Cookies, Bread, Soup & Pizza are the Recipes For Success
Some things are just too pretty to eat — like the funky cookie designs by Jill Wettstein of Sister Bay. Wettstein’s bright artistry has been featured in national food magazines and international conferences.
As a graphic artist turned baker, Wettstein began mentoring other cookie makers on technique. But it was a bittersweet bake sale several years ago that led her into opening her own cookie studio in Door County last year. The Funky Cookie Studio is located in Sister Bay’s Country Walk Shops.
In 2012, 13-year-old Bo Johnson of Sister Bay, returned home from a year at Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee after being treated for a rare form of leukemia. Bo succumbed to his illness that fall, but when Door County pastry chef Sarah Basch of FlourGirl Patissier posted on Facebook that she was hosting a bake sale to benefit the Go Bo! Foundation created in Bo’s honor. Wettstein, who had an active Facebook following, offered to donate cookies.
“She enthusiastically accepted my offer,” Wettstein said. “I then asked her if I could post it on my Facebook page, sharing Bo’s story and asking other cookiers if they would be interested in donating cookies. The response to Bo’s message of ‘paying it forward’ was amazing! The online social media cookie community is truly an incredible group of people — so kind-hearted and generous.”
Now in the fifth year of the GoBo! Foundation Bake Sale featuring beautifully decorated cookies donated by cookiers from all over the world, collectively Wettstein said the group has raised over $100,000 for the Go Bo! Foundation.
And it doesn’t stop there. Speckled across social media are cookiers who connect in small groups for no other purpose than to shower cookies on children, adults and families when the need for human kindness and compassion will mean the most, she said.
“One of our core tenets at Funky Cookie Studio is making a small difference in a sweet way,” said Wettstein, who operates the bakery with her husband John.
The other main charity she is directly involved with is Bake 2 Defeat ALS, a fundraiser started by a cookier in California.
Wettstein said she doesn’t mind watching when her works of art are bitten and disappearing.
“I consider cookie decorating as ephemeral art because of its temporary nature,” she said. “Our number one priority is to ensure the cookie tastes delicious. The decorating is just ‘icing on the cookie!’”’
Holiday cookie decorating can be a daunting task and her advice is to have fun with it.
“I suggest people bake their cookies and color their icing one day,” she said, “and actually decorate the second day, keeping designs simple and colorful.”
“One of our core tenets
at Funky Cookie Studio is
making a small difference
in a sweet way.”
— Jill Wettstein
Reaching Out to Africa
Another local chef went all the way to Africa to do his baking. Ron “JR” Schoenfeld of Chives Restaurant managed to build a bakery that now feeds a community. After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda killed more than 800,000 people, a group of legislators asked JR for his expertise in preparing a dinner for about 4,000 people. In 2009, Schoenfeld joined leaders in his first visit to Kibeho, Rwanda.
“Initially they asked me to do a spaghetti dinner,” JR explained. “This is in a place where there is no refrigeration; a two and one-half hour drive on bad roads … but my forte is feeding the masses and I’m used to it. So they dropped me into the middle of nowhere but during the process I just fell in love with the people and with the country.”
He met Father Leszek Czelusniak, who started a small church and retreat center and as director of the Marion Missions gave JR a tour of the compound and school. Leszek wanted a bakery for the children because at that time bread was a special treat available only once a year. A bakery would also generate income to help build a hospital and school and provide training for a trade.
After returning to Green Bay, JR said the grassroots Seven Loaves project happened quickly. Green Bay Packers Aaron Rogers and Coach Mike McCarthy jump started the bakery with a $100,000 donation. Construction soon followed and a wood-fired oven in Kibeho began feeding bread to roughly 6,500 children in schools each week in 2011. The bakery, run by the Marions, employs 15 people and sends a few young people on to attend a university.
“Our motto is ‘Give a man a loaf of bread and he eats for a day. Teach a man to bake, and his village eats for a lifetime,’” JR said. The Seven Loaves bakery is self-sustaining, he said. Any donations now go towards buying bicycles or additional projects. Last year donations allowed the priests to build bathrooms and showers for bakery employees.
Schoenfeld continues to serve the masses in northeast Wisconsin in four restaurants at Chives in Suamico and Chives in Baileys Harbor, which will remain open all year long this winter, as well as Rye in Appleton and Bleu in DePere. Schoenfeld has also recently purchased the Summertime Restaurant in Fish Creek.
Bowled Over by Soup!
Another bread bowl project closer to home is a community-wide project called SOUP!
Combining bread, soup, art and Habitat for Humanity, about 500 soup bowls are made by people of all ages in the three months that lead up to the final buffet for SOUP! The event is part of the Fish Creek Winter Festival on the fi rst Saturday in February from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. at the Peninsula School of Art in Fish Creek.
Door County students and any adults who want to create and decorate their own soup bowl can come to the art studio on designated days and learn how to make a ceramic bowl that is then sold for $15 on Feb. 4. The bowl purchase includes an all-you-can-eat soup and bread buffet with soup and bread donated from area restaurants. Some bowls are also created by area professional potters and priced at their discretion.
“What impresses me is how much the community has embraced this project–it is very much taken to heart by the Door County community,” said Kay McKinley, director of public programs at the Peninsula School of Art. “It’s very gratifying to see how many people are involved and all those who purchase the bowls–I mean we’re talking about 500 bowls and typically we sell out. There are countless hours spent in preparation for that day with so many people and volunteers doing a lot of work to make the day a success. It truly is a community-wide project.”
Proceeds from the soup and bread buffet benefit Door County Habitat for Humanity and the youth outreach program of the Peninsula School of Art.
The first opportunity for adults to try their hand at pottery was during the “Rock and Bowl” on Nov. 16.
Other drop-in studio times to make bowls for SOUP! are from 9 a.m. to noon on Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. There is no charge for making the bowls. Beer, wine and snacks will be served.
No sign-up is required for making the pottery at the drop-in studio times. Soup bowl making is from scratch, including preparing the clay, which is fired and glazed. The bowls are dishwasher and microwave safe.
Those who want to donate soup or bake bread for the event can contact Wendy Pang at the Habitat office in Sturgeon Bay by email at email@example.com.
Don't be Alarmed
Wild Tomato Pizza owners Britt and Sara Unkefer started a monthly Donation Creation pizza with $1 of every pizza sold going to Door County nonprofits. So far the Unkefers have raised over $20,000 for area nonprofits.
Wild Tomato doesn’t normally deliver from their Fish Creek or Sister Bay locations but two volunteer fire departments vied for a pizza party for the one who brought in the most sales. Customers were encouraged customers to place their order using the secret phrase “fire department” and were not only granted delivery by fire truck but received free smoke alarms and carbon monoxide testing. Other initiatives included free pizza samples with onsite CPR training. This summer’s Donation Creation raised more than $1,000 for the two fire departments.