“Passion has no expiration date”

Ralph Rolle of the Soul Snacks Cookie Company

Erskine Isaac/Courtesy of Double Xxposure Media Relations Ralph Rolle

Although fans know Ralph Rolle as the prolific drummer behind Nile Rodgers, Chic and Sting, many other musicians know him simply as the “Cookie Man”.

Rolle, 62, has long embraced his moniker behind the scenes, first baking cookies for his family, then friends and bandmates, and now, customers around the world.

Inspired by his family’s baking tradition, he started the Soul Snacks Cookie Company in 1996, with flavors like Down Home Double Chocolate and Grampy’s Chocolate Peanut Butter. “Cooking – like music – is synonymous with math, science and passion,” Rolle tells PEOPLE of his local business. “It all has to add up.”

The recipe for success is not easy. Although the ingredients have been passed down from generation to generation since his grandmother started cooking in the early 1900s, it took several attempts for the musician to turn the snacks into a national brand.

But now, 26 years later, Rolle’s cookies are available for the first time in hundreds of Walmart stores across the country. “We’ve been selling cookies for a while, but that’s a different level,” says Rolle. “It’s amazing. It’s surreal.”

The Brooklyn-born drummer discovered his passion for music in high school, working with artists like Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder and other legends. Still, Rolle says he’s always had a second dream in mind: baking.

Ralph Rolle of the Soul Snacks Cookie Company

Ralph Rolle of the Soul Snacks Cookie Company

Erskine Isaac/Courtesy of Double Xxposure Media Relations Ralph Rolle

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Rolle’s grandmother started teaching him and his cousins ​​how to cook when they were so young they still had to sit on phone books to reach the table, eagerly waiting for the first one. sticky taste. “We were licking the bowl to the point where you didn’t have to wash it,” he laughs. “Those are probably the most memorable moments of my life, so I wanted to take those moments and put them in my own kitchen.”

Rolle first got serious in baking after her mother died in 1983, picking up where she left off. “Doing what I do is a lot of honoring him,” he says.

The drummer began to cook so often that Rolle’s bandmates began to expect him to bring cookies to practice as much as they expected him to bring his drums.

“Everyone knows I’m the dumbest person in the bunch. I always have been,” he says, recalling open-mic nights in the ’90s when he started selling his cookies on stage to earn some extra cash. “I printed the label on paper, used school glue to put it on a brown paper bag and sealed the bag with tape,” he says.

The homemade package came with six cookies for $5, and soon word got out when fans got a taste after her shows.

Ralph Rolle of the Soul Snacks Cookie Company

Ralph Rolle of the Soul Snacks Cookie Company

Erskine Isaac/Courtesy of Double Xxposure Media Relations Ralph Rolle

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Rolle began spending more and more time cooking inside her Bronx apartment, baking cookies one rack at a time as each order came in over the phone. “The insect had bitten me,” he said.

Meanwhile, “things were booming” for his music career: Rolle landed a drum gig on ABC It’s Showtime at the Apollo (which he continued for 12 seasons), got a music director job for Caroline Rhea’s show and began performing with a growing number of popular artists: Bono, Elvis Costello, Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo, John Legend, the list goes on.

Soon Rolle moved his makeshift operation to a friend’s vacant apartment across the street, which he outfitted with a proper kitchen and office, preparing to take on more orders. . “And from there, it got crazy,” he says.

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In 2000, with the music gigs piling up and her first daughter on the way, Soul Snacks went on hiatus — but the urge to cook never went away.

“I tell people all the time that passion has no expiration date,” Rolle says. Thus, in 2006, the company restarted. By early summer, more than 700 Walmart stores nationwide will have Soul Snacks cookies on their shelves.

As Rolle continues to share his musical talents across the globe – soon flying to Europe to teach a series of in-person drum lessons for Masterclass – the drummer-turned-famous-baker says he’s also looking forward to sharing the warm comfort that accompanies every bite of a cookie from its candy line.

“It conjures up such a beautiful feeling when you think of family together, of smells, of everyone having fun,” Rolle says. “Baking with your mother was the happiest moment of most of our lives when we were little, because no matter how poor you are, you don’t know it. You’re ignorant. You just think you’re the person. the richest in the world.”