By Chad Campbell
Three generations of the Luse family gather every December, surrounded by holiday music and the lights from their Christmas tree. They share stories of the past, especially from their years in West Lafayette where most of them attended Purdue. With the contributions of Olivia Luse, founder of Backroad Baker, the festive scene is made complete with plates of decorated cookies that blur the line between reality and a Hallmark movie.
In April 2014, a semester before Luse graduated, Backroad Baker was born. “I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was in class when I first came across an Instagram account of beautiful cookies that inspired me to decorate my own,” Luse recalled. “I had always baked in the kitchen with my mom, but I certainly hadn’t decorated cookies like this. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought my business would turn into something like this.”
As the Backroad Baker, Luse creates custom cookies for any customer or occasion.
“It doesn’t seem like cookies and my agribusiness degree would line up, but I definitely wouldn’t have the knowledge to run my company without studying subjects like agricultural economics. I’m thankful that I can appreciate where all my ingredients come from and who makes them.”
Luse said she is also thankful to remain connected to Purdue. “One of my favorite orders was when I was commissioned to make cookies for the Ever True campaign’s unveiling in 2015. I was sent the marketing details ahead of time, which I had to keep secret. I was working for Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business at the time, so it was exciting to be part of a campaign for the university that even my co-workers weren’t allowed to know about.”
“Almost everyone has traditions for the holidays, whether it’s baking cookies or something else. If you are making your own cookies, don’t let it stress you out if they end up burned or messy. Christmas isn’t the time to worry about perfection. My best advice is to have fun, enjoy the company of those you are with and make lasting memories. And don’t feel guilty about eating the cookies.”
Photos from Olivia Luse