Words Krishna Kulkarni
Photos Sam Guenin

A Batch Made in Heaven

Oct 04, 2016

With chilly autumn weather just around the corner, Drew Kohl wants to spread the warm aroma of homemade cookies throughout NYC and beyond. Her new startup, Sweet Dough, crafts and delivers artisan cookie dough. The goal? To 'rise' against dominant brands like Pillsbury, whose preservative-laden products can’t match the “love, time, and family tradition” behind homemade cookies. “I want to bring the best quality ingredients, delicious flavors, and accessibility to the cookie dough industry where that just doesn't exist yet,” she emphasizes.

A former line cook in Los Angeles and New York City, Kohl says while Sweet Dough was the “spontaneous” creation of a family conversation, “in hindsight, it’s always been in the making.” Here, she chats about reshaping the New York dough scene—one cookie at a time.

“It's so important to create a strong food community with local companies, because it not only promotes eating locally, and thus more sustainably, but it supports other young entrepreneurs like me who have a passion for food and just want people to enjoy their product.”

Kohl’s passion for baking is rooted in her childhood. “Whenever I had friends over I would just whip up a batch of cookies really quick, and they were always so surprised that I never used boxed mixes. Always from scratch.” Since baking at home is often complicated and time-consuming, Kohl’s decision to share her homemade dough preparations feels like Christmas coming early. While admitting she occasionally indulges in grocery store freezer dough, she says, “I always feel a bit sacrilegious when I eat it though because I know how much better the real, homemade version is—with ingredients you can pronounce and without the stuff that's supposed to make it last for months in your fridge. It's such a rewarding experience, but I know that not everyone has the time or know-how to do homemade.”

Kohl, while dedicated to bringing the love of home cooking to your kitchen, also maintains a commitment to fostering a small-business network to promote organic, sustainable culinary options. “I think it's so important to create a strong food community with local companies, because it not only promotes eating locally, and thus more sustainably, but it supports other young entrepreneurs like me who have a passion for food and just want people to enjoy their product,” she asserts. As a part of the startup community Brooklyn FoodWorks, which provides kitchen space and business consulting for innovative new chefs, Kohl makes a genuine effort to draw on the diversity of local New York food businesses to complement their already delicious recipes.

“Besides Raaka Chocolate, I'm doing a collaboration with Dona Chai and also Andrew's Local Honey,” she explains. “I'm also working on finding partners for other cookie dough flavors like a local beer company, a meat curing company to smoke my flour, and a marshmallow company. I'd love to do one with a local ice cream company as well, because who doesn't love a good ice cream cookie sandwich?”

As for those mega-companies? “For them, food is business and money, that's it. So their product comes cheap and cheaply made. You really do get what you pay for. For me—and I'm sure many other small food business owners—food is my passion and I’m not willing to sacrifice my values for a quality product, just to have a larger margin.” Kohl expressed confidence that the food market is swinging in favor of startups. “There are so many more people now who are willing to pay a bit more for much higher quality,” something she believes will impact environmental wellbeing and encourage healthy eating choices.

Although Sweet Dough doesn’t have the marketing budget of an enormous corporation, Kohl is excited at the prospect of strengthening her company’s place in the local community and seeking new joint enterprises: “I'd love to partner Sweet Dough with some restaurants as a dessert item on their menu. I think it's a great way for restaurants to have a quality local product on their menu while also saving loads of time.” Beyond that, she may even start hosting cookie dough classes.

Time to start preheating the old oven.