My childhood best friend loves Mariah Carey. Like, loves her. One time, my dad was at Blockbuster (back when you could go to Blockbuster, RIP) and the store was selling off excess VHS copies of Glitter, so he bought it for my BFF. It remains one of her fondest memories of my dad, and of childhood. So imagine her wonder when, last week, she opened up the Grubhub app to see what was cooking for lunch and one of the delivery options was Mariah Carey’s Cookies.
She sent a screenshot to me and, curiosity piqued, I went to the brand’s website, where I found a surprisingly rudimentary page featuring one photo of Mariah and a small, lackluster paragraph connecting her to the cookies.
The thing that really caught my attention was how boring the whole concept was. There were no puns in the cookie names. “Honey Got me Hooked on You” seems like a great name for a cookie with literally any connection to honey (or sweetness) whatsoever. Instead, all I saw were description-based names: “chocolate chunk,” “spiced oatmeal.” WTF?
I later found this video of Mariah “baking” her signature cookies, in which she seems to have borrowed some fast-forwarding cooking techniques from Cookie Monster and Gonger:
Something felt fishy about the whole endeavor. I thought I’d go check out the heavenly store in person, just to see if it maybe plays Mariah hits over the speakers, at least. But when I searched for the address, Google Maps showed me the exterior of a Buca di Beppo.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of ghost kitchens, then you would probably be unnerved by encountering family-style Italian fare when you were anticipating cookies baked by the Queen of Christmas. A ghost restaurant is essentially a takeout- or delivery-only dining concept that appears on food delivery apps as though it’s an independent establishment. Rather than operating out of its own brick-and-mortar location, it uses another restaurant’s kitchen, or a communal kitchen solely populated by takeout-only concepts.
Several “restaurants” can share the same kitchen at once. In 2021, Lillian Stone described the experience of picking up a Panera order outside of a ghost kitchen shared by Panera, Chick-fil-A, and Portillo’s. It reads like a chilling horror story:
“Outside of the ghost kitchen, the delivery drivers were packed into a wooden enclosure that looked like a cattle chute. They were hollering out customer names and swatting each other to get closer to the poor soul whose only job was to hand out prepackaged food from a tiny window. I waited silently in line, grabbed my food, and walked away as quick as I could.”
As for Mariah’s cookies, the ones I bought came from a Bucca di Beppo kitchen, but that doesn’t mean they were baked in that kitchen. Twitter user @AugustMacias replied to a tweet from Podcast: The Ride to say he used to work at a Buca di Beppo, and the cookies were not baked on site.
According to Macias, the Mariah Carey cookies would sit on the shelves “for days” (allegedly they have a shelf life of four days) and then were packaged and sent off as they were (sparingly) ordered. Some virtual restaurant concepts get huge traffic and high turnover—Macias cites Flavortown and MrBeast Burger, which also operated out of Buca di Beppo—but it doesn’t sound like Mariah’s confections are enjoying the same hype.
Mariah Carey’s Cookies aren’t always from a Bucca di Beppo, either. Last week, Reddit user u/PatStPete posted in the /UberEATS Subreddit that they’d received an order for Mariah Carey’s Cookies. The pickup destination? A gas station.
In response to that post, other food delivery workers popped the lid off of The Ice Cream Shop, which is billed as “a new way to order your favorite ice cream brands right to your front door” but is, most often, the freezer case full of ice cream at your local gas station convenience store. (The FAQ page does not address this.)
At the very least, there seems to be inconsistency in the quality of Mariah’s product. After one Reddit user likened the cookies to hockey pucks, another user responded to say that in their town, the cookies appear to be made by a great bakery, are delivered warm, and are “sooooo good, like literally best cookies I’ve ever had.”
I’m happy for that person. Really, I am. But the cookies I got were more on the hockey puck side.
First, let’s talk pricing. The cookies were an egregious $26.12 after tax and delivery fees, even after applying a $5 coupon. The base price was $21.99, plus an extra $9.13 in taxes and fees, making me immediately question why I purchased a 12-pack instead of a 6-pack. I have no idea why I thought I needed a round dozen of these. I’ll regret that decision... until forever.
These things were stale-ish: not totally devoid of moisture, but not soft, either. I ordered two cookies each of six different flavors, which were packed in two boxes that did not include labels as to which cookies were in which, but did have my name written in big letters across the top. I guessed my way through the flavors, none of which were exciting. Each bite tasted like something you’d purchase from the “Yesterday’s Goods” shelf at the grocery store. And maybe that’s exactly where they came from! Who knows!
I can’t figure out why Mariah Carey is associated with this whole operation. Sure, money, but if the claims about the low order counts are to be believed, then how much money can this partnership really be bringing in? Certainly not as much as her much-hyped collaboration with McDonald’s. The lack of any creative product branding to tie these cookies to Mariah is still throwing me, too. Even Chuck E. Cheese’s, when it got in the ghost kitchen game by posing as a pizzeria, reportedly used a name tied to its own lore. If Mariah is going to sell us bad cookies, the least she could do is insist that they have fun names. That would really make her our hero.