Doughnuts, those deep-fried cheat day—or any day, really—favourites, have been elevated to holy shit that’s delicious levels by Amanda Kinden, the one-woman show that is Oh Doughnuts.
Kinden, who has always liked to cook and bake, has a Business Administration diploma from Red River College, but no formal culinary training. Wanting to combine the two, she thought about opening a vegetarian restaurant, but that seemed too complex and daunting. She thought about opening a Newfie store—her parents are transplanted Newfoundlanders, and there are stores across Canada that cater to this specific breed of Canadian—and while she says she drinks and swears like one, she thought against it. It wasn’t until she was asked to cater an event that the idea of doughnuts came up.
“I was asked to do desserts for Manitoba Eco-Network’s Reel Green Festival, and so I was trying to figure out what I could do that would be all encompassing, so regular, vegan, and gluten free, and I thought, oh, I’ll do doughnuts.”
The doughnuts were a hit, and people asked if she had a card, or if they could do special orders. This lead Kinden to realize that other than chain stores named after hockey greats and birds, there were no doughnuts, let alone gourmet doughnuts, available in Winnipeg, and that this could be the market she had been looking for. She began testing flavour ideas on co-workers and family members, all the while thinking that a coffee shop like Parlour would be the perfect place to sell her creations.
The thing about a good idea—like selling gourmet doughnuts at a craft coffee shop—is that other people tend to agree, and want to make the idea a reality, possibly so they can personally benefit from it. While Kinden was testing recipes, a friend approached Nils Vik, owner of Parlour Coffee, and suggested the doughnuts. Vik thought it was a great idea, and after a taste test, Oh Doughnuts found a home.
This opportunity was a great one, but at the time, Kinden was frying doughnuts three at a time in a regular deep fryer, which added time to the already labour intensive process. Unlike regular deep fryers, which are narrow and deep, doughnut fryers are shallow and wide, allowing for many doughnuts to be fried at once, cutting down the overall assembly time. Thankfully, Kinden got shared kitchen space in Knox United Church, and eventually got a doughnut fryer. Since then, Kinden has branched out, and her doughnuts are available Monday to Saturday at Parlour, Little Sister Coffee Maker, and Thom Bargen.
Becoming Queen of the doughnuts isn’t something that just happens. It takes hard work, creativity, and a willingness to get up at midnight. Yes, midnight, 1:30 if she’s making simple doughnuts
“This morning I got up at 1:30, because I was making simple doughnuts, so I make doughnuts, and then I deliver, usually by 7:05, and people are already waiting for them. Then I go home and eat lunch, at eight o’clock, and because I’m still starting up, there are lots of like, business plan-y things to do. Usually I crash around ten, and have a little nap, and then I get up and maybe make dinner at lunch-time.”
With a goal bedtime of six o’clock, Kinden estimates she sees her wife—she’s a newlywed—an hour a day.
“Live is a strong word that I wouldn’t really use right now. I’m managing my life. It’s interesting. I’ve done overnights before. I definitely see my partner maybe an hour a day. Friends are hard to maintain, but, I get a lot of alone time, and that’s really nice.”
Her wife, who she refers to affectionately as her sugar mamma, has helped her take the leap to pursue Oh Doughnuts full time. She originally dropped down to part time at Green Action Centre, but, as she puts it, “getting up at one in the morning really leads your brain to turn into mush.”
While the sacrifices Kinden’s made have been great, so has Winnipeg’s response; people are rabidly excited about these doughnuts.
Kinden recalls waking from a nap to Twitter notifications about one woman’s doughnut quest, and subsequent meltdown.
“One lady tweeted her entire doughnut journey, like, ‘oh my god, you guys I need to show restraint because I have to get into a swimsuit in two weeks,’ then a little later ‘forget it, I’m heading down.’ This is on twitter, so it’s a play by play of her getting to Parlour, and this was at like 11 am, so they were sold out, but she was tweeting her whole trip, like, ‘okay, I’m in line, but it’s long,’ ‘shit, a guy just walked out with a box of doughnuts.’ She gets to the till and they’re sold out, and she’s tweeting ‘doughnuts not worth the wait,’ or something and her friends were tweeting back ‘we don’t need those stupid doughnuts anyway;’ it just got to be this whole big thing, but I was sleeping when all this was happening, and I woke up to all these notifications and I was like what is happening?! It was crazy.”
Reactions like the woman’s above aren’t unusual. Kinden uses Twitter and Instagram to announce the day’s flavours, and they’re usually sold out before lunch.
“I feel crushing, monumental pressure,” she jokes. “I’m pretty self-deprecating and self-conscious, and I’m worried about pleasing everybody, so I just walk in and assume nobody is there for doughnuts,” she says. “A woman who had ordered doughnuts for a bridal shower the week before was at Parlour, and she introduced herself and said ‘Hi I’m so and so, and I just wanted to say the doughnuts were great and I told everyone about you,’ and I just stood there, mouth probably open, kind of like, oh, she means me.”
While selling in places like Parlour and Little Sister works for now, the end goal is a storefront bakery. Having her own space would help mitigate the issues that come with sharing a cooking space with other people, and would help cut down on the assembly time. It would also allow her to hire a baker to do the first round of doughnuts, so she could sleep in past midnight, and see her wife more.
Kinden’s been approached by a couple of people for a few different spaces, but so far nothing has felt right, so the search continues, and Kinden continues to cook and deliver her doughnuts to grateful, waiting Winnipeggers.
Sara is in a committed relationship with Winnipeg. They fight, and sometimes need to take a break, but they always come back to each other. You can follow her on twitter.