Meet Mark Kinney, pastry chef and owner of OMG Gourmet Desserts (omggourmetdesserts.com), a company he launched in late April.
Born and raised in Santa Rosa, Calif., Kinney moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona and earned his bachelor’s degree in business and administration in 1981.
Upon graduation, Kinney immediately used his education to start Strictly From Scratch, a bakery serving restaurants and resorts.
“My first customer was Micha’s and I took them six cinnamon rolls that I spent the entire night baking in the kitchen at home,” said Kinney 52. “They called me the morning after I delivered them and said they wanted six more.”
Nine years later, Kinney had 15 employees, a bakery at Dodge Boulevard and Ajo Way and plenty of happy customers, but had run out of steam, he said.
“I didn’t know how to let go,” Kinney said. “I always had to be there, and I was so tired.”
Kinney sold the business to a man who moved the company to Phoenix. He’s spent the last 15 years as an insurance agent. He never stopped baking, and came up with a unique rugalach-style cookie that he would give to prospective clients and members of his church.
A friend who works with a marketing firm took a batch of Kinney’s cookies to the office one day, and the reaction among co-workers was so favorable that it prompted Kinney to start OMG Gourmet Desserts.
Kinney enlisted the man who bought Strictly from Scratch to bake his cookies, and has spent the last month commuting from Phoenix to supervise their production. The cookies are available in four varieties at omggourmetdesserts.com
Question: What’s your favorite restaurant in Tucson?
Answer: For Mexican food, I love Mi Nidito and for Italian, it’s Piazza Gavi.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare and why?
You know what I really like? Fried Chicken. I marinate it in a ranch-style dressing, and it’s quick and easy and delicious.
What’s your favorite dish to eat?
I love the hard chicken tacos and beans at Mi Nidito.
What’s unique about the Tucson restaurant scene compared to other cities?
I’d say the diversity. You’ve got incredible Mexican food on the South Side and all kinds of great stuff all over town.
What’s your favorite or most used gadget or kitchen utensil?
That’s easy – my Kitchen Aid table-top mixer.
What do you always have in your refrigerator?
Cream cheese and butter. That’s how I make my cookie.
Why are you a chef?
I think the main thing is that I understand how food connects with people. You could go to a party and not know somebody, and they can try something you made and instantly, they’re your friend. Food is such a great icebreaker, and it just connects people the way few other things can.