Local chef constructs top-selling cookie.
WRITTEN BY HEIDI BETHEL
PHOTOS BY CHRIS HOLLOMAN
With an engineering background and a fondness for culinary masterpieces, Michelle Palmer set out to make the perfect gluten-free treat to help those with celiac disease and other prohibitive dietary intolerances. Today, as the owner of Absolutely Michelle’s Artisan Eats, she makes a top-selling, peanut-based cookie available at the Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno.
Before achieving this sweet success, Palmer spent many years working in various roles in the food industry, including serving as executive chef at the Nevada Governor’s Mansion, where she constantly was working to help people find delicious foods suitable for every diet.
“We didn’t have a gluten-free foods craze 20 years ago, and people were hurting without knowing why,” she explains. “They would eat something, and it was like a hot poker in the stomach. They were like skin over bones because they were scared to eat anything, focusing on what they couldn’t have and not what they could … I wanted to show people how they could live to eat, not just eat to live.”
Peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate chip, Thai (that’s right, with lemongrass and ginger), and spicy Thai … Palmer truly embraced her creative spirit in the development and flavor profiles of her cookies. No wheat is used in the recipes, local eggs are added when they are available, and nearly all of the ingredients are sourced in the U.S.
“All of my cookies use a peanut base, and I strive to incorporate regional products to help the community,” Palmer says. “My elements are what make my cookies unique.”
Palmer makes the cookies in the Postal Café located in New Washoe City, during the restaurant’s off hours. She takes great caution to avoid gluten contamination.
“Once they’ve cooled, I individually wrap every cookie and keep them that way, so if there is any flour nearby, it won’t get on the cookie,” she says.
For many years now, Palmer has continued to see steady growth in sales at the Great Basin Community Food Co-op. She’s hoping to expand her market with the purchase of a new robotic machine that will replace the hand crank she’s always used to make the cookies.
“Right now, the cookies have that ‘it factor,’ and I’m shifting gears to the next level. Plus, my inquiring mind wants to learn how to fix a new kitchen gadget,” Palmer says.
And while Palmer tinkers with that old hand crank, this girl is going to enjoy another delicious bite.
With a sweet tooth like nobody’s business, Heidi Bethel has tasted many a cookie in her day, and she thoroughly enjoyed sampling all of the indulgences Palmer had to offer.