The guys who started it, Dan Dunbar and Christopher Hollowell, are fun, got a lotta heart and personality to spare. We had a chance to visit with them in March on the heels of their February 2011 launch. Attached here (above) is our podcast interview.
They are trying to gather enough funds to open a storefront to provide vegan doughnuts to the public everyday.With their crowd fundraising campaign in full swing I thought why not republish our interview for those who perhaps didn’t have a chance to check it out before.
So here it is, our podcast interview with Dun-Well Doughnuts founders Dan Dunbar and Christopher Hollowell. Hope you enjoy it. Some of the interview has been transcribed below as well.
If you’d like, you can help put vegan doughnuts on the map in a big way by “doughnating” to their Dun-Well Doughnuts fundraising campaign with IndieGoGo.
Artisanal, locally sourced organic vegan doughnuts from Dun-Well Doughnuts are in fact taking the vegan world, and soon to be the entire world, by storm.
Tell me a little bit about how you guys started the company. What was your inspiration for starting it? What’s your background? Why doughnuts? Why vegan doughnuts?
Christopher: What happened was about a year ago . . . Dan and I have known each other since we were freshmen in college. I became vegan after he became vegan. We just became really best friends and for the past six years or so we’ve been talking about doing a business together, just wanting to do something. Food has always been a thing that we are both very passionate about, which is very evident when you look at Dan.
No, I’m just kidding. We joke. About a year ago, I was living in New York and Dan was living in Chicago, and I was watching a special on the Simpsons. It was their 20th Anniversary special and there was one section that was all about doughnuts, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I need a donut now.”
I was like, “This is New York City, there has to be vegan donuts.” So I started Googling and I couldn’t find anyplace, and then I eventually found that there were two locations that had them once a week and things like that, and one of them was shipped in from another part of the country. I was just really mad that I couldn’t get them when I wanted them.
Did you throw a fit? Did you scream?
Christopher: Temper tantrum is the word I think for it.
That’s what I was picturing as you were talking about it.
Christopher: You should have seen me. I was throwing things. I got evicted from my apartment because of it.
I can imagine.
Christopher: So I called up Dan and I said, “I think doughnuts is it,” and he’s a good friend and he just was like . . .
Dan: I followed blindly.
Christopher: He followed blindly.
Well, it seems to be a good decision so far.
Christopher: So we spent about, I don’t know, how many months, developing the recipe?
Dan: Just about as long. Right after we decided this was going to be it. I was living in Chicago. I was friends with the people that work at Veggie Bite, and they would let me go over and basically test make doughnuts from scratch and use their fryer.
I just kept going at it, adapting recipes, and eventually I got something that I thought was good enough to share with people for the first time. I started getting feedback, and then when the day came that a girl who was kind of a finicky eater – I could tell she was a little hesitant to even taste the doughnut – took a bite and then finished two of them right in front of me and said that they were the best doughnut she’d ever had, I was like, okay, we’re ready to start this business. I moved to New York, and we’re trying to get it on its feet as fast as we can.
So when did that actually transpire? When did you move here?
Dan: Early November .
Christopher: And then we launched in February , after he moved here. Right now, we’re a wholesale business. Our goal was to start small and get the word out and develop our product and see if we really had a product that people are interested in.
We launched in February at Moo Shoes with people from Lula’s Sweet Apothecary and Pine Box Rock Shop and it was a really successful event, and we started wholesaling to a few locations in New York City.
It’s just become very evident that we really do need to open a shop and have our own kitchen space and all this stuff that we really want. Right now that’s what we’re pushing for. We’re trying to find investors and expand our business so we can actually be supplying them every day rather than once a week.
People always want to know how can you do a baked good without butter and eggs and cream or milk, and obviously not giving us your list of ingredients, but how do you make the doughnut work without those things?
Christopher: The best part about being a vegan in 2011 as opposed to being one back in 1970 is that there are products on the market that help us with such things, such as like you can use cashew milk or soy milk or rice milk or all these other things that can help.
For example, we’ve done a lot of experimenting with Lula’s Sweet Apothecary for some time. They make their own cashew milk, and so we’ve used that before. We use soy milk in our doughnuts, and for eggs, there’s wonderful things that you can do to replace them.
You can use bananas, you can use egg replacers, easy egg replacers, you can sometimes use tofu or even flax seed oil and it’s kind of a combination of lots of different things to develop what we need.
Dan: I think one of the really interesting differences is that when you’re talking about non-vegan food, someone will say, “Oh, this baked good needs an egg,” and when you talk about vegan food, it opens up to all of these different possibilities because there are different ingredients with different properties, and we use several of them in place of eggs that have different qualities that they’ll add to the baked good.
So there’s really just a world of new possibilities and things that someone can play with. It’s been awhile since I’ve been vegan, since right when I started college in 2002 and there are just so many things that you can use for eggs in baked goods. It’s ridiculous.
