Meet the Producer: A Baker's Dozen
Scott Blackwell of Immaculate Bakinguser rating
In the 13 years since Scott Blackwell launched Immaculate Baking in Flat Rock, N.C., he's the created a succesful specialty food business, co-founded a folk art foundation, made a documentary film and baked the world's biggest cookie.
What first got you excited about the food business?
A. I saw Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when I was seven. That was it for me. I sent in a dollar to get this Willie Wonka chocolate-making kit. The kit included sprinkles and wrappers for ten or so bars and you basically had to melt a Hershey down and pour it into a mold. When I’d made them, I took my red wagon and walked around the neighborhood selling chocolate bars to neighbors. I just loved it. Also, the silliness of it all. The product names like Everlasting Gobstoppers continue to influence the names of our cookies, such as Hunka Chunka Chocolate (double chocolate chip cookies) and Leapin’ Lemon (lemon and white chocolate) cookies.
How did you go from selling chocolate bars around the neighborhood to founding Immaculate Baking?
A. I worked in fast food and became a prep cook at a seafood restaurant, all to make money for college. Around 1995 I was roasting coffee and making cookie dough to sell to coffee shops and in-store bakeries, and I began thinking about doing packaged cookies. I went to the Fancy Food Show in New York and thought, ‘I could do something here.’ So I began baking cookies.
What was a breakthrough moment for you?
A. I wanted to make a lemon cookie. But I didn’t want it to have a baked lemon flavor. It took me six months, but eventually I decided I had it right. We sent the cookies off to New York to enter in the NASFT’s sofiTM (then Product) Awards. When I saw the fax saying we had been selected as a finalist I was so excited. I had put myself out there and did something I wanted to do and it was noticed.
My favorite part of the business is when we are taking a flyer at something. Like when we created the World’s Biggest Cookie (102 feet and more than 40,000 pounds). Or when we launched refrigerated cookie dough a year ago. We are about to launch refrigerated organic scones and Southern-style organic biscuits to bake at home.
You co-founded the Folk Artists Foundation. How did you get into that?
A. Ever since I was about 20 years old, I was interested in folk art. It wasn’t just about the picture. I love a good story; I love finding things and understanding their history. By 31, I was making a documentary film about artists around the South. I enjoyed the artists’ personalities and stories and how they approached life. I’ve been able to help some artists be recognized and connect them with galleries. It’s very rewarding.
You use folk art on all of your packaging. Why is that?
A. I wanted the packaging to be Southern but not all gingham and precious. I wanted it to be something eccentric and whimsical. Folk art is my touchstone of sorts—this raw creative approach from simple storytelling and uninhibited creativity.—Susan Segrest