Baker Spotlight: Chef Michael Savino, Michael's Cookie Jar
If there's one thing people can agree on, it's cookies. That's what chef Michael Savino of Michael's Cookie Jar believes in and has believed in since he began his business in 2006.
Photo by Molly Dunn Chef Michael Savino is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.
Savino hails from upstate New York, and after a failed career in television and radio production, he started working at a local bakery shop baking cookies. After working in the bakery for two years, he decided to take his career to the next level and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, where he received his degree in pastry and baking.
Upon graduation, Savino was hired as a pastry cook at the Four Seasons in Dallas in 1994. He worked at that hotel for a few years as assistant pastry cook, then was transferred to the Four Seasons in Houston, where he was the executive pastry chef. Savino says kitchen life got to be too much to handle, so he became the director of purchasing at the Four Seasons in Houston, paving the way for his current job.
"In 2006 I decided it was time to go off on my own," Savino says. "And I do love baking and pastry, and I love projects, and I thought it would be fun to have my own business. There was no one doing what I wanted to do in Houston. There was no other gourmet cookie place, so I thought it would be a good move."
Savino opened Michael's Cookie Jar in 2006 as an online bakery primarily selling wholesale products.
Photo by Molly Dunn Chef Michael Savino wants to sell cookies that make his customers happy.
"We shared a kitchen with a lady who makes wedding cakes in Tomball and she was very gracious," Savino says. "She let me use the kitchen whenever she wasn't and even sometimes when she was using it...and then in 2010 we moved to where we are now in West U, and so we have been here about three and a half years."
Michael's Cookie Jar is currently enrolled in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, which is designed to help the business grow. Through the program, Savino has been able to establish a second location downtown that expected to open in early November.
"There will be no production there," Savino says. "We will do all of the production here and we will bring our products over there. We are going to have a small oven so we can have chocolate chip cookies out of the oven every day in the afternoon, but it is definitely going to be a retail environment."
Photo by Molly Dunn Michael's Cookie Jar currently sells products from Chocolate Pizazz.
In fact, aside from selling his cookies, Savino will offer products from local vendors, such as Chocolate Pizazz, a gourmet chocolate-covered popcorn, pretzel and snack business, as well as Fredlyn Nut, Araya Artisan Chocolate, Katz Coffee and Fat Cat Creamery. Not all of these products will be sold at the same time; Savino says some may be seasonal.
"I got my start because somebody opened up their kitchen to me and let me work there," Savino says. "If you have an audience as a local vendor, local retail business, I think you have a duty to showcase other local businesses as a way of paying back to those who supported you when you were starting."
Savino chose to focus on cookies because from a business perspective, no one in Houston specialized in gourmet cookies, and from a production point of view, cookies are easier to store, maintain and assemble. But he also believes cookies are sentimental and something everyone loves.
Photo by Molly Dunn These Americana cookies taste as good as (or better than) your mother's cookies.
"Everybody has a memory of cookies. We live in a very polarized society now where everybody is against somebody or something and there is very little we can agree on," Savino says. "But I think the more important thing is bringing people together, and when people say this tastes like their mom's cookie or their grandma's, or reminds them of their childhood, I really know I did my job."