Weekend Daily News
Saturday/Sunday, March 26-27, 2005
Grandma Evelyn one smart cookie
By Hillary Wundrow
Daily News Staff Writer
Former Beloiter Evelyn Becker has made a life haute cuisine.
Her new cookie line, marketed under her guise as "Grandma Evelyn", recently debuted on the shelves of Walgreens stores and Sunset Foods.
At 78 years of age, Becker has proved it's never too late to revive one's passion.
"You can do anything you put your mind to," Becker said. "I don't think age should be a factor in anything you want to accomplish in your life."
Becker graduated as Evelyn Kanter before going to the University of Wisconsin - Madison to study music.
After she graduated college, Becker and her sister, Lillian, opened La Catering, serving Chicago's finer banquets and events.
"It was very elegant white tablecloth and white glove dinners," Becker said.
A few years later Becker opened Fancy Foods Inc. in Lincolnshire with her husband to manufacturer hors d'oeuvers.
"I liked carving fruit and working with pastry bags. Everything I learned by watching television food shows," Becker said.
Becker admits she enjoys making unique items including carved boiled eggs resembling penguins.
"I like to make fancy things. I like to do unusual things," Becker said.
With her sister's connections, Becker met WWII Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's executive chef Guido Lucarelli.
Working at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, Lucarelli had graduated from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and had cooked for four U.S. presidents.
"I hired him to work with me and he worked with me 15 years. We serviced every major hotel, country club and white tablecloth restaurant," Becker said.
Under Lucarelli's tutelage, Becker studied French cuisine.
"He taught me very elegant sauces made with wine and how to cook with wine," Becker said.
Wanting to sell her food in other states, Becker earned approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Her strict attention to cleanliness awarded her a triple A rating.
"I made the ladies wear white uniforms," Becker said. "I was very, very fussy. They had to be ultimate hospital clean."
Becker's workers wore lab coats and performed surgical scrubs up the their elbows before cooking.
"I never had one person ever get sick on anything. I never used the product liability insurance," Becker said.
During her time with Fancy Foods Inc., Becker sold her canapes and hors d'oeuvres to Kraft Foods, Armor, Nieman Marcus, Marshall Fields and other fine stores.
Becker continued her business and was overseeing three hors d'oeuvres plants until her husband passed away in 1990.
Two years ago Becker heard the call of the cookie and answered.
"I decided to go back into business and started contacting some of my old accounts," Becker said.
She revived a recipe using a secret ingredient, chocolate and nuts. She named the new line Grandma Evelyn's Original Brownie Cookie.
"The cookies are very chewey. They are very big. They have pecans in them and they are different," Becker said.
Becker has a home office and a contract packer in LaSallle, Ill.
She has a contract to sell more than 1,000 Walgreens stores*, among other contracts.
"I've been in Walgreens for one month. I had been in Walgreens before about 40 years ago, but sold them hors d'oeuvres. Now I am selling cookies."
Admitting no grass grows under her feet, Becker said she plans to bring more unique products to the market.
"There is something I'm working on I just trademarked. I am working with some futune 500 companies on it. There is one more slot to fill and I'll fill it," Becker said.
* Webmaster Note: The contract with Walgreens has expired since the publication of this article.