Richard comes from America but has lived all over the world from China to the Caribbean. He has worked in the pastry industry for many years at renowned places such as Eleven Madison Park in New York and Mandarin Oriental and Escribà in Barcelona. He has recently opened a beautiful donut shop in the Sant Antoni neighborhood. In his workshop, which is visible from the street, he makes small batches of his dough everyday. The flavor of the dough is much more intense since he uses a triple fermentation process. Richard creates original and unique flavors that surprise your palate. His strong beliefs and values are seen in the quality of his product. He believes in artisanal products that are handmade and in paying close attention to the details of every aspect of his business.
We talked to him about his project, his ideas and his philosophy about food.
You’re originally from the U.S. How did you find your way to Barcelona?
I was living in New York City and I wanted a break. I decided to take some time off to spend a few months here and in Paris. It has been seven years now since I arrived for vacation. Now, Barcelona is my home.
Before settling in here you’ve lived in many places. Where have you lived and how did it influence you?
I grew up in Atlanta but I moved around a lot. I was in New York for a good number of years before coming here. I’ve also lived in San Francisco, the Dominican Republic, Newport, Rhode Island, China, Japan and I spent a lot of time travelling other places. I’ve been to South America many times. I think all these travels have an impact and influence you. Obviously not just personally but also you discover things such as new flavors, new techniques and new working styles. The style of working here is very different than in the Caribbean or in Japan. These things have an inherent impact on you.
“Having an open kitchen was something important for me so I could show that there’s nothing to hide.”
How did you decide to start a place that specialized in donuts?
I’ve worked in the pastry industry for a long time. Before I opened my shop, I worked at the Mandarin Oriental and I was the pastry chef for Escribà. I was always thinking of what I wanted to do next. In the U.S. you can find donut shops everywhere and this is something that I missed while living here in Barcelona. I wanted to create a variety of interesting flavors of donuts that were natural and artisanal. I started developing this idea a few years ago. While working, I started laying out the framework, planning it and I started looking for the perfect location. It took a long time but finally I found this space. Then I had to come up with the plan and all of the aspects of the design. I did all the work myself with the help of great friends.
Congratulations! We love how your shop turned out. What image or message did you want to project?
The most important thing for me was that people could see that everything was handmade and all artisanal. Because there are a lot of places here, especially traditional pastry shops that have been open for 100 years, which still have a sign stating artisanal production. However, they buy their products half frozen and then bake it, and I think that’s really sad. I think this has caused people to question the artisanal sign. Having an open kitchen was something important for me so I could show that there’s nothing to hide.
What part of the process is the most important to get a delicious donut like yours?
The most important thing for me, not just here, has always been using the best ingredients that I could find. Also, the dough that we make is different. It’s fermented three times so it’s a very long and slow fermentation. This long process is what develops the flavors. It’s not just dough but it has flavor like a nice sourdough. I think that’s really important for the integrity of the donuts. For me it’s important to take the time to do it right and not rush the process.
Your flavors are very original. Where does the inspiration for the flavors come from?
I try to put flavors that I think will taste good together. It’s just constantly trying new things to keep it interesting, trying to push myself and get things a little better everyday. I believe it’s very important to use ingredients that are in season and also incorporate local holidays or festivals. For example, we did a donut with candied fruits for San Juan. Now I’m thinking of ideas to do for Castanyada. I do one that is filled with carajillo which I think is fun because people from here know carajillo but if you come from abroad it’s interesting to try it in a donut. On the other hand, I also like to use green tea because of the time I spent in Japan. It’s a little bit of everything. Obviously, it is very personal. It’s like when a chef creates their menu.
Do you have a favorite flavor?
I always seem to like the newest ones. In general, I also like things that are a little more acidic or a little more savory. Passion fruit with cocoa nibs was one of our original flavors. I still think it’s a fantastic combination. It’s acidic and the nibs of cocoa are of a toasted bitter chocolate taste. Bacon, maple and apple donut is another of my favorites.
Why did you choose this neighborhood for your shop?
I wanted a neighborhood that had room to grow and evolve, and that still was a real neighborhood. I like the feeling of seeing the same people regularly. I also wanted to be within walking distance of the city center. Of course, the fact that Sant Antoni Market is going to open makes it really cool. It’s going to be the biggest and the best one for sure!
Is there a sense of community between the people that work in the neighborhood?
I think so. I’ve had this space for about a year now so I started getting to know the people from the neighboring businesses. Everybody is friendly and tries to support each other. All the businesses that are opening here share a similar concept: all are people that are passionate about what they do and they focus on quality in whatever they do.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like working with sweets. I think the pastry field is very artistic and there are a lot of possibilities. Also they seem to make people really happy and excited. People use pastries for celebrations so it makes it fun. I like to think of the donuts as small pleasures in life. I like that aspect of it.
What have you learned from this craft?
The most important thing I’ve learned is consistency. I think that being consistent and determined to do the same thing over and over again is really important to the craft. Not getting lazy or giving up but realizing the importance of striving to get the best results.
Describe your typical day:
I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, I come here and I start making the dough. Once the dough is started, I refine the day’s selection, I have coffee and then it is basically the same routine. The donuts are all made in small batches throughout the day because I want them to be as fresh as possible. It’s a long day but when you work in the pastry industry, the majority of the work is in the early morning. It’s always been like that.
Something you love about living here and something you miss from the U.S.
The thing that I love the most about being here is the importance that’s put on the quality of life. Taking time to spend with your friends and family, although I don’t have much free time right now. I think overall, it’s a little more relaxed and I love living by the sea. The things I miss most from there, apart from my friends and family, are certain activities like fishing with my grandfather and eating barbecue and southern food. I think every place can be good for you at certain stages in your life. New York was great for me at that time and now Barcelona is the place for me.
What do you think of the Spanish food culture?
The culture is definitely distinct and special. I love that there is a type of food for every moment of every day, plus I’ve always been one to eat dinner late so I felt very at home immediately. My favorite things are fuet, pa amb tomaquet and tortilla de patatas. Oh, and croquetas! Local and regional specialties are second to none here but for other kinds of cuisine, they are not as available, but it is improving. There’s a very good Thai place called Café Bangkok, which is authentic and spicy. I also like Ramen Ya-Hiro a lot.
Finally, could you please recommend another artisan to us?
Georgina from Museu de la Confitura. She is an incredible woman and her staff is fantastic. They make very artisanal marmalades and are very passionate about it. I found them about 6 years ago and I started buying from them for the Mandarin. This was one of the first really high quality artisanal products that I encountered here and I thought it was amazing. I would take it anywhere in the world and would encourage everyone to try their marmalades. Now I make them myself because I enjoy the process of making them. I make it a priority to do them. But if it ever gets to be that the quantity I need it’s too high that I can’t produce, I’ll get it from them for sure.
Carrer Parlament, 20. 08015 Barcelona