The future of professional cooking and baking could be via home kitchens. During the pandemic, a lot of people began to reevaluate their careers, to figure out ways to work from home or remote offices.
One such person that is successfully navigating the waters of transitioning from the traditional workplace (as an elementary teacher) to the home kitchen is Kate Knowles, who recently opened Manchester Place Baking Co. Her craft? Cookies! Yes, Kate has shifted from 15 years as a teacher, to making gourmet (1/4, or more) cookies at home.
What started off as a hobby – “something she did to relax” – has now turned into a full time, full-fledged professional baking operation, registered with NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets.
You’re a self-described “cookier”? Is that a word?
Yes. I’m not sure if it’s a real word… in the cooking community it is [laughing].
I have been doing it as long as can remember. On Sundays I would always want to bake something. My Grandma was a big baker – it’s always been there.
Was transitioning careers a scary step?
I was thinking about this for about a year. Yes, it’s scary, but also exhilarating. Oddly enough, I feel relaxed. I didn’t realize how stressed I was. It’s month two as a business. Every day gets a little bit better. I tend to ask myself, ‘Is this is what normal people feel like?’
My husband is an IT guy who still goes to work every day. That’s what I used to do to – teaching – going to work every day.
Is it difficult cooking at home?
I’ve learned alot about Cottage Food Laws – how to become registered as a home bakery, home processor… I did that. It may be different, but it’s a stepping stone and a great place to start.
Will you be looking for a commissary kitchen?
Down the road, possibly. I didn’t want to jump into something that I couldn’t afford. I want to figure out my market.
What about competition in the market?
I’m new to this. I developed samples for people. I’m talking to a lot of people and am doing research. I’ve been contacting businesses as well. I got a large order from a church a couple of weeks ago, which was nice.
I’m new to Buffalo, so I’m trying to learn about the community. I grew up south of here and then went to Dallas for college. I’ve been gone for almost 20 years and just moved back. I don’t know that many people yet in Buffalo. My Dallas friends keep asking me to ship to Dallas. Technically, I can ship within NYS at this point.
*People can order and sign up for the Cookie Club on the website, under the ‘Contact Us.’
How many different types of cookies are you baking right now?
7 flavors (see cookie menu).
What’s the best seller?
Probably the lemon delight.
What’s your favorite cookie?
The cinnamon roll – it’s rolled like a cinnamon roll and baked like a cookie.
Are you selling to stores or restaurants?
Not at the moment.
What about farmers’ markets or pop-ups?
I’m working with Put A Plant On It on Elmwood Avenue – we’re talking about doing a pop-up in the near future. I would consider doing other pop-ups.
What would you like to have that you don’t?
I would love to have a 20-quart mixer. If I had a giant mixer I could make a lot more cookies.
Where do you want to be next year?
I would love to be consistently booked. To have a fairly full schedule, especially around the holidays. I’ve done pretty well so far… I’ve broken even, which I think is pretty good. It would be nice to make some money.
We live in the Elmwood Village. I would like to have a retail/baking location nearby where I could walk to work. Sometimes we pass by an empty storefront and I think… ‘great location!’
In the meantime, I’m finding a community of people that love my cookies. As a baker, when I see something that I want to eat, I just make it. Not everyone is like that, which is a good thing. So they turn to me for delicious cookies!
Will you ever expand the line to include baked items other than cookies?
It’s a possibility. That’s why I called myself a baking company, not a cookie company.
Do you do special orders?
Ask. And we can figure it out.
Do you bake seasonal cookies?
I just added the pumpkin one – the apple cider cookie is still in development.
Who’s your taste tester?
My parents… and two neighbors across the street. And my husband of course. Except for any cookies with fruit in it [laughing].
What will the holidays bring?
I have a dozen ideas for cookies. It’s all about pairing down; to find something sustainable. Some sort of chocolate-chocolate cookie? The there’s the red velvet.
Are you baking every day?
Pretty much every day.
Are you baking any dietary restriction cookies?
No, not yet… but I do plan to doing that at some point. Gluten free is slightly harder than baking for vegans.
Currently, I have a website where people can order online. There is a contact us page – tell me what you want and I’ll take care of it from there. I’m willing to work with customers.
*On a personal note, I got to try four different cookies from Manchester Place Baking Co. Not only were they delicious, they were some of the largest cookies that I have ever come across – they were more like the size of cupcakes than cookies. Four cookies were in the box that I picked up, and I was able to share with a few friends. In fact, upon opening the box, I reached for a knife to cut them up – they were that big, while being moist and flavorful. My favorite was the lemon delight, which surprised me. The handsome packaging makes for a great gift.
Get connected: www.manchesterplacebakingco.com