Interview: chef Brooke Desprez (Sidecar Doughnuts)
City of Orange native and longtime caterer Brooke Desprez teamed with Chi-lin Pendergrast and husband Sumter on Sidecar Doughnuts in 2012. The Costa Mesa hit now has a branch in Santa Monica. Learn more about Chef Desprez and her seemingly magical rings.
Josh Lurie: What was your career trajectory like before Sidecar?
Brooke Desprez: I was a caterer for five years. The way I got into food – my daughter went to a school where the parents were really involved. I was in charge of the hospitality. That was about 10 years ago. That’s where I started experimenting with different flavor combinations and large quantities. That’s where my love of food really started.
JL: What do you remember about the very first donut that you made? How did that turn out?
BD: I spent a year. Believe it or not, my yeast dough, right off the bat, was pretty good. I just had to adjust it a little bit. It’s the cake that took me awhile to figure out. That was more difficult.
JL: What’s more challenging about the cake batter?
BD: I just want it to be really moist and light like a cake. It just took a little while to figure all that out.
JL: What are some keys to a great donut?
BD: Not over-mixing, for one. And the fry time is important. Using quality ingredients is important.
JL: What sort of oil do you prefer?
BD: We use palm oil.
JL: How come?
BD: It’s a saturated oil and doesn’t have any of that after-film. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, at some donut places, there’s a film that you get. [Palm] is a really clean oil. I just had the best luck with it. It doesn’t absorb as easily. It’s solid at room temperature. It’s a saturated fat. It’s healthier, believe it or not. They’re finding now that saturated fats like lard and palm are better for you.
JL:: How did you end up teaming with Sumter and Chi-lin?
BD: My daughter went to the same school as Chi-lin’s daughters, and that’s where I met her. We became close friends.
JL: What does the name Sidecar refer to?
BD: Sumter’s stepfather had the idea. When he was little, he remembers going to his favorite donut shop. As a sidecar, they served a little donut hole on the side. We thought it was cute and had a lot of different meanings. You can have fun with that name.
JL: What’s the criteria for a Sidecar donut?
BD: Fresh. Flavorful. If it’s a lemon donut, I want it to taste like lemon. Huckleberry, I want people to experience what a huckleberry tastes like. A lot of people don’t even know what a huckleberry tastes like. I love introducing them to what a foraged berry like a huckleberry tastes like. If it’s ginger, I want it to taste like ginger. Some people might say, “It’s too flavorful,” but I prefer that. I like tasting what it’s supposed to be.
JL: What were your expectations when Sidecar opened, and how have you met or exceeded them?