043 – Matt Rohdie, Carpe Donut
Donut Work. Or is it doughnut? When they’re this great, who cares? Meet Matt Rohdie of Carpe Donut. How does a former social worker end up in the donut business? Is Matt Rohdie a Shokunin of donuts? I believe so.
When starting Carpe Donut, Matt set out to make one food, using the best ingredients, and to make it really well. He wanted to create a comfort food, not necessarily uber-healthy but one every person enjoys. A treat! It came down to fries or donuts. Aren’t we thankful he chose the latter because to me, Carpe Donut is head and shoulders above the rest.
In this episode we learn Matt’s story of how he got his first machine, how he developed his recipe, how long it took, and what sets his donuts apart from others. An important consideration for an increasingly competitive market. Did you know most donut shops use commercial batters with stabilizers? I didn’t. Carpe Donuts are 85% organic, natural, additive-free. A warm, apple cider Carpe Donut covered in cinnamon sugar alongside a hot coffee is a great thing indeed. I’m about to devour one in the picture!
I met Matt at the Tom Tom Food Business Summit and what he had to say about running a small business was so important I knew I must have him on the podcast so he could share his knowledge. One piece of advice: having only a brick and mortar store is passé. In a market where everybody and their mother is considering a food business you’ve got to get creative. Figure out other revenue streams. Streams like selling wholesale and doing corporate events and weddings.
Carpe Donut’s 700-square-foot store is great, but it’s his food truck and his wholesale business that keep him solvent, helping him expand. You can find frozen Carpe Donuts at about 100 grocery stores and distributors including Local Food Hub and Whole Foods. Just rewarm and you get 90% of what you experience in his shop.
Another avenue stream that’s increasingly important to food businesses are weddings, corporate events, and graduations. Big gatherings where folks eat. An entire industry has exploded in the Charlottesville area because of our wealth of wineries, bucolic vistas, and places to stay. People want to gather and eat. What does it mean for us in the future? What can we expect? In the meantime, Matt’s mobile donut truck can bring the goodness to you wherever your event takes place. Its built-in machine creates 300 donuts an hour if you run it at full speed so he can serve 3000 people in a few hours. Or just me when I’m edacious.
Another important aspect is providing the customer with requested items. Matt now offers lemonade, hibiscus ginger iced tea, Vietnamese coffee, churros, and King Cakes all because customers requested them for their special event. Playing around with different ideas, trying things out, and providing the best possible experience for your customer is not only fun, but keeps you successful.
What’s the difference between yeast and cake donuts? I thought Carpe was a cake, but it is in fact, a hybrid. Apple cider is mixed into the batter and acts like applesauce in cake batter. The crumb is light and open, very springy, not dense like a typical cake donut.
What food movie influenced him the most? What children’s book series continually reminds him of the many rewards of running a family-owned business? You might be surprised. It’s one I consider the finest example of food writing. What is his approach to training new employees, and why is it important for him to employ artists and musicians? What food trick does he use to keep his donut batter at the right consistency? Listen to find out.
I learned so much about the ever-changing food landscape in this area, why percolated coffee is supreme to drip, the ambiguities of gluten-free sensitivity, the importance of zero food waste, and the horrors of Roundup on our wheat. Great talk from a great guy. Enjoy! Then go get yourself a donut!
SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:
- The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions – Every dollar you bid goes toward four meals for our area’s hungry. TODAY IS THE LAST DAY TO BID for the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience!
- Rice, Noodle, Fish – Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture – Matt Goulding travels the country and explores chefs who dedicate their lives to Shokunin or the practice of doing one food and doing it to perfection. My vote for the best food writing of 2015 and a finalist in the 2016 IACP Awards. Incredible piece of work.
- THE DOUGHNUTS (from the Chicago Public Library Collection), 1963, Weston Woods – Remember this classic? I swear I saw this film every summer as a kid. Homer Price is left to run the local doughnut machine. Hilarity ensues.
This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.
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