Michael Pinckney is known, simply, as the Cookie Monster.
"You know, the best thing about being a cookie monster and the best thing about having a cookie business is you literally provide people with joy," said Pinckney.
Yes, Cookie Monster is Pinckney's official title. It's printed on his business card. He's the founder of Pinckney Cookie Café, a Kirkland-based cookie company that draws long lines at local farmers markets and ships delicious treats nationwide.
"We are all about the cookies. I mean, I am hardcore about the cookies being awesome. The number one thing is just the pure quality," explained Pinckney.
One of four boys, Michael learned to bake watching his mother, a talented cook, in their home kitchen. It remained a passion even as he pursued a career in the technology industry.
"When I was a young man living and working in New York City, I was working for IBM, and I wanted to come up with the best chocolate chip cookie in the world. So, I started experimenting, and when I felt like baking, I would bring them into work. I had my official team of taste testers, and, of course, people absolutely loved that," recalled Pinckney.
With some help from his office taste-testing team, Michael developed two cookies. The Pinckney Original is a chocolate chip cookie with a chocolatey dough, coconut and walnuts. Dark Chocolate Oatmeal is a dark chocolate chip cookie with coconut and a hint of orange. Both drew rave reviews from friends and parents at his children's school.
"I had these two recipes, and people over the years said 'oh, you should sell these,' as is common when someone has something they make for fun that people love. And it just occurred to me that I could start a business," explained Pinckney.
At Pinckney Cookie Café, Michael takes an uncompromising approach to making, what he believes to be, the perfect cookie. He uses dark Belgian chocolate, butter from Oregon's Larsen's Creamery, imported vanilla and local Shepherd's Grain flour.
"It's all about the balance of ingredients, the right ingredients, and then really working with the leavening and the eggs to make sure (the cookies) are soft, chewy, moist and just a little crispy around the edges. I think that's one of the things people particularly like about our cookies," said Pinckney.
While making a delicious product is certainly important to Michael, so too is running a socially conscious company. In 2020, he donated $5 from each order of a dozen cookies or more to charity. All told, Pinckney Cookie Café gave more than $15,000 to organizations supporting COVID-19 relief and racial justice.
"The support from the community when George Floyd was killed and even before that with the things we were doing for COVID-19 was so heartwarming. It's hard to put into words the feeling you get when perfect strangers reach out to you in one way or another," said Pinckney. "You get the wonderful feeling and that support, but then you know you've done something of value, and you've added value to other people's lives. So, it was incredible."
For Pinckney, each batch is a chance to spread cookie love. After all, when it really comes down to it, this cookie monster just wants to make folks happy.
"Over half our sales are people giving cookies to other people. They get joy from the giving, and the person on the other end gets joy from receiving. We see that every day in the business. So, Pinckney Cookie Café cookies are all about joy."