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Broadway’s favorite cookie monster, Zachary Schmahl, dishes on the stars who munch the most, to his “epic fail” flavor combination
So you’re a cookie fiend – how come you’re not shaped like one?
I’m on a strict ‘cookies only’ diet. It’s the newest craze! But really, I don’t like to deny myself guilty pleasures on a daily basis, so I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by staying as active as my schedule allows me to. Lately I’ve taken up acro yoga and rock climbing – those definitely help burn off the cookies.
Cookies aren’t what brought you to NY from Nebraska though, are they?
After college, I left Nebraska to pursue a career in acting. After realizing the business wasn’t for me, I was on the hunt for a career that still fueled me creatively. I had been baking cookies as a hobby since childhood and never even considered it as a way to make money. While working at a marketing firm, I would bake cookies in the evenings as a way to de-stress. Friend after friend would tell me: “You have to start selling these things!” So I kind of started the company on the side and treated it as a marketing/branding project, delivering cookies on my lunch break. After two months, Schmackary’s was already starting to take off and I had to quit my job because I was getting so many orders. A year later, I landed the first Schmackary’s storefront, and the rest (as they say) is history.
Cats made you fall in love with Broadway – which show/shows keep you faithful?
The first show that comes to mind is Chaplin. It was quite possibly the best show I’ve ever seen and it closed way too soon. This season, I’m a big fan of Noises Off! and The Color Purple. Still waiting on those Hamilton tickets – if anyone has a hookup …
We reckon you must make the Broadway community’s favorite cookies. Tell us about Broadway Bakes …
About three years ago, I had this pipe dream of an idea where we’d somehow get Broadway stars to work behind our counter. Then we thought of making it into a philanthropic cause, where we would give half the proceeds and all the tips back to a charity. Once we reached out to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, they loved the idea. But then came the hard part – how do we actually get the stars interested in doing it. Using Twitter, we aimed high and asked a bunch of Broadway-lebrities, thinking no one would do it – but to our surprise EVERYONE said yes and we ended up raising $12,000. Since then, we’ve managed to raise over $37,000 and the event has gotten bigger and bigger every year. I still don’t know how we’re going to top ourselves this year … JHud, are you reading this?
Which show’s cast members consume the most cookies?
The all-time record still goes to the Newsies cast. They had some crazy fans and those boys had cookies being sent over to the theatre literally every day. I’d say our most frequent cast customers currently goes to Something Rotten.
Is there a star you still get goosebumps about serving?
One time, Sara Bareilles came in and we all kinda freaked out. I also fan-girled a bit when Wallace Shawn first came into the store. I may have actually said: “Inconceivable” to his face.
How has your basic recipe changed since the days you cooked a dozen at a time in your 400 sq ft NY apartment?
First off, shame on you. We don’t do anything basic over here. When I was baking out of my apartment, I only had about eight flavors and now we are up to about 67, so that’s the biggest change. But the flavors that were on my original menu haven’t really changed much in five years, aside from the batches being
20 x larger.
How many cookies a day do you sell?
About 3,500, on average.
Talk to us about flavors – which have been your most surprising hits? And the “um, let’s not make those ones again”?
The most raved about cookie, which I get hate mail every time it goes away after the summer, is Key Lime. People go crazy for it. I wasn’t expecting that it would be such a hit, but it is pretty sinful. My favorite epic fail has been the Chicken & Waffles cookie. It was spot-on in terms of accuracy, but when you ran into pieces of fried chicken in the cookie, it was quite possibly the grossest texture combination ever.
Which is your personal favorite?
I can’t just pick one … They’re like my kids! So here’s four in my arsenal that I am super proud of: The Monster, Caramel Apple Crisp, Sweet Corn, and Ginger Rogers
However, man cannot live on cookies alone. Where else do you eat/drink in Hell’s Kitchen?
My two favorite restaurants in HK are The Marshal and Ippudo, and my favorite bars are Beer Culture and The Press Lounge in the summer.
You have a store in the East Village now … where next?
I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. We are definitely on the hunt for store #3, but I can’t say just yet where in Manhattan it will be …
This interview originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of W42ST magazine. Stay in touch with W42ST and be first to read stories like this when you join our daily newsletter at w42st.com.