No Shortcuts for Le Gourmet Baking

I was first introduced to Becky Nelson’s Le Gourmet Baking when she delivered box lunches to my book club. The lunches were good and all, but the shortbread cookies were the real draw, and I recall hovering around the no-carb-or-sugar members for their unwanted shortbread.  What I learned, however, is that no one, regardless of her dietary restrictions, wanted to pass up the shortbread.

Apparently, the specialty retailer Williams-Sonoma thinks her shortbread cookies are pretty delicious, too, because Nelson announced that William-Sonoma is now selling her made-from-scratch iced shortbread cookies online. You can find them here, featuring a graduation celebration theme. Other holidays and special occasion shortbreads will be offered throughout the year as well.

PHOTO: Kristina Fanelli

Since it opened in 2012, Le Gourmet Baking has sold more than 30,000 shortbread cookies to individuals and businesses locally and nationally and continues to grow after 10 years in business. Nelson expects that number to increase dramatically with the William-Sonoma deal.

“To say we are thrilled by this new partnership is an understatement,” Becky said. “To collaborate with a company with the prestige of Williams-Sonoma is a dream come true. Their experience as a high-end specialty retailer, along with their marketing savvy, will go a long way in boosting sales for Le Gourmet Baking. I am truly grateful,” she added.

In spring 2015, after three years in business, Nelson learned that her cookies would be featured in the Neiman Marcus epicure holiday catalog, which was a watershed event for her and the company. In an ironic twist, she worked at Neiman Marcus as a marketing intern while attending SMU and always admired the Neiman Marcus standard of excellence.

Nelson believed that the high-quality ingredients, handcrafted qualities, and uniqueness of her product made it worthy of being featured as a gourmet gift item in the beloved retailer’s holiday catalog. She was right. The recipe contains five premium ingredients with no preservatives and a lower sugar content than most cookies. Rolled out thick, the cookies are soft and cake-like instead of crisp like a traditional shortbread. They are then hand-glazed after baking and finally, decorated by hand with colorful, creative designs.

“Becky’s shortbread cookies are scrumptious and beautifully customized with logos, messages of praise, or individual names,” says Cindy Brinker Simmons, a frequent customer of Le Gourmet Baking. “I have ordered them for years to serve as favors for gatherings.”

Brinker also partnered with the bakery to launch the “You Inspire Me!” shortbread cookie set which benefitted Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer.

Like many restaurants and bakeries, the company has changed, evolved, and even struggled, but Nelson never gave up on her dream of being in the food business and always found a way to move things forward. Originally, Le Gourmet Baking was Le Gourmet Valet, which delivered meals, shortbreads, and gift baskets to families and companies throughout the area. Today, Nelson has returned to the product she is most passionate about, her shortbread cookies, moving away from other baked goods and catering. It’s working for her.

Although a marketing major with a business degree, Nelson always embraced her creative side. Thinking about how she could start a food-related enterprise, in 2003 she emailed Ina Garten, “The Barefoot Contessa,” to get tips about opening a gourmet shop. To her surprise, Garten quickly responded with the advice of getting broad experience in the food service business, which she did, including a stint at Central Market.

However, an unexpected divorce in 2006 set her dreams back, both personally and professionally. Eventually, in 2012, with help and encouragement from friends, family, and college classmates, she launched Le Gourmet Valet out of her home, while also selling shortbreads and spicy pecans weekly at St. Michael’s Farmer’s Market. I love her spirit and drive.

In 2015, Nelson moved her operation to a church kitchen in the Devonshire area. Locations have changed over time, including a storefront food service business that Nelson opened and managed in 2021 in Shops of Highland Park, in addition to tandemly operating Le Gourmet Baking.

PHOTO: Becky Nelson

Le Gourmet Baking is now ensconced at 4711 Westside Drive, formerly Central Christian Church, with a team of five young, talented decorators/designers and two back-of-house individuals to meet the increasing demand for the cookies. Interested customers may drop by the new location on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to discuss upcoming cookie needs or call 214-738-2378 to set up an appointment. 

In addition to Williams-Sonoma, Le Gourmet Baking shortbread cookies may be purchased through the company website www.legourmetbaking.com as well as online through Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Horchow. Follow the company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Kersten Rettig

Kersten Rettig has represented some of world's best known brands in her 30+ years in marketing and PR, including Montblanc, Rosewood Hotels, Highland Park Village and Taco Bell. As a former restaurant owner, she knows the business and has a deep affection for the hospitality industry. She is a Park Cities resident and a happy wife, mom of three and dogmother. Follow her @KerstenEats.

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