Contest win brings pride to local home cookie baker

Mirror photo by Nate Powles / Terry Pannebaker holds his award- winning blueberry muffin cookies with his first place plaque from the Famous 4th Street Cookie competition in Philadelphia.

Terry Pannebaker knows cookies — his last name gives that away, the city native jokes.

Pannebaker’s neighbors, family and friends have known about his cookies and have been obsessed with his tasty treats for years.

Now, his skills in the kitchen will be known far and wide as his blueberry muffin cookies took top honors at a Philadelphia baking contest and will be mass-produced and shipped throughout Pennsylvania and across the United States.

The Famous 4th Street Cookie Co.’s nationwide contest began weeks ago, when the bakery announced its first ever cookie competition to celebrate October being National Cookie Month, Pannebaker said.

He found the information on the internet while doing research before taking a trip with his wife, Annette, to the Reading Terminal Market in Center City Philadelphia, where one of the company’s locations is housed.

Pannebaker, a retired railroad worker, was intrigued by the contest and decided to enter.

To enter, he chose his blueberry muffin cookie, which he said is the most popular of his treats, and created a short introduction video about the cookies and the inspiration behind them. He also had to drive to Philadelphia to drop off three dozen cookies for judges to try.

“I dropped them off Tuesday (Oct. 19), then the judges were going to taste them Wednesday, and then Friday they notified me that I was a finalist,” Pannebaker said.

Finalists then had to make their cookies in front of everyone in the City Kitchen, he said, noting it’s located in the corner of the Reading Terminal Market, an indoor farmers market/restaurant venue.

“I had to talk to their chef to line up ingredients because they were going to supply everything,” Pannebaker said.

Pannebaker was one of three finalists invited to the Oct. 29 bakeoff. The other two were from Delaware and Philadelphia, so Pannebaker had the longest drive to make it in person.

The competition wasn’t cutthroat like “Chopped,” but the judges were very specific, he said.

Making a decision on the winner “took them a while,” Pannebaker said of the judges. “They went down through and they said it was close. They announced the winner and I got the plaque.”

Once his victory was in the bag, Pannebaker was featured on “Good Day Philadelphia,” the morning show on the Fox affiliate TV station in Philadelphia. He made his winning blueberry muffin cookies for the show and shared his story.

Winning the contest is mostly bragging rights for Pannebaker, who didn’t enter to win money or gain fame, just to test his baking skills.

“They have the rights to the recipe,” Pannebaker said. “I’m not getting any commission for this — it’s all theirs.”

He declined the $500 gift card to the Reading Terminal, instead asking Famous 4th Street to use that money to donate cookies to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“I asked the owners of the cookie company if they had anything to do with CHOP and they said they go to oncology on the fifth floor,” Pannebaker said. “I said, well take them cookies over there with this gift card. Make those kids happy.”

A retired Conrail and Norfolk Southern worker, Pannebaker started making cookies roughly 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 batch. The girls on the tennis team and their parents ate them all within minutes.

“I walk in the gate across from the high school for the third match empty-handed and they all came running, saying ‘Where’s the cookies?'” Pannebaker said.

“I said, ‘I brought them last match.’ They said, ‘You can’t come unless you bring cookies.’ Every home and away match for four years, I had to bring cookies,” he said with a laugh.

That started Pannebaker making cookies for many people in the community, from the patrons and staff at Mike’s Court to the workers in the press box at the Altoona Curve to even the staff at M&T Bank. His neighbors also benefit from his baking skills.

Once he was retired, Pannebaker dedicated even more time to making cookies and it became one of his primary hobbies, along with golfing.

Mike Luciano, owner of Mike’s Court, said there is no one more deserving of the recognition and competition victory than Pannebaker.

“It’s well-deserved,” Luciano said. “Not only is Terry a great baker, he’s also just a great guy. Terry’s a very special guy and his cookies are tremendous.”

Luciano has known Pannebaker for about 15 years, when Pannebaker first showed up at Mike’s Court with cookies for some friends he knew were there. Luciano got to taste his cookies and Pannebaker continued to come with goodies for him and his staff.

“The business can be an intense work environment when we’re very busy,” Luciano said. “When Terry brings the cookies in, it kind of gives everybody an uplift. We really appreciate him and appreciate his kindness.”

Pannebaker said Famous 4th Street’s head chef contacted him to help adapt the recipe for larger batches and he hopes the mass rollout of his cookie brings joy to people outside of Blair County.

The blueberry muffin cookie is now the company’s 2022 Cookie of the Year. The cookies can be purchased online and in 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.


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