Let’s explore a hypothetical, shall we? Let’s say you’re a food writer at a cookie company’s open house, celebrating their new space in Brooklyn. And as part of this happy event, the joy-drunk moderator tells everyone to hug a nearby stranger. Do you keep an aloof, chilly distance—the very model of journalistic remove? Or do you go all in because hey, free hugs?
These are the sticky ethical questions of our modern media landscape.
I recently attended the monthly open house for Michel et Augustin, a French cookie company that seems really, truly, authentically…kooky. “Two Kooky Cookies” is their tagline, and hoo-boy do they live it. The event was held at the “Banana Farm,” their nickname for a rehabbed event space in an industrial stretch of Gowanus. Why is it a banana farm? Because everyone who works there is a little bananas, or something like that. Don’t ask so many questions.
The company’s US communications director, who goes by Charlotte C, is something of a kooky cookie herself. When I asked what to expect at their open house, here’s what she emailed:
* A BIG world conference about our happily gourmet adventure
* Our swell recipes will be tasted
* A chat with the kookie-club
* WoRLD innovations will be tested
* A cookie class or the making of another secret recipe
TORRID atmosphere guaranteed 😉
The kooky cookies are so HAPPY to receive you and meet you!
Well that clears everything up. But honestly, even after attending the open house, I’m not sure I could do a better job describing it. It’s a fun, barely controlled chaos, where no one is just a participant. You will be asked to jump up and down—and may have to do it again if your enthusiasm is deemed sub-par. You will be asked to hug a stranger. You will be asked to dance dance dance. And, most importantly, you’ll stuff your face with cookies.
For all the zaniness surrounding Michel et Augustin, they are serious players in the global sweets trade. In France, where their annual sales are more than $40 million, everyone knows Michel et Augustin. You can purchase their baked treats in specialty shops and mainstream markets alike. And the company’s relentless brand of wacky cheer is a known commodity.
They are just making inroads here, though. You can find Michel et Augustin at Whole Foods, Dean & DeLuca and other upscale purveyors, but consumer brand recognition is still pretty low. There were well more than 50 attendees at the open house, but most of them were French. That’s why the Michel et Augustin team is doing some aggressive outreach; just that day some “cookie ambassadors” spent lunch hour at Morgan Stanley HQ, giving out their goods and making friends. No strings attached.
I should probably mention—the cookies are quite good. The centerpiece is a rich, buttery shortbread, sold plain or with bells and whistles (e.g. chocolate). They have a full array of other treats for different tastes; I was a superfan of the raspberry squares. Also, part of their schtick is transparency and quality sourcing—butter made from raw milk, cage-free eggs, no weird preservatives, etc.
See for yourself! They’ll host these free cookie parties on the first Thursday of the month from 7:00—8:30 p.m. The banana farm is located at 98 4th Street in Gowanus. And that’s pretty much all you need to know. Show up hungry. And ready to dance.
Bonus: Here is the description of Michel et Augustin themselves (real people) found on boxes of their cookies.
Augustin is on his way to New York with his luxurious locks, his 5 kids and the fond memory of his blue kangoo. Michel stayed in France with two potted plants, a bike and the remnants of a full head of hair.