R - "Mom can we make donuts?"
M - "Not today Rachelle."
R - "Oh come on, why not?"
M - "Well I'm a bit busy today and we don't have all the ingredients."
R - "When can we go shopping?"
M - "I have to go to Woodstock on Saturday, how 'bout we get stuff then?"
R - "Can we make them when we get home?"
M - "Sure."
...and so begins my love affair with donuts, after all I am Canadian and a 12 year old girl.
I was fortunate enough to have a mom that baked, all the time, from what I can remember. There were always cookies or squares or a cake or pie to be had in the kitchen. I never had store bought cookies in my lunch, instead I got delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, or applesauce cookies, or peanut butter cookies.
Growing up with a constant supply of baked goods was wonderful, I would help my mom to make things (aka. lick the beaters and spatulas), as soon as I was old enough to help. This is why, a few years down the road, I decided to go to school for baking and pastry arts, here in Toronto.
School wasn't quite what I thought it would be. I thought that I would get to learn a whole bunch of new things, but instead I was making more of what I had made at home, just in a much bigger space and with a lot more time. So when it came time for our co-op placements, upon the recommendation of one of my teachers, who could see that I wasn't being challenged, I went to Niagara on the Lake, to work under a friend of hers that was the pastry chef for all the Vintage Inns properties. I was there for a few weeks, learning lots of stuff, and one day I overheard a co-worked comment to another about how slow I was. Here I thought I had been doing an amazing job. Embarrassing!
When I went back a year later for a full time job, I surprised them with my new found speed and quickly took over the a la carte dessert station.
During this time (1999) I was lucky enough to be a part of the Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP) which took me to England, Devon to be exact, and into a beautiful Tudor style hotel called Gidleigh Park, it also happened to have 2 michelin stars. I was trained under chef Michael Caines, a very talented chef who himself trained under such greats as Raymond Blanc and Joel Robichon, and who also, shortly after taking over as head chef at the hotel, fell asleep at the wheel and woke up in the arms of a strange woman and missing his right arm. A story of perseverance and strength was also a lesson I would forever take with me.
Working in England was so different from working in Ontario. And being the only girl in a 7 man brigade, made me want to prove myself even more. There were no shortcuts, nothing pre-made or bought in and only the best ingredients were used throughout my 17 hour days.
After 2 years in England, I decided I needed some much deserved sunshine and headed for Sydney. Where I threw myself into the front of house, and where I met Mark Best, owner of Marque Restaurant. After convincing him that I would work for free, and that I just wanted to learn, he took me in and trained me in proper service, as well as paid me. Marque had 2 hats when I worked there, now it has 3 and is one of the best restaurants in Australia.
Having enjoyed the sun and the laid back attitude of the friendly inhabitants of Sydney, which reminded me an awful lot of those at home), I decided to come home (well, my travellers visa decided for me) and switch things up a little by going back to school for 2 years for massage therapy. After passing my licensing exams and being more mentally exhausted than I thought possible, I took off for New Zealand, 'cause why not?!
I worked in an upscale resort and golf course in the very far north of the north island called Kauri Cliffs, where I was fortunate enough to do both massage and pastry.
My trip was cut short when my brother decided to get married, so after 7 months I headed back home and moved to Toronto.
I worked in a spa in Yorkville when I stumbled upon Jamie Kennedy and his Wine Bar. I worked for the company for about 3 years and also met my husband there.
Shortly after, in 2010, Scott and I opened Beast Restaurant. Where I took on pastry as well as front of house duties.
In early 2011, I started making donuts for our brunch menu and they took off so well that I joined the line up at TUM, the Toronto Underground Market.
In 2012 I started selling donuts out of the back door of Beast on Thursday mornings until they were sold out.
I now supply donuts to Sam James Coffee Bar and Sanagan's Meat Locker, as well as Beast Restaurant.
As for which are my favourites:
I have always preferred yeast over cake. But just so you know, I wouldn't dream of discriminating.
It's just that there's something uniquely satisfying about a fresh yeast raised donut, ever so soft with a bit of a chew to it, and a delicious (not too sweet) icing on top.
I may not love filled donuts the way some do, but I now have a greater appreciation for them, especially when it's an almond frangipane filled donut with brandy icing and crushed candied almonds on top with a hint of salt. Ya, those are alright.... and you can call them the Godfather.