Behind the polished glass of a doughnut shop’s pastry display case lies a stunning collection of pure culinary allurement. Fresh pastries of varying shapes and sizes are dressed up with colorful and sweet glazes, toppings and garnishes canvassing the surface of every impeccably prepared treat. The sight of this edible eye-candy is enough to overcome even the strongest willpower – a result of the passion and ingredients pastry chef extraordinaire, Kamal Grant, puts into each hand-made delicacy featured at his Atlanta, Georgia pastry haven, Sublime Doughnuts. Below, Grant discusses today’s trends, his thoughts on the evolution of the pastry industry, and Sublime Doughnuts, home of the full-bodied pastry … despite the hole.
Janae Morris (JM): Let’s cover the basics first. Give us a little history on the inspiration that bore the concept of Sublime Doughnuts.
Kamal Grant (KG): I am Kamal Grant, the “Doughnut Master” and Sublime leader. I have been involved in baking for the larger part of my life, training at major baking institutions and in many aspects of the food industry.
After graduating from Atlanta’s Marietta High School, I joined the United States Navy to pursue my dream of becoming a world-class baker. The Navy provided both top-notch training and the opportunity to experience international cuisines that opened my eyes to an entirely new approach to the art and science of baking.
After the Navy, I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, where I focused on classical French baking and pastry techniques under the guidance of award-winning chefs. I interned under one of America’s top 10 pastry chefs, Keegan Gerhard, at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans before further refining my skills and knowledge about the science of baking at the American Institute of Baking. To finalize my preparation to oversee my own business, I worked as a supervisor at Flowers Baking Company, gaining proficiency in merging high quality with high volume.
In 2008, I found the ideal location for my business and opened Sublime Doughnuts, and my customers have been enjoying the delicious products of my experience, skills and knowledge ever since.
JM: There is a franchising form on your site. Seeing as you already have an establishment in Thailand, is your dream to have an international chain of Sublime Doughnuts someday?
KG: Yes, that is my dream. I would love to see Sublime Doughnuts all over the world.
JM: I once wrote a Mother’s Day card that brought my mother to tears. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a writer. What was the first dessert you ever created that solidified for you that pastry & confections was your calling?
KG: I really enjoyed making Monkey Bread as a kid.
JM: International flavors and combinations have greatly inspired you. Which had the greatest impact on you? Would you/have you ever tried to recreate those flavor profiles here in the States?
KG: When I traveled to Singapore in the Navy, I was fascinated by their ice cream sandwich, which is ice cream in a slice of soft multi-colored bread. I have been trying to do that here with our ice cream doughnut sandwiches.
JM: You have quite the selection of menu options, including everything from Dulce de Leche glazed doughnuts to fritters, twists and ice cream burgers. In what instances does inspiration usually hit? And what’s your process when an idea comes about that you just have to try?
KG: Every minute of every day I think about food and different ideas. And then I just combine all the knowledge that I have learned throughout my years in the industry to try to recreate the flavors that come to mind.
JM: Some of today’s current trends are burnt breads/pastries, macarons, and fried dough of all kinds with dipping sauce. Are you inclined to expand on your menu, or will your current selection of baked goods remain the rock stars of Sublime?
KG: I believe ice cream and gelato are the future of Sublime. I’m trying to create a lot more composed ice cream dishes that will be grab-and-go like the doughnuts.
JM: What is your most popular menu item?
KG: Fresh Strawberries and Cream.
JM: In terms of trendsetting, utilizing your wealth of international flavor profiles, what kind of flavors do you aspire to unleash on the American dessert consumer?
KG: I think more exotic fruits will start working their way over here like pandan and durian.
JM: In the culinary industry, the possibilities for goodness and innovation are endless. Where would you like to see the next level of innovation go?
KG: Bubbles, aerated foods, and drinks.
JM: Here’s an odd question just because we like to be innovative on all levels at PreGel. With the knowledge that sweets make people happy, and making people happy being the foundation of your philosophy, what “happy” song would you want your customers walking away thinking about, or even singing after having a Sublime doughnut?
KG: Clearly, it is Pharrel’s “Happy”!
JM: As a veteran in the industry (with your former active duty in the U.S. Navy, that pun was definitely intended), what advice would you give the young “Kamal’s” looking to rise in the world of baking and specialty desserts?
KG: Read, study, learn, practice.
JM: One more question. What are the “Love Potion” and “Cool Potion” bottled items on your menu?
KG: Love Potion – Sweet rooibos red tea, strawberries, roses
Cool Potion – Sweet black tea, lemon