Terry Pannebaker knows cookies – his last name reveals it, jokes the native of the city.
Pannebaker’s neighbors, family and friends know his cookies and have been obsessed with his delicious treats for years.
Now his cooking skills will be known to all, as his blueberry muffin cookies won top honors in a baking competition in Philadelphia and will be mass produced and shipped throughout Pennsylvania and the United States.
The nation’s famous 4th Street Cookie Co. contest began a few weeks ago, when the bakery announced its very first cookie contest to celebrate October being National Cookie Month, Pannebaker said.
He found the information on the Internet while researching before going with his wife, Annette, to the Reading Terminal Market in Center City Philadelphia, where one of the company’s sites is located.
Pannebaker, a retired railway worker, was intrigued by the competition and decided to participate.
To enter, he chose his blueberry muffin cookie, which he says is his most popular of his treats, and created a short intro video about the cookies and the inspiration behind them. He also had to travel to Philadelphia to drop off three dozen cookies for the judges to try.
“I deposited them on Tuesday (October 19), then the judges would taste them on Wednesday, then on Friday they informed me that I was a finalist”, said Pannebaker.
The finalists then had to bake their cookies in front of everyone in the City Kitchen, he said, noting that it is located around the corner from Reading Terminal Market, an indoor farmers market / restaurant.
“I had to speak to their chef to align the ingredients because they were going to provide everything”, said Pannebaker.
Pannebaker was one of three finalists invited to the ceremony on October 29. The other two were from Delaware and Philadelphia, so Pannebaker had the longest drive to get in person.
The competition was not fierce like “Chopped,” but the judges were very precise, he said.
Make a decision on the winner “Took their time”, Pannebaker said judges. “They came through and they said it was close. They announced the winner and I got the plaque.
With his win in the bag, Pannebaker was featured on “Hello Philadelphia”, the morning show on affiliate Fox television in Philadelphia. He made his winning blueberry muffin cookies for the show and shared his story.
Winning the contest is primarily a bragging rights for Pannebaker, who didn’t participate to make money or become famous, just to test his baking skills.
“They have the rights to the recipe” said Pannebaker. “I don’t get any commission for it – it’s all theirs.”
He declined the $ 500 gift card at the Reading Terminal, instead asking Famous 4th Street to use that money to donate cookies to the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.
“I asked the owners of the cookie company if they had anything to do with CHOP and they said they were going into oncology on the fifth floor. “ said Pannebaker. “I said, well, take them cookies over there with that gift card.” Make these children happy.
A retired Conrail and Norfolk Southern employee, Pannebaker started baking about 20 years ago. His story and the legend of his cookies began when he showed up to his daughter’s second tennis match in ninth grade with a prize. The girls on the tennis team and their parents ate them all within minutes.
“I walked through the gate in front of the school for Game 3 empty-handed and they all came running up saying ‘Where are the cookies?’ “ said Pannebaker.
“I said, ‘I brought them the last game.’ They said, ‘You can’t come unless you bring cookies.’ Every home and away match for four years, I had to bring cookies ”, he laughs.
This is how Pannebaker has baked cookies for many in the community, from customers and staff at Mike’s Court, to employees in the Altoona Curve press box, to staff at M&T Bank. His neighbors also benefit from his baking skills.
After retirement Pannebaker devoted even more time to cookie making and it became one of his main hobbies, along with golf.
Mike Luciano, owner of Mike’s Court, said no one deserves recognition and victory in competition more than Pannebaker.
“It’s well deserved” Luciano said. “Not only is Terry a great baker, he’s a great guy as well. Terry is a very special guy and his cookies are wonderful.
Luciano has known Pannebaker for about 15 years, when Pannebaker first showed up at Mike’s Court with cookies for friends he knew to be there. Luciano got to taste his cookies and Pannebaker kept coming up with treats for him and his staff.
“Business can be a busy work environment when we are very busy” Luciano said. “When Terry brings the cookies, it gives everyone a little comfort. We really appreciate him and appreciate his kindness.
Pannebaker said the Famous 4th Street chef had contacted him to help him adapt the recipe for larger batches and he hopes the mass rollout of his cookie will bring joy to people outside of County of Blair.
The blueberry muffin cookie is now the company’s 2022 cookie of the year. Cookies can be purchased online and at Famous 4th Street stores in the spring, once production begins and blueberries are in season.
Visit Famouscookies.com for more information and to order.
Mirror staff writer Nate Powles is at 814-232-8849.