Thursday 16 March 2017

An American/Irish-owned doughnut shop in Paris: Boneshaker

I was looking at pictures on Instagram the other day and noticed a picture of doughnuts from Boneshaker Paris posted by a Paris-based blogger I follow. They looked really good so I had a little look at their account and noticed they had a 'Paddy's Day doughnut box' where the donuts had names like 'Free gaff' and 'Gwan, Ye Will'; they could only be from Ireland. After googling I found out that American lady Amanda Bankert-Scott and her Irish husband Louis Scott were feeding Parisians scrumptious doughnuts and getting rave reviews.

Naturally I wanted to learn a little more about the story of Boneshaker so I got in touch and Amanda kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

You’re American and your husband is Irish, what made you move to Paris?

I'm originally from Alexandria, Virginia. I have duel Irish and American citizenship, and now live in Paris with my Dubliner husband, Louis, and our three boys - aged 14, 12, and almost 3. I have been a sporadic resident of this city since I first arrived as an art history student back in 2002. What began as a five month study abroad program quickly morphed into an eight month stint, after which I (begrudgingly) returned to New York to finish my degree at Sarah Lawrence College. After graduating, I jumped on a plane and immediately got knuckle-deep in flour and sugar at the Cordon Bleu Paris, where I completed a pastry degree in 2004.

I spent my formative adult years in Dublin. During that time, I worked in a myriad of kitchens - ranging from a Michelin-starred establishment to a locavore, organic cafeI frequently daydreamed, however, of reclaiming my abandoned life of picnics along the Seine, salade chevre chaud, and museum-worthy pastries. In the summer of 2012, I packed up my Irish life and permanently relocated to France. Our family of five lives in a gloriously tiny Montmartre apartment, sandwiched between Sacre Coeur and the neon lights of the discount department store, TATI.

Tell me about ‘Boneshaker’. When did you start your business and how did you come up with the idea?

The idea for Boneshaker came in 2013 when Louis and I were eating cinnamon sugar donuts at the beach in New Jersey. There’s a mom-and-pop bakery there that I have visited every summer since I was a little girl. Lou and I and did the “morning donut run” for the house (my favorite/only type of run) and both thought, “I wish we could get these in Paris!” We’ve worked in the service industry for years (he’s an old fixture in the Parisian Irish pub scene, and I’ve worked in restaurants in America, Ireland, and France since I was 15), so it made sense that the next step would be to open a space of our own. (We have a cinnamon sugar donut on our menu, called the “Beach Haven” – in honor of the town where it all began!)
We began selling doughnuts in 2015 - initially I was making them in our kitchen, using a fryer I found for 10€ in a neighborhood flea market. I spent a few months developing the base recipe for our dough. We started supplying some of the local speciality coffee shops, and the business grew from there. We opened the doors to our brick-and-mortar boutique in July 2016. We serve filter coffee by locally-roasted Belleville Brûlerie.

We're constantly creating new flavors. Our menu is based equally on my mood, the season, and what I have in the kitchen. We have a list of “core” flavors – like the Vanilla Bean, Beer, and Caramel Beurre Salé, but we also have an ever-changing array of options available.

It takes two days to make our doughnuts: I make the dough in the evening and leave it to rise overnight. The next morning, I get started around 5 am, rolling the dough, and hand cutting each donut before leaving them to rise a second time. Then they get fried and glazed. The whole process takes about 18 hours, start to finish.

I know French bureaucracy can be challenging, was it difficult to start a business in France?

Anyone who has opened a business in France can tell you it’s a rollercoaster. It’s no accident that there are so many memoirs written about the sometimes comedic/relentlessly frustrating red tape and shrugged shoulders you will encounter. But, like most things in France (and in life), if you persevere, you’ll succeed – even if you end up taking a different route than you initially envisioned. Sometimes the alternate route is better than the original.

You live in a country where people are used to eating eclairs, madeleines and croissants. What is it like to sell american doughnuts to French people? 

In modern-day Paris there is space for both croissants, eclairs, and doughnuts. Also, since I did my pastry training here, our doughnut recipes are ultimately rooted in classic French techniques. And a doughnut shop isn't too dissimilar to a pâtisserie: you walk in, and each individual pastry is on display, waiting to be boxed up and taken home. The French get it. 

Do you get many American expats looking for their doughnut fix?

We definitely get a lot of anglophone ex-pats coming in for a doughnut fix, which is brilliant. Our clientele is probably evenly split 50/50 between French and native English-speakers. Our biggest surprise has been that our French customers adore the maple bacon doughnut (!!) (despite some initial reservations.)

Tell me about your St Paddy’s Day doughnut box (which looks amazing), how did you come up with the flavours? 

The Paddy's Day Box O'Donuts was something that I came up with as a fun way to celebrate Paddy's Day. It's definitely aimed at the Irish community here in Paris - I tried to come up with a combination of flavours that would comprise a funny, "Ireland-in-a-box" vibe. The flavours are:
-Gwan, Ye Will: filled with a Barry's Tea-infused custard
-The 99: vanilla glazed and topped with a chantilly cream swirl and a Flake
-Free Gaff: chocolate glazed and topped with chocolate-dipped Tayto crisps
-The Yankle Doodle (an homage to the American "St. Patty's Day"): a shamrock shaped donut, dipped in a green beer glaze and decorated with edible gold leaf (for the leprechauns)
-The Holy Trinity: Jameson whiskey glazed, topped with fried bacon and candied cabbage

What do you love and dislike the most about living in Paris? 

Things I love about living in Paris: the beauty of the city (it's a cliché, but Paris' beauty is timeless and breathtaking), the cultural appreciation for artistic and artisanal endeavours, the emphasis/importance placed on enjoying life, the outdoor markets, the creativity, the snarkiness, the unexpected kindness, and of course, THE FOOD.

Things I don't love about Paris: nothing in particular; every place on Earth has its ups and downs, good days and bad days. Paris is a real, living/breathing city - just like anywhere else. That said, I avoid taking the metro if I can. 

You’ve lived in Ireland for 8 years and your husband is from Dublin, what do you miss the most about Ireland?

What do I miss about Ireland? my friends (!!), old man pubs, pots of properly-made tea, taking the DART to Killiney Beach in warm(ish) weather, club sandwiches at the Shelbourne Hotel (an annual birthday treat to myself), Murphy's brown bread ice cream, cycling by the canal.

There is a bit of a doughnut craze in Dublin at the moment. Have you tried any of the doughnuts in Dublin, and do you have any favourites?

Louis and I were last in Dublin in 2015, before the doughnut craze had really kicked off. We did try lemon curd doughnuts by Dublin Doughnut Co at Vice Coffee on Abbey St during that trip - they were seriously delicious! I follow a lot of the doughnut shops on Instagram & I'm excited to try them all the next time we're in town! 

Merci beaucoup Amanda!

Boneshaker Paris
77 rue d'Aboukir
75002 Paris
Boneshaker Paris's website