In this episode of Yinzer Backstage Pass, we visit Eat’n Park’s test kitchen to learn how to make the iconic Smiley Cookie.

The test kitchen is located just down the hall from the dining room of the Homestead restaurant. It’s a commercial kitchen full of dozens of toasters and ovens and waffle makers. John Frick, Eat’n Park’s director of menu development, explained that they need to ensure that every potential new menu item could be made with the equipment at any of their 60 restaurants.

Sure, it was exciting to see so many toasters in one room, but the thing I was most looking forward to about this visit was getting a lesson on frosting a Smiley Cookie.

I was surprised to learn that they’re baked and frosted all in-store, which means that the staff at every store needs to know how to perfectly create the familiar smiley face. That’s why Eat’n Park has created a course in which new employees can learn the way of the Smiley Cookie. Only after they’ve “graduated” from the program are they ready to operate the piping bag.

John explained that you always start with the nose, then the eyes and finally the mouth in a slow, swooping motion. The cookies are frosted with royal icing, which acts differently than the store-bought tube frosting that I was familiar with. It’s much looser and wetter, which requires a different kind of handling.

I’m not sure if I’d call myself a natural, but John was very complimentary of my piping technique — and the cookie I decorated tasted great!

Before I left, I asked John if he was related to those other Pittsburgh Fricks. He told me that Henry Clay Frick is indeed a distant relative but not close enough that he got any of that inheritance.

If you want to see John’s latest edible developments, you can visit the “What’s New” section on Eat’n Park’s online menu.

If you want more Yinzer Backstage Pass, check out our visit to Pittsburgh Public Theater’s scene shop where they built the set for ” A Raisin in the Sun.”