Ahhh, fortune cookies— those crispy, lightly sweetened treats that hold the key to our future. Where would we be without them, and, furthermore, where do these delectable goodies come from? Well, look no further than the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco.
While a fortune cookie factory sounds pretty fucking sweet on its own, the real magic lies in its location: tucked away in a desolate alleyway amongst SF's bustling Chinatown. Looks pretty sketchy at first— like something out of an Asian mafia movie— but trust me, it's worth the trip through the crowds. Also, it's small; VERY tiny and compact, reminiscent of an NYC apartment.
However, what the factory lacks in space, they make for with extreme productivity and spirit. We're talking about an organized, assembly line-style setup, with a"getting shit done" mentality on the level of a Nike sweatshop.
They've got steam machines screaming, cookie batter flying across the room, hot flames blazing, plastic bags being tied at breakneck speeds, and this woman, who I've dubbed "the hardest working woman in SF," grinding it out near the cookie molds.
She's taken on the role of shaper— the key role in the creative process around these parts— and is in charge of twisting the batter and stuffing the fortune in before it dries. This woman is in the zone, more composed than a grandmaster chess champion or the Karate Kid, and isn't flinching one bit for nobody. Head down, eyes on the prize; I want her on my team (slow clap...).
When you peer over her shoulder you catch a rare glimpse of the cookie in its most primitive state, and it's quite impressive. They almost look like pop chips, or mini pancakes, before going through the rigorous process of taking shape.
The one downside: If you want to snap pics, they have a strict policy of charging 50 cents per photo, which is a pretty lame. If you're feeling cheap, you'll need to get your James Bond cap on and create a diversion in order to avoid said fine, which is plastered on signs all over the factory. If you break this rule (like I did about 42 times) things start to get a little awkward.
In all, this gem is definitely worth a visit, and serves as a reminder that SF still has SOME uniqueness left in it. Plus, it smells really nice in here.
Added bonus: They sell x-rated cookies— which are far more creepy than sexual— and "make your own fortune" gift cookies, which could be really fun in the wrong hands.
HOW THE HELL DID THIS HAPPEN?
A favorite amongst adventurous tourists, the Golden Gate Cookie Company has been slanging tasty treats since August 5, 1962.
The factory is a nimble operation, employing only three full-time workers: Franklin Yee, Nancy Tom, and Ai Tam. The three have combined to form the greatest trio since The Three Stooges, making more than 20,000+ (!) cookies a day. Now that's a lot of good fortune!
Bonus Fact: Despite much controversy, the fortune cookie is said to have been invented in SF, in 1983, by a Japanese man named Makoto Hagiwara. In fact, there was so much doubt into the cookies' origin that the city had to hold a mock trial in order to allow Makoto to confirm his claim. Also, the fortune cookie folding machine was invented in Oakland, making the Bay Area one helluva fortune cookie landmark.
Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory