
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