Forty years ago Wally Amos was a talent agent and music manager for wildly successful acts like Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. He discovered Simon and Garfunkel. While working for A&M Records he visited the “Rock & Roll” Ralphs at Sunset and Poinsettia and turned a bag of Nestle semi-sweet morsels into the first batch of Famous Amos cookies. At first the treats were gifts for his music clients, but by 1975 Amos had built a confectionary empire. He sold 51 percent of the company to a wealthy Texas family in 1985; eventually it became a division of Kellogg’s.
In the 1990s Amos lost the rights to his own name and persona (his original Panama hat and embroidered shirt are in the Smithsonian) and tried to sell sweets as “Uncle No-Name” and muffins as “Uncle Wally.”
But Amos recently made a cookie comeback in Hawaii with a new line of chocolate chip, pecan chocolate chip, and butterscotch macadamia treats he sells online under the name Cookie Kahuna. Amos sent me some samples, so I conducted a blind taste test here at Los Angeles magazine. Four out of five tasters preferred Cookie Kahuna to a bag of Famous Amos procured from the office vending machine. The lone dissenter was mostly unimpressed with the firmness, requesting a more “al dente” texture. The first thing I noticed from the Kellogg’s bag is the strict uniformity of the little round wafers and an expiration date of next summer. The Kahuna cookies have many more chips, look homemade, include butter and brown sugar, and leave delicious crumbs everywhere.
The brick-and-mortar Famous Amos store is long gone, but the founder is still creating some pretty sweet sweets.