Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Jonah Gershon ’24, a student in the Nolan School of Hotel Administration, established Spekld, a brown butter stick company, after being frustrated while creating the time-consuming ingredient as a competitor for the Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge.”

November 30, 2023

Jonah Gershon ’24 Launches Spekld, Novel Brown Butter Stick Company

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While on Food Network’s “Christmas Cookie Challenge” in 2022, Jonah Gershon ’24 attempted to cook brown butter from scratch and was frustrated due to its messy and time-consuming nature. 

“Brown butter is used a lot in holiday baking, so it was something I wanted to put into the cookies,” Gershon said. “Working in those harsher time constraints made me think: Why do I have to go through all this hassle? … Why can’t I just take it off the shelf?”

That, Gershon said, was the moment the initial idea blossomed for Spekld, a startup that produces premade sticks of brown butter, saving bakers the 10-15 minutes typically spent standing by the stove as the butter slowly melts to achieve the desired brown hue and caramelized taste. 

Brown butter, a beloved delicacy for many bakers, often becomes a culinary hassle when attempted to be created from scratch, leaving many cooks dissatisfied. It can be used in several cooking recipes, from cookies to cake frosting

Gershon was discovered by Food Network when a scout stumbled across his food Instagram page and sent him a direct message to apply to the “Christmas Cookie Challenge.” He applied for the competition and was selected as one of the five bakers to compete in making the best holiday cookies, with the episode being filmed in April 2022.

“Food was always a big part of my life,” Gershon said. “I was always really creative as well, so I just found cooking as a way to combine my passions for food and art together.”

Even though the idea for over-the-shelf brown butter first sparked during the competition, Gershon did not pursue this idea until he took the elective course Hotel Administration 6610: Communication for Entrepreneurs, offered by the hotel school. 

While taking this course, Gershon learned about entrepreneurship, which helped him in the initial stages of building Spekld. He particularly learned the importance of customer discovery, an active process of understanding what your potential customers need and want. As his startup progressed, he expanded his network through entrepreneurial programs at Cornell, interviewing more than a hundred people about their experiences and challenges with brown butter. 

Cornell programs and resources further helped Gershon bring his idea for Spekld to life. He was a runner-up for both the Big Ideas Competition, a contest for students who have promising business ideas, and the Cornell Hospitality Pitch Deck Competition where students compete for prizes for the best pitch deck. 

“I didn’t realize the extent of Cornell’s resources until I actually started this venture,” Gershon said. “And since then, it’s been overwhelming with the amount of support I’ve received.”

Along with Cornell’s resources, Gershon also found an opportunity in the greater northeastern region of New York, particularly within the dairy industry. A pivotal experience for Gershon came through his participation in the Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition in the summer of 2023 where he became a finalist and received $20,000 to work on his idea. 

“[The Northeastern Dairy Product Innovation Competition] was kind of a big deal for me because I was the only student in the competition,” Gershon said. “Eight of the 10 finalists were already running their own dairy farms, ice cream shops or businesses.” 

He spent the summer working with dairy industry mentors, spending time at the Dairy Plant on campus and creating samples for the brown butter sticks. At the end of the summer, Gershon held a Spekld popup at a bakery called Small State Provisions in Avon, Connecticut, which proved to be successful as he was able to sell his product for the first time to customers.  

Gershon has been challenged with determining the most effective equipment for butter production. In order to test different machinery, he visited the Cornell Food Venture Center Pilot Plant in Geneva. Gershon said that once he determines the most productive equipment, his next step is finding the right manufacturers to commercialize.

“The trends of brown butter are increasing year after year, and more and more recipes are coming with brown butter. The feedback I received has been really great,” Gershon said. “If we can figure out the production, and the production is at a reasonable cost, I do think [Spekld] can be a very big product within the food industry.” 

Sabrina Khaleque ’25 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].