Anyone who considers himself/herself/themself a connoisseur of sweets has probably heard of Wunderkeks, the Austin-based company that has only been in the United States for three years.
However, what some may not know is that Wunderkeks is LGBTQ+-owned, with couple Luis Gramajo and Hans Schrei co-founding the burgeoning empire. Since leaving Guatemala for Texas, they've enjoyed sweet success.
Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.
Windy City Times: On your website, you ask "How can a cookie change the world?" I understand how cookies have changed YOUR world, but how can a cookie change THE world?
Hans Schrei: Selling sweets, a lot of the time, is not about the sweets themselves but about how they remind you of a different time. As gay men, we [sometimes] think about how we want to go back to that time when you were little and no one told you something was wrong with youand that is very, very powerful.
[Also,] the cookies are great and there's the opportunity for sharing. And talking about safe spaces, if we go together to that place where we were kids, that's a great place for us to connect with each other.
Luis Gramajo To connect with that innocence or with that moment that's an "I love you" or something else… That's why we use our cookies to do that. We actually sell them by the dozen and we say the first one is for you so heat it up, smell it, enjoy it. The second one is for your social media and the other 10 are for you to share with others and be a conversation-starter.
WCT: "Share?" I don't know that word. [All laugh.]
LG: In a way, though, it's similar to the coming-out process. For many of us, we found someone who gave us permission to be ourselves, then we internally worked on ourselves and then we externalized it. In that way, older generations gave us permission to come out. And by you going out as a proud gay man, it makes it easier for the guys behind you. And with the cookies, I will share them, enjoy them and communicate with them.
WCT: And how did you two meet? I know it was in Guatemala.
LG: We met on Tinder.
WCT: Luis, you have more of a marketing/photography background while, Hans, you have a baking background. Did you imagine that Wunderkeks would be as successful as it has become?
HS: When we moved from Guatemala to Austin, I thought we would do [well] in Austin.
LG: We started getting noticed by celebrities and by the media, and it grew more than we ever thought. It's because we always put our story first. We believe that, in telling your story, you'll inspire people. We often feel that no one else is going through what you're going through; but when you listen to other people's stories, you're, like, "Oh, I went through something similar."
I think it was Michelangelo who said after finishing a sculpture that he wasn't creating it as much as he was releasing it.
HS: It was, like, it was all there; when I look back, the dots [connected]. We had this a-ha moment. Someone said, "Your brand is very gay. You're two grown men who are baking cookies, and you're shipping them in boxes that are pink." I said, "Interesting." We were comfortable doing it. We had to do an in-the-closet version [in Guatemala] but once we found a safe space in Austin, then we were able to express who we are. People can tell when something is authentic.
LG: It's the first time we're somewhere where we can be ourselves. We're not afraid anymore. And it's the uniqueness we have that makes us special. This is the first time in our lives that we feel that way.
WCT: I get a feeling you chose Austin for two reasons: that it's a safe space and that it has weather you like.
LG: [Smiles] Yes. We have a really hard time with the cold weather. But we love Chicagoit's one of our favorite cities. The food is amazing.
HS: We considered Southern California but Austin seemed easier.
LG: We could've been in a blue state but, to tell you the truth, being in a red state is very meaningful for us because those are the spaces where you need to prove that we can bring value to society. A lot of people ask, "Why did you move to Texas?" I say, "That's where we need to fight." We need to show that we can interact with each other and enjoy our chocolate-chip cookies together.
HS: We realized the importance of where we moved to later. You want to be purposeful but you also want to go with the flow.
WCT: And what does it feel like to each of you to be part of the LGBTQ+ community in today's America?
LG: It is challenging but, at the end of the day, it's another opportunity to show how strong we are. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, [the challenges] force you to [not] take no for an answer.
HS: It's your superpower.
LG: Yeahit becomes your superpower. When they try to knock you down, you find your way and you try to become creative. We're always fighting the fight with love, and that's something that becomes very beautiful.
HS: I think we're at this crossroads where people need to cement their place and their contributions. We really don't talk about queer people's contributions. Queerness has this [element] of joy that you can share and have people accept each other. We're in that crucial moment where the culture's understanding of our queerness is being defined.
WCT: But I do want to end on a sweet notepun intended. What's your favorite cookie that you've ever made or that you have out now?
LG: We have the same answer.
HS: It's the Easter Bunny Special, which has chocolate chips and chocolate Cadbury eggs and is rolled in coconut. We only make it for Easter and it's the first recipe that we fully developed together.
LG: And what we have all the time is the Everything Cookie, which is coated with turbanado sugar, with dark chocolate, pecans, cinnamon and coconut. They really bring us back to our childhoods.
To order from Wunderkeks, visit wunderkeks.com .