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Food & Drink

Inside the kitchen of Craig Pike, the owner of Craig’s Cookies

Stocked with blocks of feta, chocolate chips and vanilla from Madagascar

By Erin Hershberg| Photography by Jelena Subotic
Inside the kitchen of Craig Pike, the owner of Craig's Cookies

Craig Pike, the owner of renowned Toronto cookie emporium Craig’s Cookies, never anticipated having a career in baked goods. “I grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in a very religious household,” says Pike. “I was on my way to becoming a Catholic priest when I realized, Oops, I’m gay. So, naturally, I decided to become an actor instead.” In 2002, at the age of 21, he moved to Halifax with $60 in his pocket, a saxophone and an Irish drum to try to live out that dream. He rented a room the size of a water closet and slept on the floor using “pillows” that were just Sobeys bags stuffed with socks and underwear. In 2004, he uprooted himself again to study theatre at George Brown.

After graduating, Pike spent over half a decade working as an actor in Toronto and at the Shaw Festival. He also started an a cappella choral ensemble and took serving and bartending jobs to pay the bills. “I could still barely get by,” he says. “In 2013, I was sitting in my tiny apartment in Parkdale wondering how I was going to pay my phone bill and buy groceries that month. Then it occurred to me—maybe I should make cookies.”

A wide shot of Craig's kitchen, which is dark green, bright green and gold

Pike wasn’t a baker, but he grabbed his mother’s recipe and whipped up some chocolate chip cookies. “There was this new thing at the time called Instagram,” he says. “That’s where it all started.” In his first year, Pike did everything himself: he’d bake cookies by the dozen in his tiny oven, stuff them into paper bags and deliver them via bicycle across the city. “One day, I rode from Parkdale to Pearson airport and then across to Scarborough before returning home,” he says. “After that, I was smart enough to make a smaller delivery zone.”

In 2017—after a writer tasted one of his cookies at a party—he landed on the cover of EnRoute magazine. From there, he was offered a pop-up at Williams Sonoma in Yorkdale and eventually earned enough money to open up a storefront of his own: a 600-square-foot space in Parkdale that originally had just two employees (one of whom was Pike’s twin brother). Now, his empire includes four more stores as well as five franchise locations.

A look at the inside of Craig's fridge, which is lined with glass water bottles and vegetables

Pike is a busy guy, but he enjoys watering his many plants and unwinding at home when he has free time. His fridge has a similarly chill energy. “I’m not very fussy when it comes to making meals for myself,” he says. “I’m a big charcuterie guy.” He always has a variety of cured meats and cheeses from St. Lawrence Market and Sanagan’s Meat Locker. “I’m a dirtbag who only started eating cheese three years ago, so I love Boursin and hate blue cheese.”

A look at Craig's charcuterie ingredients

He also loves to add fruit to his boards, so his fridge shelves are stocked with local strawberries and crunchy grapes. These also go into his daily smoothie, along with a variety of frozen fruit and dairy. “Unfortunately, the stress of my business-building days got to me, and in 2020 I had a really bad ulcer,” he says. “I’m a big-time yogurt guy now—probiotics are a must.”

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A closer look at Craig's shelves, which have fruit and yogurt

His daily routine often includes an ode to his grandfather in the form of a scramble. “My granddad was a vegetable farmer, and I love swiss chard because of him,” he says. “It’s always in my fridge so that I can chop it up and throw it in my eggs along with some sweet potato.” He also keeps cilantro on hand for less health-conscious reasons. “I love nachos. I make a cilantro sour cream to go with them because I can’t really eat spicy salsa anymore.”

A look at the fruit and vegetables inside Craig's fridge
A look at the fruit beside Craig's stove

Pike loves condiments, so his fridge doors are lined with barbecue sauces and specialized Japanese kewpie mayonnaise. “I love slow-cooking ribs at home, and Barq’s barbecue sauce is my go-to,” he says. “The kewpie mayo is a new acquisition—I recently learned how to turn out some killer bang bang shrimp”

A closer look at Craig's BBQ sauces

Sometimes Pike has time to prepare meals, like grilled salmon with buttery asparagus, but often it’s about that quick fix. “I am a cookie guy, so I have to try to be a bit health conscious even when I need to eat fast,” he says. For example, he often supplements instant ramen from Momofuku with stir-fried broccoli, green onions and thinly sliced frozen beef from T&T.

Rice, green onions and chili crisp

For those days when even instant noodles seem like a chore, Pike has some go-to takeout spots. “I’ve become obsessed with the spicy buffalo chicken wraps from Freshii,” he says. “I also love sushi from Torch, and when I want a fancy salad, I get it from Flock.” He’ll often make his own Greek or beet salads at home with some of the multiple blocks of feta in his fridge. “When I go to Costco, I always end up with too much of what I need. Lately I’ve had to think up many ways to enjoy feta.”

A look at the cheeses inside Craig's fridge

When Pike opts to dine out, he tends to go big. “I recently went to Alo with a friend, and it was amazing,” he says. He also hits up spots like Aloette and Chantecler. When it comes to specific cravings, he’ll visit House on Parliament for pub food, Kaminari in Parkdale for ramen and Le Génie for what he refers to as the “best croissant in the city.”

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Craig's olive oil collection

Pike’s pantry is full of spices, flours, oats, jams and—obviously—chocolate chips.

A look inside Craig's spice drawer
A bag of Chipits chocolate chips

Pike also stocks a variety of vanillas. “I use the Madagascar vanilla when I bake Victoria sponge,” he says. “It’s a white cake with vanilla buttercream and raspberry jam. This vanilla has the punch to speak for itself against the raspberry component.”

Craig's vanilla collection

“I make hummus all the time,” says Pike. “I’ll use rehydrated chickpeas and beet tahini from Parallel.”

A large jar of dried chickpeas
A stack of flavoured tahini from Parallel

Pike entertains a lot, but these days he never bakes cookies at home. “I like to cook for my friends, and I’ll do an Indian night once a month,” he says. “My go-to cookbook for those evenings is The Food of India by Carol Selva Rajah and Priya Wickramasinghe.” Other favourite cookbook authors include Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi and Wanda Beaver (of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky). “I bake the chocolate cake from Wanda’s cookbook every Christmas.”

A few of Craig's cookbooks

Pike has a well-stocked liquor cabinet for entertaining. “I am a consummate host, but I never drink on my own,” he says. “The drinks I enjoy, like margaritas, negronis, prosecco, and gin and tonics, are all very social.”

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Craig's liquor cabinet, which is a tall gold shelving unit

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