There’s a whole world of possibilities. Rather than sticking to what the tradition has been, it really opens things up. So instead of being a world of sacrifice, we’re really talking about veganism being abundance, exciting , delicious and better for you.
Christopher: I think that’s a very true statement. I didn’t become a foodie until I became a vegan, to tell you the truth. For example, I make I have to say an amazing pumpkin bread. I don’t want to pat my self on the back, but…
Go ahead. Go ahead.
Christopher: When my brother, who is not vegan, came to visit me once . . . I make two loaves at a time whenever I make it. Everything’s fresh. I bake the pumpkin myself and do all this stuff – he had it and he loved it so much that he wanted the recipe. So I gave him the recipe, and I used applesauce in it instead of eggs and so I told him that. I was like, “Yeah, it’s like three eggs worth of applesauce. It’s three scoops, I don’t know, something like that,” and I showed him.
He was like, “Okay.” He decided to use eggs when he went home. Then after he did that he was like, “Yeah, it’s better with the applesauce.” He told me that he’ll never make it with the eggs again. It just tastes better with the applesauce, and a lot of people wouldn’t think to do that, but when he tried the two of them he was just like it’s just better.
So when did you each become vegan? Christopher, you were 2002?
Christopher: No, that’s Dan.
Christopher: It was like around 2005, senior year of college, I think. Around then, ’05-ish. Like the summer of ’05. It was a transitional experience…I actually gave up dairy before I gave up meat. Yeah. A lot of people find that very weird. It’s just the way I went about it for me, my path towards veganism. Now when somebody asks me, “Why are you vegan?” I go, “Pick a reason,” or, “Why are you not?” When I first started it was health. It was a health thing and then it quickly evolved.
Dan: Actually it’s the opposite for me. I started for animal-related reasons without any notion that my health was going to change, and you could say overnight my health changed. It must have been like, say about seven months, I lost 80 pounds of excess body weight.
Well you guys are a part of this whole sort of movement of veganism becoming more mainstream. I think with products like yours coming out and all the great vegan fashion it just feels like there’s a groundswell of change that’s happening.
Dan: When you talk to people that are considering adopting a vegan diet, they say…”I can’t give up cheese,” “I can’t give up eggs,” “I can’t give up hot dogs,” and 15 years ago, you would have to say “Maybe you’ll find something else you’ll like.”
Nowadays, there are so many transition foods, the mock meats, the fake cheeses like Daiya. Now people are falling less and less on that “I really need cheese,” and that’s kind of the idea with doughnuts, is like, “oh, well I really love doughnuts,” and you can still have doughnuts. You can have a better doughnut.
I think food is such a unique opportunity for activism because it is that barrier for a lot of people to start thinking about what’s happening to animals and even an excuse to not think about what’s happening to animals, because if you can say I can’t give this up then why should you even have to burden yourself with thinking about where your food comes from?
If you see you have options, that you really don’t have to change your eating habits that much, and just make smarter choices about what you’re eating, then I think it creates a willingness, an openness in people to look at what’s happening.
I like the way you worded it – a barrier. Because it’s sort of knocking down one thing and then maybe now you can see the next.
Dan: And in a positive way, not a critical way. Not an attack on somebody’s choices, but saying we have these wonderful delicious doughnuts. We would love you to eat them and enjoy them with your friends, and hopefully after that it will knock a barrier and people will be more receptive to thinking about their food.
So let’s talk about the types of doughnuts, there are glazed doughnuts and there are cake doughnuts.
Dan: There are two schools of doughnuts. There are the cake doughnuts, which I think are much more common to find the vegan variety of, and then there are the risen doughnuts that use yeast as a rising agent as opposed to baking powder.
The yeast-risen doughnuts are like Krispy Kremes, and at least in the west, these are considered the best doughnuts amongst doughnut lovers at least. It’s the golden standard as a good risen doughnut, the yeast-risen doughnut. So that was behind our decision to provide a really great yeast-risen doughnut. It’s definitely a lot more time consuming.
There’s a process that really requires that you’re intimate with the entire process of making sure that the temperatures are right, that the yeast is properly activated, and then there are rising times and the doughnuts themselves are just so delicate they really require so much more care than the cake doughnut, which is essentially just dropped into oil in the shape of a doughnut and that’s what cooks it. The yeast-risen doughnuts, we have to treat each one of them like a baby, and then at the end we get a good doughnut.
Christopher: Right. Then we’re developing, we have a cake doughnut recipe, but we haven’t started doing it yet. When we open a shop we’ll be providing those, but we just can’t at the moment. This is what we’re focusing on is our yeast-risen.
Dan: The properties of the dough that we make can be adapted in a lot of different ways, too, so when we have our own shop we can do bear claws, we can do braids, twists, cinnamon rolls.
