Before the doughnuts were devoured. (Photo by Jesse.)
One month ago, I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime: I was invited to participate in the Dun-Well Doughnuts doughnut eating contest at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival. This is the stuff wet dreams are made of for sweet-toothed foodies like myself. Sadly, I didn’t win the contest. I was too distracted by the gluteny goodness to gobble the doughnuts quickly. They were fantastic: light, fresh, flavorful, and yeasty! Everything a girl could want in a doughnut and more. In other words, these treats defied common law that vegan doughnuts are to be either dense, stale, or trucked in from another state.
I figured it couldn’t hurt to find out more about the dudes behind the doughnuts. Dan Dunbar and Christoper Hollowell were kind enough to answer a few questions I emailed them.
Are you from NYC? If not, what bought you here?
CH: Well, neither of us are from NYC originally. I am from a small town in western New York and Dan is from Maine. I initially moved here to pursue my acting career but Dan, well he moved here for doughnuts.
When did you start making doughnuts? What was your reaction when you made your first delicious batch?
DD: I started about a year ago when I was living in Chicago. Christopher called me up one night after having watched the 20th anniversary episode of the Simpsons and apparently seeing Homer enjoying doughnuts gave him a monster craving for some.
CH: It’s true.
DD: We had been talking to one another about opening a vegan shop for a couple of years by then and this doughnut idea really seemed to be the right fit for us. I started experimenting from scratch, got a small fryer, and tested batch after batch on my neighbors. Finally one day I was told by one of my doughnut testers that she had just eaten the best doughnut of her life, and this coming from a reformed Krispy Kreme addict. It was a particularly gratifying moment because the person I shared it with was so hesitant before trying the doughnut, she just picked off a bit from the edge, a moment later the doughnut was gone, and shortly after a second doughnut had disappeared! I started packing up my things and moved to NYC.
You’ve offered an impressive variety of doughnut flavors– including Whiskey Sour. What’s your inspiration?
CH: Dan and I are admitted foodies. Basically every time we eat something we ask each other “could this be a doughnut?”
DD: We really have to add that though we’ve got some 45 recipes in the bag, but we’ve really just chipped the iceberg.
CH: Really, our brains are in danger of rupturing from the pressure of “imagined doughnuts.” We’re always going to be making new ones, but probably never at the rate we think them up. What I’m really excited is about releasing our collection of savory doughnuts.
DD: Yeah, the savory doughnuts are really getting us excited because we’ve never seen anything like them out there, so at least until they become insanely popular we’ll be making something exclusive.
CH: Yeah, but Dan won’t let me make all of the flavors I think of.
DD: It’s true there are a few things like his Pepto-Bismol doughnut idea that I even find a bit “out there”
CH: I am wearing him down on that one though.
DD: Maybe if we call it the “Pepto-Abysmal.”
You both have fantastically streamlined figures. How many doughnuts do you eat a week? Got any fitness or diet tips to share with those of us who love doughnuts but don’t want a muffin top?
DD: Christopher and I are never going to market our doughnuts as a health food, though they are the healthiest real doughnuts out there. I think mostly in moderation and balance. Health is very important to both of us, but I honestly think going vegan saved my life. I lost 80 lbs when I went vegan back in 2002. And being healthy really isn’t as difficult as the commercial world makes it out to be. It boils down to diet and exercise, and there’s no reason why the indulgence of vegan doughnuts can’t be a part of that. Just work at not forming unhealthy eating habits, and your body will tell you if you’re eating well and getting enough activity.
CH: And we have to get a lot of activity because Dan and I eat a lot of our doughnuts. (I must have at least 8 to 12 a week.) But we are balancing it by training with Blythe and Derek from Lula’s Sweet Apothecary to run in the NYC marathon this coming November.
Like Jerri Blank, I like the pole and the hole. Any plans for expanding onto eclairs? What about other desserts?
CH: HAHAHA. I have to say that Strangers with Candy is one of Dan and my favorite shows. Back when him and I were thinking of opening a pizza shop we were going to call it Hobocamp Pizza. (That one is for all of the other SWC fans out there.)
DD: Christopher is a big fan of “long johns.” He’s experimented with making them a couple times, but he always seems to come up short ;). Just kidding! We’ve got awesome things planned, and a lot of collaboration with NYC’s other vegan businesses.
Can you also tell us all about your upcoming retail location?
CH: Well, we are looking around quite aggressively for the right space. We have looked at a few and really like one of them. So if all goes well we hope to have a storefront before the summer’s end. But, it is a process. It will happen when it is right.
DD: It isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap, but we’re in the zone right now. We can’t wait to find that perfect fit, because we have really high expectations for our shop and feel we have so much to offer the NYC vegan community.