Bacon apple fritters with maple glaze? Pandamonium!
CHAMPAIGN — James Kyung, who brought his own brand of gourmet doughnuts to Urbana's Market on the Square this year, now wants to put the idea on wheels.
Doughnuts generally aren't considered gourmet fare, but Kyung set out to break that stereotype by selling bacon apple fritters with maple glaze; chocolate overdose doughnuts; and peanut butter-banana doughnuts.
He introduced those three flavors when he began selling Pandamonium Doughnuts at the farmers' market in June — and has created many more varieties since then.
Now he hopes to launch a Pandamonium Doughnuts food truck in Champaign-Urbana next year, provided that a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo pays off.
Kyung, 27, of Champaign is a 2009 University of Illinois graduate who didn't expect to go into the food business.
His parents operate the China House restaurant in Schaumburg, and Kyung saw how hard they worked.
"I never thought I'd end up in the food industry," he said.
Kyung majored in animal science and minored in chemistry at the UI, with the intention of becoming a veterinarian. But photography — and eventually doughnut innovation — captured his interest.
A visit to The Doughnut Vault, a gourmet doughnut shop in Chicago, "opened my eyes to this obsession," he said.
He began making doughnuts in the fall of 2012, trying various combinations of ingredients and honing his doughnut-making techniques.
He started selling his fried creations at the farmers' market in June, but later switched to baked doughnuts to satisfy the Illinois Department of Public Health, which had rules about what kinds of home-prepared goods could be sold at the market.
Kyung said he initially wasn't a fan of baked doughnuts — he prefers "fluffier" yeast doughnuts to cake doughnuts — and had to do research before coming up with 17 flavor combinations that passed muster.
They included fall favorites, such as pumpkin spice, apple cider, maple pecan crunch and caramel apple.
Other varieties included: orange pistachio, salted caramel, s'mores, strawberry basil, lemon poppyseed and even a peanut-butter-and-jelly doughnut.
"It tastes just like the sandwich," he said.
He also has come up with a gluten-free variety.
Gay Amorasak, owner of the Natural Gourmet store in Champaign, counts herself as a big fan on Pandamonium Doughnuts.
She buys two of every variety he makes, but her favorites so far are the s'mores and orange pistachio flavors.
Amorasak said she has tried doughnuts from other chains, but "these are so much more fancy and they're different flavors. Plus, they're made to look gorgeous, like pastries."
Kyung said the Pandamonium name stems from his own nickname.
"Everyone thinks I spelled it wrong," he said, noting the word is conventionally spelled Pandemonium.
"But a lot of friends call me Panda. I always joked that if I had a business, I would call it Panda," he said.
Kyung said he got the Panda nickname because of his build a few years ago.
"I was rounder then," he said. "I resembled a bear shape."
Kyung said he once weighed 242 pounds, but reduced to 157 pounds as a result of exercise and diet. Now he usually weighs between 160 and 170.
He admits it's a bit ironic he's aiming to build his career around a high-calorie food after losing so much weight.
Kyung aims to raise $9,500 through the Indiegogo campaign (http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pandamonium-doughnuts), which runs through early December. The money would be used to buy and equip a food truck.
Already, he has about $2,000 in commitments, with many of those donations from the Champaign-Urbana area.
In his pitch on the Indiegogo site, Kyung said: "What sets us apart from other doughnut shops is that we are committed to using only real ingredients: all-natural, organic when available, pure extracts, fresh, seasonal fruits. No preservatives, artificial flavoring and no transfat here."
Unlike supermarket doughnuts that typically sell for 69 cents or so, Kyung's doughnuts generally are priced at $1 to $2 apiece. The most expensive product, he said, was the bacon apple fritter, which sold for $2.75.
Kyung said he intends to operate his food truck on the University of Illinois campus and in downtown Champaign. It will sell mainly doughnuts and drip coffee, which he may get from a specialty roaster.
Doughnuts sold from the food truck will be made in a commercial kitchen, instead of the home kitchen he used at the outset, he said.
He's also thinking about selling Pandamonium Doughnuts through other channels, such as local coffee shops and private residence halls.
In the meantime, Kyung plans to sell doughnuts at the Holiday Market inside Urbana's Lincoln Square — but only for the three Saturdays in December. Varieties there are likely to include holiday flavors, including gingerbread, eggnog and peppermint.