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Local man finds passion in baking

By: Rebecca Herman
Freelance Writer

Ten years ago Tammy Roberts wanted to give Christmas gifts to all her coworkers and patients at the Mountain City Care and Rehabilitation Center, but after speaking with her husband, Chris, realized that this could be an expensive venture. So Chris came up with a plan to bake cookies and package them by the dozen. He baked a variety of approximately 70 dozen cookies the first year and began receiving rave reviews from all who received the gift. The complements he received encouraged Roberts to step up his baking skills and branch out in the baking business.

Roberts does not have a professional baking background, but cooking and baking skills do run in his family. “My mom passed away when I was six, so my dad did all of the cooking, and he was a good cook.” Roberts also mentioned his grandmother who was known for her candy. “She died in ’58, but people still talk about her candy.” It seems that Roberts is a natural when it comes to baking and it did not take long for others to figure out the delightful tastes coming from a modest kitchen in Johnson County.

After a couple of years of baking the Christmas cookies for the nursing home, a friend reached out to Roberts and brought boxes for cookies and cheesecakes and encouraged Roberts to begin selling his delicious desserts. He began taking orders by phone and then eventually began selling at Cecil’s Market in Abingdon, VA.

Once at Cecil’s Market, Roberts saw an increase in demand for his cookies. To Roberts these cookies just tasted like any other cookies, but to his customers the cookies tasted of home and memories. Roberts explains one encounter with a patron at Cecil’s Market.

“A lady came by and said they (the cookies) seemed expensive. She went into a store next to the market and tried one of my cookies that I had given to the store owner. When the lady came back out she bought two dozen, because she said they tasted like the cookies she made when she was having a great baking day.” Roberts said the woman came back a couple weeks later and told him that she made a mistake. He asked her what she meant by that and she explained that she had shared the first box with friends and family and then ate the second box by herself. Her mistake was that she shared the first box.

This kind of reaction was not a lone incident. The news of Roberts’ cookies soon reached the ears and taste buds of a local bakery owner, Timmy Norman. Norman contacted Roberts and asked if he was interested in working with Norman because he wanted to expand his business into cookie cakes. Roberts was excited about the request and began working with Norman the Christmas of 2014. Since then, Norman has taught Roberts sculpting skills with the fondant and painting with gel food coloring.

Norman has a degree in graphic design and loves being able to use his artistic skills to create artwork with fondant, “I love the sculpture side of it.” Norman has been baking professionally for six years; his first cake was a truck cake that he made for his son, who was turning two.

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