Cookie dough is now served in scoops, on cones, like ice cream that just won’t melt. Topped with sprinkles or fruity pebbles, infused with marshmallow fluff and delicately perched atop a rainbow cone, the thirst for this dessert is growing. It’s not an entirely new phenomenon, with shops serving the rich, eggless treat by the scoop in New York City and beyond. Eater identified it as a trend this year, as the great dough race ensued across America, inciting Instagrammers to stand in line for their chance to ‘gram the colorful mounds of sweet stuff.
Now the Bay Area is experiencing an influx of dough shops, starting with Cookie Dough Parlor in Pinole, and most recently with Doughp, a cookie dough-slinging kiosk located in The Myriad, a food hall in the Castro. Doughp (pronounced like “dope”) is a somewhat parodical interpretation of owner Kelsey Witherow’s love for the genre, combined with a passion for baking.
A recent article from Justin Phillips of the SF Chronicle questioned Witherow’s choices, including naming flavors things like “This S’more is hella lit” and “White girl.” From the article:
“So you want to know how I became a ‘Doughp’ dealer,” Witherow jokingly asked when we spoke last week. When asked about the shop’s theme, she responded with: “I was the white girl at my high school who was going through the Hyphy movement. I was obsessed with Mac Dre.”
As an African American, journalist, hip hop junkie and connoisseur of sweets, I’m torn. Cookie dough is amazing. Witherow seems charming and well intentioned. And I loved Mac Dre, too. But I can’t help but tilt my head at this.
Cookie dough counter-service shops weren’t a normal black community dining experience for most growing up. So, to faintly dress it as such seems a little ... disingenuous, maybe?
On Twitter, there were many who agreed with Phillips.
If you pay 15$ for 3 scoops of cookie dough I legit hope you die in a fire— Richie Nakano (@linecook) September 16, 2017
Jesus christ white people, why is it so hard for us to grok that it is a crappy idea to use black culture as a restaurant theme, why— Helen Rosner (@hels) September 16, 2017
Meanwhile, Witherow took to Doughp’s blog to respond to criticism that she’s appropriated African-American culture, saying:
To others looking in, a few comments have taken my attempt at a relatable, youthful brand as a theft of another race's culture. I have been accused of cultural appropriation - taking Black-American culture and profiting from it. And even categorized as building an exclusively "hip-hop" brand; and while I listen to hip hop music (and have all my life), that's only one aspect of my upbringing and experiences that made DOUGHP what it is today.
Witherow also says she won’t change the branding of her shop:
Some peers have asked if I'll change anything to please the few who have commented as such -- but I won't. It would only then feel disingenuous to me if I altered what I've done so far. After 10 years of marketing in Corporate America, DOUGHP finally gave me an outlet to market through my own voice and I'm so proud of that.
Update 9/20: Eater received comment from Witherow, who was “at first... super saddened” by the backlash to her marketing efforts, but has taken time to carefully consider it.
I recognize how serious cultural appropriation is and, after some exploration, can understand how my incorporation of hip hop influences into the DOUGHP brand can be viewed as such. As a result of this feedback, I’ve decided to pull back on some of the naming - flavors like The OG will now be called “The Original” and “This S’more Is Hella Lit” will now be “This S’more is Hella Awesome.” I will retain as much of the bay area & millennial vibe as I can, while reducing the more overtly hip hop and Black American Culture phrases. I respect everyone’s opinions and am continuing to seek out feedback from the community to understand how I can do better. I respect everyone’s opinions and am continuing to seek out feedback from the community to understand how I can do better.
Further, Witherow says she hopes Doughp can “help underrepresented minorities both in our employment practices and also through various non-profit and philanthropic work.” Here, she cites the fact the company has already moved its production to Berkeley’s non-profit The Bread Project, which provides job training and placement to help fight poverty.