It’s the company’s holiday get together, or perhaps one of your co-worker’s birthdays, and someone has brought a cellophane wrapped mixture of Italian bakery cookies.
A few minutes late to the party, you scan the assortment for your favorite chocolate-covered, jelly-smeared confection. But the office vultures have devoured the handful of rainbow cookies in the platter, leaving only a few crumbling sprinkled butter cookies in their wake.
Janel Ordemann of Riverhead wants to make Italian rainbow cookies more available not only to those late to the office party, but to people who have wheat, whey or nut allergies.
Ordemann, 29, and a 2003 Shoreham-Wading River High School graduate, is looking to launch her company Pride Enjoy and its signature product, the gluten-, nut-free and vegan Radical Rainbow Cookies.
“It’s a specialty item,” she said during a recent interview at the Stony Brook University Business Incubator in Calverton, where she will soon bake the product en mass. “It’s a cookie people get excited about.”
Ordemann uses chickpea flour and psyllium husk as a binding agent. Beet and alfalfa give the multi-colored cookies their trademark hues.
And to give the cookies that nutty flavor they are known for, she uses a nut-free almond flavoring.
The cookies are made using a dry mixture, created by Ordemann.
“I played around with a lot of recipes. I knew how to tweak it from working in a test kitchen,” she said. “The quality of the product doesn’t change.”
She started her career working as a family consumer science teacher (a subject that was once called home economics) in the Middle Country School District after graduating from SUNY Oneonta in 2008.
Despite the steady job and healthy paycheck, she felt a tug to return to the kitchen. Following stints with chains like Uncle Giuseppe’s and Whole Foods and a degree from Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Program, she decided to start her own company.
When searching for a niche product, she found that rainbow cookies not only attract a cult following, they lend themselves to being made in large batches.
“They’re made in sheets,” Ordemann said. “Doing it in mass production, it takes several hours to assemble all those sheets. But when you cut them up you have a tremendous amount of cookies. It’s a cost effective and smart approach.”
Ordemann also enjoys unwavering support from her husband, Howard, and the rest of her family.
“I’d have her standing on the step stool from age 3 baking and pressing those cookies and she was just loving it,” recalled her mother, Janet Meyer of Wading River, who first taught her daughter how to bake. “She was very precise in how she wanted to bake things. Just the way her hands would move, she had a gift. Whatever she would touch would come out wonderful.”
The goal is to have the cookies, which have a shelf life of about a month and do not require refrigeration, on the shelves of delis, markets and grocery stores, similar to the business model of the Southampton-based Tate’s Bake Shop.
“I look up to places like Tate’s,” Ordemann said. “They made an empire out of a chocolate chip cookie.”
Ordemann, who is awaiting approvals from the state Department of Agriculture & Markets, is looking to raise $6,200 for ingredients, licensing, kitchen space and certifications through Kickstarter.
Visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1263119737/new-alternative-cookie-project to back her campaign by Oct. 17.