This month’s You & Julia Challenge was kicked off by Melissa Gale, owner of the wildly popular Cookie Monstah food truck. We talked with Gale about how she got her start in the cookie business and why Julia Child’s reaction to a brioche tart had such an impact on her.
On how her love of baking led her to the Cookie Monstah:
Melissa: [As a child] when I saw the mixer get pulled up and my mom would pull out the Baker's German Chocolate and melt it, that was home to me. Fast forward — I went to work for a corporation, sold a little ice cream cart, and always had that entrepreneurial spirit. After my fourth child, someone was at the house watching the kids, and she said, "These guys are little monstahs!"
From Pennsylvania, I thought it was the funniest thing in the world. I started thinking about what to do for work. My brother, who calls me Mush, said, “So Mush, why don’t you get back into baking?” My husband's a carpenter, so I asked, "Why don't you guys build me a truck with integrity? It has to have an oven. We have to make sure that we are delivering a fresh, warm cookie to the streets of Boston."
On why the Cookie Monstah is beloved by Boston:
Melissa: Of course, we all loved "Sesame Street” and the Cookie Monster. That's why I think everybody is so familiar with Monstah. You can't drive through the streets of Boston without somebody yelling, "Cookie Monstah!" It's so familiar to everybody.
We make ice cream sandwiches with loads of ice cream. It's value, it's family, it's what it's meant to be. And I want it to be something that takes you home. This is home to me, and I want everybody, for a very small moment in time, to have a bite of a cookie and say, "That's it."
On her favorite Julia Child moment:
Melissa: When we think of vulnerability in the kitchen, of the fun that she had, of a rolling pin over her shoulder, of talking to the chickens, of patting each of them — that's what she was all about.
The one moment that stands out was with Nancy Silverton. They made brioche and at the end of it, Nancy looked at Julia to ask her how it was. Julia was not responsive. She was almost in tears.
All of us, as foodies and as bakers, make stuff hoping that people will eat it and go speechless — that is saying more than anything else.