ith wildly creative flavors and rampant lines, Pandamonium Doughnuts has filled the donut-shaped hole in CU’s sweets scene. Though the bakery only opened in May of 2013, it has quickly become a fixture at Urbana’s Market at Square and, having also run a successful pop-up at [co][lab], spawned a legion of foodie followers. Nobody could resist trying flavors like Maple Bacon Apple Fritter or Cereal Killer, but it’s the shop’s offering of vegan and gluten-free options that makes it an all-around smash hit. Now, half a year after buzz last sat down with James Kyung, owner of Pandamonium Doughnuts, we talk the new food truck, fall flavors and the shop’s sweet future.
»buzz: How did you come up with the name for your business?
»James Kyung: The name for Pandamonium Doughnuts is actually a funny story, as my nickname was “Panda” to lots of my friends when I was a student right here at UIUC, so I always joked that if I ever owned a business it would incorporate Pandamonium, and thus when doughnuts came around, I used it as a placeholder for a temporary business name, but it actually stuck!
»buzz: You recently purchased and designed a food truck that you’d been planning to get for a while now. Why did you decide to open a food truck? How long did this process take and did you face any challenges along the way?
»JK: One of the main reasons I decided to go with a food truck was because of the lower overhead costs compared to opening an entire brick and mortar. It helped me keep costs down but also gives me an option of moving around to different areas to reach more markets. Also, it will allow me to work with a simplified menu of just specialty, artisan doughnuts and few drink options. The process took about eight to nine months to complete from idea stage, to getting art work, finding the necessary tools and people to work on the truck, to getting everything going with the health department. Of course, you run into challenges, mostly unforeseen, along the way. What I learned is, nothing really goes accordingly to plan, and unexpected challenges and speed bumps happen along the way. For instance, getting a power system figured out, having to go out-of-state to get the truck outfitted, etc. You need a back-up plan to your back-up plan and just keep moving along.
»buzz: Before the food truck, how did you operate? Is a full-sized store in your plans for the future?
»JK: Before our food truck, we operated at the Urbana Farmers’ Market (Market at the Square), which we are still regular vendors there every Saturday, in the North East corner entrance, from 7 a.m. (until we’re) sold out. We actually would not be around if it wasn’t for the Urbana Market at the Square. We like to refer to the farmers’ market as our unofficial home. We started last year at the market, and our first ever attempt of selling doughnuts was in June of 2013. From that day on, even though we were small, we loved being in that market setting and meeting all the doughnut lovers of CU and just grew from there. We also did a few pop-up shops in downtown Urbana and downtown Champaign, which helped get our name out.
We also do special orders for all type of occasions, from the random doughnut cravings to catering larger parties, office meetings and weddings. We have done a few weddings this past summer, and those were a lot of fun! In the future, I do see a full-size store opening up, but for the time being, I want to see how the food truck does and go from there. I would love to have a physical shop and a permanent home, so we’ll have to wait and see!
»buzz: What does your food truck have to offer, and is there any other information you’d like to share on your food truck?
»JK: Our food truck will be a hitting the road mostly every day, starting at about 7:30 a.m. and selling ‘til we are sold out. We will offer all kinds of artisan, specialty doughnuts, from our current flavors people have come to love to many new fl avors in the works being debuted on the food truck. Our menu will change daily, with a different set of flavors being offered every day. We will also offer drip coffee, juice and hot cocoa, and iced-drinks during summer. The most important thing for people wanting to find the truck, see the menu for the day, learn about our doughnuts, etc. is to visit us on Facebook or Twitter. We will do all our location announcements and menu changes via social media.
»buzz: What makes your doughnuts so special, and which one is your biggest hit?
»JK: I think people have been drawn to our doughnuts because of the way they are produced and the amount of work that is put into them. I always tell people, we put a lot of TLC into these sweet pastries, each doughnut gets equal amounts of attention to detail. That sounds a little weird, I know, but we really want every doughnut sold to be the same for each person enjoying them, especially if it is their first time having one of our doughnuts. We are a scratch bakery, meaning everything we do is made from scratch, every night into morning. We make all our doughs, batters, glazes, toppings from in-house. For instance, our Autumn Berry doughnuts are made from locally harvested autumn berries and then turned into a fresh glaze. Most doughnut shops are now commercialized and big chains, where the are factory made or made from pre-made mixes, with lots of artificial ingredients and preservatives. We take pride in the fact that we are going back to artisan ways of making America’s favorite pastry: the doughnut. We also offer gluten-free and vegan doughnut options!
Our most popular doughnut is definitely the Maple Bacon Apple Fritter. Close behind are the Blueberry-Lemon, S’mores and PB&J. A new flavor of ours, Chocolate Peanut Butter (PB glaze, Chocolate drizzle, with Reese’s PB cups) is quickly gaining a following, as well.
»buzz: Do you have any seasonal flavor offerings this fall?
»JK: We have lots of new seasonal flavors we are offering at the moment. We have: Maple Pecan Crunch (house made pecan praline), Real Apple Cider (vegan), Pumpkin Spice and a few more in the works for later in the fall season. Also look out for those winter seasonal flavors!
»buzz: Where should fans look for your food truck?
»JK: People can find my truck traveling all around the CU area. From campustown, downtown Champaign and Urbana and who knows where. The most important thing for people wanting to find the truck, see the menu for the day, learn about our doughnuts, etc. is to visit us on Facebook or Twitter. We will do all our location announcements and menu changes via social media.
Pandamonium Donuts can be found online at https://facebook.com/PandaDoughnuts.