Meet Big Boy: A Flavor Innovator
Jonny is Big Boy.
Cookie Innovator, Flavor Genius, and all around swell guy.
Jonny Womack was a pharmaceutical rep who believed in going the extra mile when visiting a doctor’s office. Rather than picking up a box of grocery store cookies to entice the office staff’s sweet tooth, Jonny preferred to whip something up himself. He had, after all, always enjoyed cooking with his mom and grandmother. He would bake for fun and was often the life of the party as a result. Being the adventurous sort, he couldn’t just bake frozen cookie dough. He had to make something unique. Playing on the idea of caramel apples, Jonny experimented with ingredients until he created what he believed to be a fantastic Caramel Apple Cookie.
At one particular meeting with several doctors, he offered his Caramel Apple Cookies and, as you might guess, they were met with skepticism. What is a caramel apple cookie, after all? A doctor tried one. At first, his expression was what you would expect of a man biting into a cookie he found suspect. A moment later, his expression changed. He looked at Jonny and said, “I don’t know what you’re selling, but this is what you need to be doing.”
Jonny’s cookies turned out to be bad for business. Doctor’s offices began calling him, but not for scrips. They wanted cookies. It took a little time, but soon enough Jonny realized he’d rather peddle home baked cookies than prescription medication, and Big Boy Cookies was born.
Plenty of people have hobbies that add meaning or value to their lives. Baking was once a hobby for Jonny before it became a profession. “I’ve always been drawn to the mad scientist element of it. Like, when I tell someone I have a Peach Cobbler Cookie, I’ve had them say, ‘a Peach Cobbler Cookie? You can’t do that!’” But Jonny does. He also makes a special Pistachio Cookie seasonally around St. Patrick’s Day. And to some, bacon in a cookie doesn’t make sense, though my immediate reaction to the concept of a Bacon Maple Bourbon Cookie was, “Yes, please.”
“Being able to think it, put it together and make it come out as something amazing,” Jonny says, his thrill palpable, “and having that then become someone’s favorite thing in the world: that’s awesome. That’s why I do it.” It’s also a way he stays connected to his roots. He can feel the presence of his grandmothers, both of whom have passed away but were models for him growing up of good home cooking. When he’s baking, they are watching over his shoulder. Big Boy Cookies is one way he pays tribute to them and to his mom, who taught him his way around the kitchen.
As much as Jonny’s mad scientist act in the kitchen is responsible for that, credit is also due to his wife, Hannah. “Hannah is full-time quality control,” Jonny explains. As he does, he pulls a pan of fresh baked cookies from the oven—White Chocolate Macadamia, little heavenly discs that reaffirm the goodness in humanity—and explained that the color was a little too dark to pass inspection. “Hannah will never let me sell these.” (It worked out in the end as that batch became free samples for the interviewer.)
Hannah, as quality control, is a steady reminder of Jonny’s mission to create the best cookies he can possibly make. Big Boy Cookies are crafted with only quality ingredients because the real thing always tastes better. He doesn’t believe in processed ingredients or artificial coloring. Even more exciting is that Big Boy Cookies has just become an official Georgia Grown member. Georgia Grown is a “brand with deep roots in sustainability, quality and integrity” that promotes Georgia’s locally grown products (from www.georgiagrown.com). There will be a Georgia Grown Big Boy Cookie coming soon that will feature only ingredients made in Georgia. Though Jonny is still in the creation phase and wouldn’t give much away about the recipe, he did point out three crops Georgia is especially known for: peaches, pecans and peanuts. (I asked where sweet onions come into play, but he told me his Sweet Onion Cookie never panned out. Still, we can keep our fingers crossed.)
When you watch Jonny make cookies, it is obvious he loves what he does. When you ask him to tell you why he makes cookies, you hear his passion and you can’t help but get excited with him. It isn’t everyday you meet a man who decides investing in a cookie truck and selling fresh baked cookies at festivals and weddings is a savvy business move. But then, Jonny doesn’t fit well into molds. When Jonny and Hannah decided it was time to invest in a cookie truck so Jonny could go full time as a ninja cookie master, it was because it seemed like the most natural thing to do.
So why call them Big Boys? “Growing up, I’ve always been big. And to my brother, I was always Big Boy. I was always his size, even though he’s four and a half years older than me. So he was always like, ‘Let’s go, Big Boy,’ or ‘Come on, Big Boy.’ So that’s where the name comes from.” Sometimes people are confused: the cookies themselves aren’t particularly big. Given the name, they expect a big cookie. What they find instead is a big boy baking cookies with big taste.
There’s a lot of heart in a Big Boy. There’s a good chance if you’ve been to a festival anywhere between Nashville, Tennessee, Trenton, South Carolina and St. Mary’s, Georgia in the past few years, the Big Boy Cookies cookie truck was filling the air with the smells of mad cookie skills. “I want to make cookies that I want to eat,” Jonny explains. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it. To have someone who ‘only eats chocolate chip cookies’ try one of my creations and say ‘that’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten! That’s my new favorite!’— that’s worth it. That’s worth staying up thirty hours for… to bake cookies.” Jonny’s passion is baked into every bite, and once you’ve had one, you’ll be passionate about Big Boy Cookies, too. Trust me. It may be that, for the first time, you realize what a cookie is really supposed to taste like.