Brady Breese: Urban Cookies

Brady and Shaun Breese represent the best of a commitment to living local. They grew up in Phoenix, attended ASU, and after working in the corporate world, began to grow their hometown cookie business. Brady, formerly with the life insurance division of USAA, credits Shaun's desire to ditch corporate America as the force behind creating Urban Cookies. Conversations at home centered on brainstorming business ideas and the theme always returned to food.

With all the brainstorming about a food business what led to cookies? We approached the food business with caution. We wanted to be smart financially; we knew we had to develop a start up while keeping our jobs. We thought about selling my Mom's red sauce. We did the research and discovered the ingredients would make it too costly for retail.

Then, we started to think about cookies. We wanted a product that would be different from what was on the market, and it had to be the kind of product we would eat at home. Significant cookie baking trials began, and I worked on developing recipes. Creating all organic cookies was what made us different at the time.

More from Brady Breese after the jump

Did you always like to bake?
I didn't do anything on my own in the kitchen until after college. My grandmother was an amazing cook and baker. She made an incredible chocolate cake, and I loved her Caesar salad dressing, it was that old fashioned creamy-tangy dressing. I didn't want to be in the kitchen when I was a kid. Once I started to cook, I would take a look at a recipe, and then go off and make my own version, the recipe was just a guide to me. I still experiment a lot; so maybe not having formal training has had its benefits.

What are some of the inspirations for your cookie recipes?

Keeping it organic, it's how we eat at home. It's still a cookie, full of butter and sugar and has 0 calories until it hits your lips! In 2005, when we started, customers weren't clear on what "organic cookies" meant. Even today people think that the word natural on a package means something, it doesn't mean anything.

My approach to developing our cookie recipes is using ingredients and flavor combinations that I like to eat. I am not big on fluff, I like simplicity, and taste is more important than presentation. When I cook or bake for myself I like rustic food. I like to bake cakes, brownies, and muffins.

Customer requests, if someone keeps asking, we will try out a request to see if it works in our business. I don't like people to be disappointed. We've also worked with area restaurant chefs to develop cookie recipes. Our pineapple-coconut cookie was developed when Pei Wei's corporate chef approached us to do a tropical cookie.

What are some of the lessons you learned transitioning from home cook to professional baker?
Jeff Yankellow (Simply Bread) helped a lot with the trials and errors going into commercial production. I was learning the efficiencies of a commercial kitchen, how to scale (weigh) recipes instead of measuring, how to play with ratios when increasing the size of a recipe. And (laughter) learning to write recipes down during my experiments!

What else do you prepare to eat at home?

I eat chips and salsa daily! It's pretty easy to make your own tortilla chips and fresh salsa. I like to make stacked enchiladas; my Mom influenced me there. Anything with fried eggs is good too.

What do you do when you're not developing recipes and baking?
I like to hike or take my son the park. Shaun and I have split our shifts at work, so one of us is with our son in the morning, and one in the afternoon. When my son, Oliver, was born and for his first year, we would bring him here and we had a room set up for him to nap. Owning a business together, we've had to adjust our schedules since we became parents. We each have a personal night, so I will go to a movie, the library, a coffee shop, just have some time out by myself. Or I will hang out with Tom Jetland (Switch, Fez), or Eileen Spitalny and David Kravetz (Fairytale Brownies).

What celebrity chef would you like to have dinner with?
Tyler Florence, all his recipes work. I like his cooking style and his personality. Duff Goldman, he seems like he would be cool to be with. Bobby Flay, I like his southwest influenced flavors and cooking. Bobby cooks messy, like me, and makes it O.K.

What would you like to see on the Phoenix restaurant scene?

It would be great to have a shopping center where all the businesses were local. A place you could walk around and not just for food, all the best local retail shops, galleries, bakeries and restaurants.

Check tomorrow for Brady's Cocomint cookie recipe!

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Carol Blonder