Although Ralph Rolle is the prolific drummer behind Aretha Franklin, Sting, Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige and Nile Rodgers, many other musicians know him as “Cookie Man”.

soul snacks is the delicious black-owned cookie brand and passion project of the legendary rock and roll drummer who started the company in 1996 to honor his grandmother’s legacy of giving back and his lifelong love for food. pastry shop.

Despite his success in the music industry, Rolle says he always had a second dream in mind: baking. Spending time in the kitchen from an early age, he watched his mother and grandmother prepare family recipes that have passed down through the generations. After his mother’s death, Ralph decided to make his dream of sharing his family’s recipes with the world a reality. He started baking cookies one rack at a time and selling them after his shows and when word got out, everyone wanted to taste the cookies that conjure up an “Oh My Goodness” expression on customers’ faces after the show. first bite.

The company offers a variety of delicious cookies such as Georgia Oatmeal Raisin, Peanut-Peanut Butter, Down Home Double Chocolate Chip, Ebony and Ivory Almond Cookie, Grampy’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie, French Cocoa Chocolate Chip, Miami Raisin Walnut, Chunked Up Chocolate Walnut , Cranberry Oatmeal Raisin, Joyful Gingerbread and the recently added novel and now number one seller that is the rant and praise of all who taste it – Sweet Potato Cookies.

Ralph’s famous cookies have been adored by celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, Steve Harvey, Robin Roberts and Gladys Knight. For ESSENCE, Rolle shares how he managed to transfer his creativity from behind drums to mixing bowls and baking pans.

How do you go from being a famous drummer to being a cookie chef?

I don’t see him as much of a pivot. It’s more like simultaneous action with passion in mind. I really like being both a drummer and a baker. Having the love of music and the love of baking in my heart, mind and soul, they occupy the same level and time in my day. I’ve been a bit of a multi-tasker all my life. It is a place where I feel the most comfortable. I skipped a year in school and almost dropped out because I wasn’t doing enough work and school was getting boring. The more tasks I set myself, the better I seemed to function. My family is worried about me but that’s how I’ve been all my life. When I started getting interested in drums, it was around the same time that I got interested in baking. Here’s a fun fact: I’ve used my ability to cook to meet girls. I never felt like I had swag like my boys growing up, so I cooked and gave cookies to the girls. Sounds corny but it worked. I called it the icebreaker cookie. Haha!

So how do you manage to be a drummer in one of the biggest bands in the world while simultaneously running the kitchen at The Soul Snacks?

When I started Soul Snacks, I started with my ex-girlfriend in our apartment. At that time, I was a drummer at the world famous Apollo Theater. That’s where we met. We were trying to save money for holiday gifts and realized that having 36 friends and family was a lot to take on financially, so I suggested baking the cookies I had made in the past. We sent the cookies to our friends and family and everyone replied that we should think about starting a business. That’s how it all started. When it comes to running the two careers, drumming and cookies…it’s a passion. Both passions come from the same area of ​​the brain where creativity derives. The right side. When I play drums, my goal is to make people happy through my creativity. When I bake, I try to make people happy with my creativity. It’s all about putting smiles on people’s faces, whether it’s music or entertaining someone’s taste buds. It’s what I like to do the most in life… making people happy.

After my girlfriend and I broke up, I tried to run the cookie business on my own. I couldn’t continue due to the number of gigs I was called for, so I put the cookies on hold for a few years with every intention of doing it again. Then I met my amazing wife. We decided to start the cookies together and exactly the same way I started the first time…in our apartment, one rack at a time. We have a daughter. Our daily schedule was to get up in the morning, take her to school, rush home and start baking cookies. I would take these cookies to different stores to see if they would carry them.

The first two stores that picked us up were Melba from Melba’s restaurant in Harlem and Doug E. Fresh, who also had a restaurant in Harlem. My wife and I have a partnership and an agreement that allows me to continue playing drums and continue to bake cookies. She’s an amazing partner, mother and my best friend. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to do much. I also have great staff who believe in what we do when it comes to helping the community and growing a small business. It would be completely inaccurate to say that I built this company alone. I depend on people and I trust them to do what is necessary. I am very grateful to have them in my life.

What was the inspiration behind the flavors? What is your favourite?

My goal — our goal — is to create delicious and unique flavors. I seem to think my best and get inspired when I drive, so as ideas come to mind I’ll remember the name of a new cookie or flavor and I will save it to my phone. This is how the Sweet Potato Cookie was created. Who doesn’t love a good sweet potato pie? I thought, “How would it taste if it was a cookie?” I started working on a recipe. It took about 3 months of trial and error to get the sweet potato cookie. My wife and I work together on new flavors and ideas.

Our daughter is the most critical food tester on the planet. We’re going to make a new cookie, like the Ebony & Ivory Almond Cookie, and as we go home to give her the new cookie to taste, we may feel the anxiety of giving it to our daughter. Remember, she was about 10 when we created the Ebony and Ivory Almond Cookie. She is now 19 years old. We hand her the cookie and stand there waiting for her to give us her unbiased opinion. She opens it…smells it…then she takes a bite. His criticism is very direct. Her answer to the ebony and ivory’s first try is a low-voiced “no” and she walks away. This means that we still have work to do. When she continues to eat the new cookie creations without speaking at all, we know we’ve got a hit. We really trust his opinion.

My favorite is the Down Home Double Chocolate Chip. This is one of my grandmother’s original recipes. It is over 100 years old.

What is the biggest lesson you learned from your grandmother that you still reflect on today?

Leola, or affectionately known as Gramps or Grampy, was a very wise woman. She read the Bible daily. Grandpa didn’t shout much. She spoke softly and yelled at you if you needed to. The lessons I learned from my grandmother are: to love with truth and kindness, to care for those in need, family is everything, and God is love. She was taken from us by breast cancer. She lived to be 76. I loved making her laugh. Her body was starting to shake before she let out that hoop sound. I miss that.

What’s next for Soul Snacks?

We are always looking to the future and have some really exciting things in the works. We are currently at Walmart, Kroger and soon we will be launching on QVC. Soul Snacks is always looking to expand our mission to even more outlets to sell our product. Community, charity and uplifting those in need are at the heart of what we do. We are also looking to launch our gluten free/vegan range as well as other products under the Soul Snacks name.

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