Dan: Turnovers. But for now we’re keeping focused on the doughnuts, the round and the filled doughnuts…Tomorrow we’re going to be releasing a banana creme doughnut and we’re releasing a whiskey sour doughnut. We’ll have a whiskey-infused creme inside and it will be frosted with both a lemon and lime frosting.
It’s a new happy hour is what it is.
Dan: Exactly. We would like to collaborate with Pine Box, the vegan bar in Brooklyn, and give them a whole range of boozy doughnuts. But like we’ve said, for now our production capabilities are rather limited, and so that’s why we’re focusing so much also on the business side trying to get our plan together. We have our product, we’ve done our homework, so once we get a shop we know what we’re doing and we can make it work.
So down the road the people outside of the New York area might get to have some of your doughnuts as well?
Christopher: That is a hope, step-by-step right now.
I don’t mean to overwhelm you, but word is going to spread and people are going to be like, “We need these doughnuts in our city.”
Christopher: That’s something that we would love to do, and we’ve been going for almost a month now and it’s becoming increasingly obvious our need to expand and what our capabilities and capacities will be and I think once we make this step as it were, I think we’ll be able to really distribute to more places and more people will be able to enjoy our doughnuts.
Where do you draw your inspiration for all the different innovative flavors?
Dan: The doughnut to us, I think because we’re both artistic, is in many ways the blank canvas. The ideas, sometimes we’ll just start going back and forth naming a type of doughnut we could make. We have to remind ourselves occasionally that we need to start writing this all down and we do, but we look for ideas from people that try our doughnuts. On our blog, we encourage people to write and leave comments about flavors. There’s really no end to what we can do with doughnuts. We have smores doughnuts. We’re really just chipping the edge of the iceberg.
Christopher: Last night we were talking about a variety of savory doughnuts that we want to do, and one of the ones that Dan came up with that I really love is the idea of making a curry-infused doughnut with a mango chutney glaze.
Christopher: It would be a really interesting flavor I think, and we can totally do it and we want to develop it, but right now because of our distributing, we’re not going to be making them for the places we’re going. So it’s when we have a shop we’ll be doing more of that.
Dan: I think if somebody thought they were getting a lemon frosted and it turned out to be a Thai Curry, they might be thrown off a little bit. It doesn’t mean it won’t be good, but we’re going to have a special rack for our savory doughnuts.
Christopher: In Brooklyn, we sell them every Saturday, that’s when we deliver at Champs Family Bakery and Boneshakers. Then in Manhattan, it’s the same day, Saturday, that we sell them at Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, Cocoa V, and Blossom Du Jour.
Okay, and what time do you deliver, because somebody would be really disappointed if they got there at 10:00 and they didn’t arrive until 11:00. When you want your doughnut, you want it now. Otherwise, there’s going to be a tantrum or something is going to happen.
Christopher: Let’s see, there’s an order on how they’re delivered. So they show up at Boneshakers around 8:45ish.
Dan: Boneshakers and Champs between 8:45 and 9:00.
Christopher: And then Lula’s and Blossom Du Jour and Cocoa V, they show up between 9:00 and 9:30.
Dan: But Lula’s doesn’t open until . . .
Christopher: Lula’s doesn’t open until 3:00.
Dan: So if you’re first in line to get into Lula’s, they’re going to be having a couple dozen doughnuts each week, so you could get a doughnut from them pretty easily.
Christopher: And it’s always an assorted variety.
Right. That sounds really good. You have to get there early though I think, because they might sell out.
Christopher: I did hear that last week someone walked in as soon as Boneshakers opened and bought an entire dozen.
Christopher: So that’s 12.
Dan: I’m not going to complain, but there are some greedy vegans out there.
Yeah, I’m becoming one of them. You’ve turned me into one of them.
Christopher: Eventually you’ll be able to walk into our shop, and if we have our own shop and you call us ahead of time and say, “I want these many doughnuts in this variety,” we’ll make them for you. It’s in the future. It’s going to happen.
I love it. You guys are doing such great work and I love your style and your whole creativity and kindness and everything that you’re bringing to your product and the world. It’s just really awesome. I think you guys are awesome.
Christopher: We hope that people really enjoy our product, and we really enjoy bringing it to them.
I think when we get our kick start campaign off and we can find people to maybe want to invest in our business with us.
Dan: If you know any wealthy animal-friendly or vegan folks, this is a sure-fire bet, a good investment.
Dan: The vegan community is the best community to be a part of. There’s just so much caring about the other people involved and helping one another out. I’m thankful that I’m vegan, but I’m also so thankful that we aren’t just making doughnuts, that we’re making vegan doughnuts and it’s such a wonderful community to be a part of.
Christopher: Dun-Well Doughnuts; Doughnuts Done Well.