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Employees of the Athens Bread Company help customers on October 15, 2022 in Athens, Ohio.

The McKennas rise as a family of breadwinners

At Athens Bread Company, located just off campus at 284 E. State St., Ohio University graduate Tim McKenna can be found baking bread and running the shop. 

Tim owns the shop with his wife, Devon, and the two run a successful baking business. However, Tim didn’t begin his career in Athens. Working in the food service industry in New York, he found himself working as a butcher, then as a baker.

But his interest in working with food may go further back than this.

“For the first 18 years of my life, I was more interested in eating food than making it to be honest, but I must have had some sort of interest sparked back then or seed planted or something (because) my parents cooked a lot at home,” Tim said.

According to the Pillsbury Company, Tim’s mother, Laurie, is quite the cook.

Laurie was announced as the winner of the 2022 Pillsbury Ovens Off Bake-Off Contest where she made air fryer Greek crescent nachos. 

“Even though I won the baking competition, I'm not a baker like my son,” she said. “I love to cook and try different recipes but baking is a lower priority for me because I'm not very good at it.”

Lilah Gange (background), employee at the Athens Bread Company, helps a customer on October 15, 2022 in Athens, Ohio.

Laurie began to think about entering the contest after she was served Greek nachos at her book club. Inspired by these nachos, she started to think about how to incorporate a Pillsbury product.

“I started doing some research online to see what people had been making in an air fryer with crescent dough because I thought I don't want to do something that somebody's already done because then that won’t stand out,” she said.

Participating in the contest was a family affair as well, with Laurie’s sisters competing in the contest too.

A week after her sisters entered, Laurie officially decided to give it a try herself.

“I had to get on Amazon … and I literally ordered an air fryer the day before the competition was over, went to the store, got the crescent dough and the toppings and just started experimenting with how to make those chips in the air fryer,” she said.

To enter the contest online, participants had to send in a recipe with eight ingredients, one of which being a Pillsbury dough, attach a photo and add a brief story about how they came up with it.

Since Laurie considers herself more of a cook than a baker, she took a savory route when coming up with the recipe.

Laurie’s Greek nachos were made of Pillsbury crescent chips and classic Greek toppings like tomatoes, cucumbers, Tzatziki sauce and feta cheese.

“I got my sister on FaceTime, I was showing her what I made and we're both like, ‘I think this could be a winner because it's not sweet, it's different,’” she said.

After getting the email that she won, Tim was worried about his mom’s internet safety from the contest.

“I was pretty sure she was getting scammed to be honest,” he said. “I was really pretty wary of the whole thing.”

After being announced as the winner, Laurie wasn’t sure how to react.

“(There was) a lot of disbelief, especially from my children that I couldn't possibly have won, but then that was pretty wild when they found out it was legit,” she said.

Even though her sisters did not win, the whole family was very excited about Laurie’s accomplishment.

“They were very supportive,” she said. “It’s quite funny, in my family now everyone is pretty excited about it.”

The Athens Bread Company displays "open" on October 15, 2022 in Athens Ohio.

As a prize for winning, Laurie was given $50,000 and $50,000 more to donate to a charity of her choice, which was No Kid Hungry.

“I volunteer at the Freestore Foodbank down in Cincinnati, so I do have a passion for making sure that kids do have food,” she said.

Since the family seems to have a shared interest in cooking and baking, one can wonder if the McKennas will ever open a shop together. The answer to that question is probably not.

“We’re control freaks, both of us, and so I don't know how that would ever work,” Tim said.

Laurie feels the same way and predicted exactly what her son would say too.

“My answer would be no because we're a lot alike and I think we would probably clash when it comes to working together so I'm going to guess he said something like that,” she said.

Even though they might not ever run a shop together, Laurie still likes to provide some motherly advice to Tim and the Athens Bread Company.

“I like to give him my advice on the bakery and he takes it or he leaves it,” she said. “He has not taken my advice on Joe Burrow bread.”


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