Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Doughbot Dukes It Out On Donut Showdown

This week I've been thinking a lot about the TV show Seinfeld - the show about nothing. Yes, it became famous for the concept that it was really about...nothing.

The reason it has been in my thoughts is that I'm wondering how one writes a blog post about nothing. Since I found out that Doughbot Donuts was going to be competing on a doughnut cooking show, I was determined to write about the whole thing. The problem is the giant gag order from Food Network Canada. I can't ask questions about the show, post the audition tape, even get pictures from their appearance on the show. And we aren't even able to view the show! It's locked for viewing to Canada only and is not even going to be available for online streaming. Doughbot's Bryan Widener has been very tight-lipped as such competition shows have strict confidentiality agreements. Should any information leak out pre-airing, they would forfeit the $10,000 prize. Part of all the secrecy probably has to do with the possibility that the show will eventually air on the U.S. Food Network. So we will do the best we can today, follow the Twitter feed (#donutshowdown) tonight, and then tomorrow you can catch a follow-up post with more details and whether they won or not on SacPress.com.
For the rest of this post I'll be using "donut" instead of "doughnut" in keeping with the show.

Doughbot Donuts opened in September of 2011 (Doughbot Donuts Debuts). Bryan Widener and Dannah O'Donnell had been making donuts for friends and family for some time before opening the shop at 10th & W.  Widener has perfected raised donuts, both vegan and regular, with creative glazes and fillings using seasonal ingredients. You might find blood orange for another week or so, but Meyer lemons are now gone because the season is over. You can enjoy a creme brulee donut filled with custard inside and a bruleed crusty glaze on top. Or how about a S'mores donut with homemade marshmallows that are torched to order?

Last fall the phone rang one morning. It was a production company that had been doing Google searches looking for artisan donut shops. They needed donut shops that made everything from scratch. (Most shops use mixes.) Doughbot was being invited to compete on Donut Showdown, the Canadian version of Cupcake Wars. It would mean flying to Toronto to shoot at the end of November. 

Donuts are huge in Canada. The main vendor is Tim Hortons, which is the donut equivalent to Starbucks and the major sponsor for Donut Showdown. Widener said they even saw two Tim Hortons across the street from each other in Toronto. Tim Hortons has been building more stores in the U.S., primarily in the Northeast. 

Like our Cupcake Wars (CW), Donut Showdown (DS) is a cooking competition with eliminations. The difference is that CW has three rounds and four teams while DS has two rounds and three teams. CW is an hour show, DS is only a half hour. The prize is $10,000 (Canadian). Luckily the exchange rate is pretty equivalent right now.

The Donut Showdown judges include chefs Zane Caplansky, Maggie McKeown, David Rocco, and Danny Boome. An interesting fact I learned was that Boome never tastes the donuts or any food from any shows he appears on. No reason is given, it's just some personal rule he follows. How you can judge without tasting, I don't know.

Each show has a theme and we do know that the episode that Doughbot competes on is "Camping". The other two competitors are Jacey from Gimme Sugar Catering in Salt Lake City and Mark Klebeck from Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle. Donuts might be big in Canada, but all three competitors this round were from the U.S. The first round of the competition includes special ingredients. After one competitor is eliminated, the final round includes the theme, presentation, and display.

The week after Thanksgiving Widener and O'Donnell closed up shop to fly to Toronto for filming. Donut Showdown put them up for two nights, but they elected to add on an extra day. Widener and O'Donnell spent the extra day walking around and exploring downtown Toronto. They found Toronto to be really clean and seemingly free of homeless. They were surprised that, in this era of PETA, there were a lot of furrier shops. But it was also cold and Dannah found it an interesting experience to be in a major city when it was snowing. The couple also had time to share notes with the other donut competitors, since made-from-scratch donut shops are a rarity.

If you want to try some donut recipes provided by some of the competitors, there is a Donut Showdown recipe booklet which includes Doughbot's recipes for Pistachio Cake Donuts with Cardamom Saffron Honey Glaze and Donut Bread Pudding.

The Doughbot episode airs tonight, April 9th, at 6 p.m. our time. Catch @doughbotdonuts live tweeting during the show with #donutshowdown.

Read the results on SacPress.com.
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