Wally Amos, Gourmet Cookie Icon, Serves Up Recipes for Gourmet Lives

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For Wally Amos, gourmet cookie guru and founder of Famous Amos Cookies, the cookie is a metaphor for life. That's why his new book (written with Eden-Lee Murray), The Cookie Never Crumbles: Inspirational Recipes for Everyday Living (St. Martin's), serves up recipes from his own personal kitchen that can help others lead gourmet lives.

While the conventional wisdom may counsel, in the face of failure or disappointment, "That's the way the cookie crumbles," Amos takes a different perspective. As he points out, in his new book, "take a closer look at that crumbled cookie, and you'll find a lot of tiny cookies." It hasn't lost its flavor. It's still a cookie you can enjoy.

This is not a typical cookbook--it offers readers recipes for success that they can apply, with the right ingredients, to their own lives. "All cooks will tell you the key to their success is the quality of their ingredients. With a comprehensive selection of high-grade herbs, spices, seasonings, and condiments at their fingertips, there is little they cannot accomplish," Amos writes in his opening chapter.

"You are the cookie," Amos said. "Life does not crumble…. What helped me, when I was losing my company, was a strong spiritual foundation. Life does not crumble, because life is my source. But whatever your spiritual beliefs are, that must be your foundation."

He believes a balanced life must first have a well-stocked personal pantry filled with the basics: honesty, integrity, faith, and a positive loving attitude, which, like salt, are the key ingredients in any recipe. Next come the survival spices of unconditional love, spirituality, self-respect, which, he believes, are the keys to surmounting challenges. The entrepreneurial extracts include superlative mentors, teamwork, individuality, and passion. And, for Amos, there are relationship relishes: generosity, respect, and tolerance.

Amos began his business with his Aunt Della's cookie recipe and a dream of creating the first gourmet cookie company. A shoestring budget didn't stop him from opening his first store in 1975, at a prime Los Angeles location on Sunset Boulevard. He calls his humble beginning, a "Serendipity Soufflé," which starts with a bowl of focus--know what you want to accomplish.

Amos counsels entrepreneurs to add a generous cup each of faith, commitment, and vision-stir together, then add it to the focus for a strong dough. Smooth out the lumps, throw in a generous pinch of serendipity, and finish it off with a healthy sprinkling of acceptance.

That infamous photo of a smiling Amos in his Panama hat and West Indian shirt pointing to the cookie on his cookie packages, quickly cropped up in homes, fine department stores, and gourmet shops across the country. When the Famous Amos stew started to scorch, he took on more investors, and, ultimately, lost his company in 1989. Fortunately, the pot didn't burn. Thanks to his recipe for "Resilience Roll-ups"--moistened with responsibility, honesty, and integrity--he launched a new enterprise and is now co-owner of Uncle Wally's Muffin Company.

"Learn from those things that taste bitter," said Amos. "Learn from pain. When things don't go the way you want, don't be disappointed, but say, Here is a blessing in disguise."

In 1999 Uncle Wally's Muffin Company became the only company to offer gourmet fat-free muffins in stores nationally.

Today, Amos is also a national spokesperson for Literacy Volunteers, a board member of Aloha United Way, an entrepreneur, author, motivational speaker, and TV teacher/host for 50 adult basic learning programs aired nationally on PBS.

-Gayle Herbert Robinson