On a boutique-lined street in Seattle’s Capitol Hill is a cookie shop that has captured the hearts and taste buds of those near and far. This cookie shop, Hello Robin Cookies, is run by the seriously talented Robin Wehl Martin, who can whip up a batch of delicious cookies in just eight minutes. Growing up, Robin spent time learning how to bake with her grandma, and she now spends her days making the most amazing cookies you’ll ever taste. With cookies such as classic chocolate chip, Habanero orange, and Mackles’more, Robin has created treats that are addicting after just one bite. Continue reading to learn how Robin got to where is today, to hear her thoughts on culinary school, and to find out her best cookie baking tips.
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Robin Wehl Martin: I think of it in a weird way where you’re not necessarily seizing it, but you’re maintaining it. By certain choices and things that you do, you’re always staying youthful. There are people who are so much younger than me but they are like a 65-year-old man in the way they act and think. They’re not playful or curious. Keeping all of those traits active help.
CJ: What did you major in at college and graduate school, and how did you determine what to study?
RWM: I have an undergraduate degree in Community Health Education from Central Washington University, and that’s the one I wish I had pursued more. At Seattle University, I received my graduate degree in Student Development Administration, and I had dreams of working with students.
The Community Health Education was random, and I took a health class that I loved. The professor was so dynamic. I went to school thinking I was going to do something with broadcast journalism, but then the health stuff really got me.
CJ: What was your first job out of college?
RWM: I graduated from Central, took a year off and worked for the university, and then went to graduate school. I worked during undergrad, worked all during graduate school, and then went I got out of graduate school, I worked for a small non-profit in Seattle for four years. Most of my work has been in non-profits.
CJ: What sparked your interested in baking?
RWM: My grandmother was a baker. She was born in Germany, and when the war broke out, she and her family moved to Shanghai and lived in the ghettos of Shanghai for 10 years. When her family was able to move to the United States, her trades and skills were in baking and cooking. She worked at some great bakeries in Seattle, and I always loved baking with her. That was my training.
CJ: Did you go to culinary school? What are your thoughts on culinary school?
RWM: I wanted to go to culinary school, and I thought for a while that I would go. But then I realized it wasn’t totally necessary for what I wanted to do. I have three kids, and I didn’t think it was going to be the best use of time for my family and for what I was going to get out of it.
All of our friends had restaurants and people always asked when we would do something because were always cooking and hosting at our house.
CJ: How did you know when you wanted to turn your passion for baking into a profession?
RWM: I had slowly done it in my house. It happened naturally, and then when Molly Moon and her husband came to me and asked if I was interested in opening a bakery, that’s when everything started.
CJ: You opened your cookie shop, Hello Robin, in December 2013. What inspired you to open a bakery that primarily sells cookies (and Molly Moon ice cream)?
RWM: I just really truly love cookies, and if you do one thing and you do it well, then that’s a good thing.
CJ: What have been the greatest challenges in running your bakery?
RWM: Balancing family with work. That’s hard, especially because my kids are still little. But it’s fun because my husband and I both want to be here. We both really like being here still, and my kids really like being here also.
CJ: What is your favorite part about your job?
RWM: I really love all the customers. I love the creative process, I love the good feedback. It’s all so good and better than I ever could have imagined. I love that we took a risk and it worked out. I love that Molly believed in us.
We’ll always say yes to the customers, because I really want everyone to have a great experience. The experience, the aesthetic, and the product are really important things.
CJ: What do you wish you had known before opening your shop?
RWM: Surprisingly, we go through a lot of ice cream sandwiches. I had no idea, I just thought it was going to be cookies. It’s exciting to be one of the first places in Seattle to be making ice cream sandwiches with great ingredients.
CJ: What are your cookie baking tips?
RWM: Use really good ingredients, don’t over mix, don’t over bake, and practice a lot. Also, freeze the dough, which helps maintain the shape and texture.
CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to have their own bakery do now to set themselves up for success?
RWM: Get a job at a bakery and practice. Make tons of stuff and give it away. And don’t get cocky because you have to be open to learning. Maybe consider culinary school. Culinary school is right for a lot of people and you’ll learn different things. Go to the bookstore and read through cook books and try new recipes. The most important thing is really just practice.
CJ: What do you like to do when you’re not baking cookies or running the business side of things?
RWM: Sometimes I’ll just go home and make cookies. Going from a large scale to a tiny batch of cookies was hard! I still relax by baking cookies. I do a lot of cooking.
CJ: Have you ever worried about turning a hobby into a career and then not liking it anymore?
RWM: I have worried about that but I don’t think it’s going to happen because I love it too much, and I have been doing it for so long. Before this I was making cookies for my friend who has a restaurant in University Village. I find it relaxing and it’s a great way to zone out. Everything about this job is fun.
CJ: How long does it take to make a batch of cookies?
RWM: I can do it fast, probably around eight minutes to mix the dough, and then ten minutes to bake.
CJ: If you could open another cookie shop anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
RWM: Amsterdam, because it is so beautiful. If you walk around the good parts of Amsterdam, there are beautiful boutique stores. It’s visually stunning, and I think it would be fun to be there with all that. I don’t think I want to open another store, though. I want to be here and know my customers and see the cookies going out. It’s not a control thing, but more of just being present here.
CJ: What motivates you?
RWM: I am motivated by doing my job well. I don’t want any products going out that I wouldn’t eat. I have to feel really good about everything that goes out. I am motivated by the quality of the product and the happiness of the customers.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
RWM: I would not have gone to graduate school right after college because I think you need time to figure out what you want to do. I would have waited and then I probably would have gone to culinary school. That’s the big one.
I also would say to be more relaxed. When you’re 20 you feel so old and like you need to be accomplished, but you’re still so young. Try a bunch of things out and do what is fun. You have to do what you enjoy.