Cory Clarke, the executive pastry chef here at Union Square Donuts, has been the driving creative force behind all of our monthly and specialty donuts that you've seen on our display at or shops this past year. Whether it's Raspberry Rhubarb Ricotta or a sweet & sticky S'Mores, she's always got a new donut creation cooking in the back of her mind. We wanted to get a little more insight into how her ideas manifest from dream to donut, & how she wound up with such an awesome job, so we sat down and asked her 5 questions to do just that.
So, how did you get into the donut business?
I met Heather Schmidt (one of USD's founders) years ago when I was working at Sherman Cafe in Union Square. Over the years, we kept running into each other at the November Project workout at Harvard Stadium on Wednesdays. One day, I asked her if I could do a "stage" [a period spent working/learning/training] at Union Square Donuts and the rest is history.
What's your creation process like for determining new flavors or styles?
I get inspiration from a lot of different places - going to farmer's markets, talking with friends about food, and traveling different places. This last summer I had the chance to visit Copenhagen, and I tried pickled Douglas Fir needles. I doubt I could work that into a donut flavor, but travel opens your mind to what's possible!
Once I have an idea, I start experimenting. Some flavors, like the S'Mores donut, happen very quickly. Others, like the Miso Butterscotch, take some figuring out. I like seasonal inspiration as well. It took a long time to get the apple fritters just right, but there is nothing better than a hot apple fritter on a cool fall day.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
Putting a new flavor into production. You can have a great idea - you can even execute it on a small scale - but it is really difficult to create a new flavor that works on a large scale. You need to make sure the recipe scales up properly, you need to train the staff, and you need to maintain quality. When you get everything right and it all comes together, it's a great feeling of accomplishment.
What's your favorite part of the job?
I love traveling around to the different stores and working with the staff. We talk about what is working at each location and what needs improvement. I get to know a bunch of different people and learn from them. Everyone has ideas, and the company really benefits from the staff's diversity of experience.
If you had to describe yourself as a donut flavor, which would it be and why?
Sugar raised. It's simple and classic, and it really showcases the technique in our brioche dough. I aspire to be like that everyday.
Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us, Cory! We can't wait to see what flavors you'll come up with next.