The Story of District Doughnut
Creating America's Next Culinary Sensation
Two doughnut-loving friends and a talented young chef: ingredients for a doughnut venture.
A Doughnut-Fueled Friendship
Once upon a time around the turn of the century, Juan Pablo and Greg – two middle school classmates in the DC area – bonded over a shared love for doughnuts. Whether it was on the way to school or after a baseball practice, they were always on the hunt for the perfect doughnut.
After graduating from the same high school class, the two friends parted ways: Greg studied philosophy at the College of William & Mary and Juan Pablo went to the University of Notre Dame to major in accounting.
After graduating from college in 2010, Juan Pablo found work as a consultant and Greg as an education assistant at a city charter school program. This brought the two friends back to the DC area, setting the stage for a fateful encounter with doughnut awesomeness.
A Culinary Ambition
By the time Christine graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2008 with a degree in graphic design, she had already decided to change the direction of her career. Having worked full-time in graphic design at an advertising agency, she realized the typical “9-5” career was not for her.
Instead, with dreams of starting her own pastry business, Christine enrolled in the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute’s Le Cordon Bleu Program in June 2009, where she received a degree in Patisserie and Baking.
After culinary school, Christine moved back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York, where she found her first pastry job at Dessert Deli. There, she perfected her craft, making cookies, pies, wedding cakes, and other delicious desserts.
Following a gig at The Buffalo Club, Christine decided to pursue a bigger stage by moving to Washington, DC, toward the end of 2011. Soon after moving, she attended an alumni event hosted by her brother-in-law’s high school. There, she met Juan Pablo, who pitched his idea for a gourmet doughnut shop in the DC market.
After trying Christine’s brown butter doughnut, Juan Pablo knew he’d found something special – something they needed to share with the rest of the world.
Doughnuts 2.0: Reinventing an American Classic
Combining culinary genius with startup ingenuity.
Gastronomy: The Science and Art of Gourmet Doughnuts
As a gourmet pastry chef, Christine combines science and art in her creations. Her mission: to reimagine the concept of a doughnut - an American classic – and bring it to life in a modern form.
As a scientist, Christine’s method is one of intense precision. Her platform, the doughnut, is a temperamental one, requiring her to balance competing elements: heat, moisture and texture. Christine confronts these challenges with strict attention to detail. Every doughnut has its own flavor of dough. Even the size of the doughnuts, slightly smaller than the industry average, is carefully designed to condense the product into its essential form.
As an artist, Christine draws inspiration from the vast, colorful world of desserts. Her canvas is the doughnut, the form through which she articulates the ideas inspired by the world around her. Christine deconstructs an existing dessert concept, such as the cannoli, into its essential ingredients. She then molds those ingredients into the form of a new doughnut.
Christine crafts doughnuts that are aesthetically beautiful, from the torched meringue wisps of the Lemon Meringue to the swirl of chocolate pearls orbiting the Valrhona Chocolate.
It’s a delicate balancing act of technique, aesthetic and most importantly, taste. Every flavor is a celebration of expression and restraint of the doughnut as a form. Every doughnut also has its own story – here are just a few:
- Dulce de Leche. Inspired by founder Juan Pablo’s Argentine roots, this doughnut features the specialty of Argentina’s Pampa region: caramelized sweetened milk.
- Brown Butter. A French pastry delicacy, Buerre Noisette, or “hazelnut butter,” occurs when butter is lightly browned to perfection, resulting in a nutty taste and aroma. Christine infuses a brown butter icing to adorn a light cloud of cinnamon sugar.
- Cannoli. A re-imagination of Italy’s premiere dessert, this doughnut features sweet and creamy ricotta speckled with semi-sweet chocolate curls, which fills a vanilla bean dough, topped with a light cocoa dust.
Built from Scratch: The Startup Experience
With Christine’s culinary skills, we felt we'd found the ingredient for a successful food venture. However, as with any business, there was no clear recipe for success.
Our journey officially began in early 2012 under the guidance of Juan Pablo, already emerging as the entrepreneur behind 1EQ and BabySteps™, a healthcare technology startup. As Christine expanded and perfected her collection of recipes, Juan Pablo recruited his old friend Greg to manage the operations of the young company.
The early stages of District Doughnut were characterized by the uncertainty faced by any startup business. Christine continued working part-time as a nanny, often making doughnuts in an Alexandria kitchen through the night. Greg provided vision and leadership for the company, while also individually delivering every doughnut order and managing a growing network of customers, investors and partners. Together with Juan Pablo, the team of three catered and staffed events, met with investors, developed a business model and searched vigilantly for a storefront location to plant the doughnuts in the District.
Though we were a scrappy team, DC began to notice. Orders kept coming in, bloggers wrote glowing reviews and we quickly became the highest-rated DC-based doughnut company on Yelp.
Our growth allowed us to expand our team in 2013. Joining us were Olivia, our first sous chef, and Will, our marketing and business development coordinator.
While we are maturing as a company, our early beginnings as a startup will always inform who we are. It’s taught us to challenge the impossible, to push our personal limits and to constantly improve ourselves in all we do.
Made in the District
Drawing inspiration from a city and a neighborhood of contrasts.
Washington, DC: Where America Meets World
District Doughnut was founded in Washington, DC by local natives, and our city has shaped the identity of our business.
DC is a multifaceted city. On the one hand, it’s the home of timeless American symbols such as Capitol Hill, the White House and the National Mall. On the other hand, it reflects America’s dynamism, shaped by people from all 50 states and across the globe. Finally, DC is an emerging creative hub, bringing together some of our nation’s brightest leaders, researchers and entrepreneurs.
We built District Doughnut to reflect our hometown, both in our product and as a business. We began with the doughnut, a quintessential American food. We looked at beloved flavors from across the country and around the world for culinary inspiration. And we have immersed ourselves in DC’s creative culture, working closely with the city’s emerging food scene at Union Kitchen, DC’s premiere food incubator.
We are made in the District. And we hope our doughnuts will introduce DC to the flavors of the world, but also give the world a taste of DC.
Barracks Row: Where DC’s Past and Future Collide
We chose Barracks Row and Capitol Hill for our first store location because we think it best captures our city’s defining characteristics in a single neighborhood.
On the surface, Barracks Row represents the rich history most Americans associate with our city. The Capitol building overlooks our neighborhood, a reminder of the ideals this city (and our nation) represent. And our store sits directly across the iconic Marine Barracks, home of some of our nation’s finest: the United States Marine Corps.
Woven between its historic landmarks, Barracks Row also embodies the local innovation behind DC’s revitalization. Once a struggling neighborhood, Barracks Row is now a thriving commercial district. You can taste it in the diversity of the food businesses that share our neighborhood, from the authentic Greek “small plates” of Cava Mezze to the international fusion of Rose’s Luxury to the American retro favorites of Ted’s Bulletin.
We’re lucky to have a home in a neighborhood so rich with inspiration. It helps us aspire to reflect the city’s best – both its grandeur and its vibrancy.
Good food and good people: a recipe for good times.
#DoughFace: A Community and Culture of Doughnut Lovers
Seeing people experience a District Doughnut for the first time has been the most satisfying part of our work so far. We love bringing our city and its people together, and bringing the food to fuel the party. It’s given us the opportunity to make new friends all across the DC area.
#DoughFace is our medium for expressing the joy of doughnut eating. It’s a universal language among mostly everyone who has tried our doughnuts.
We’ve also enjoyed participating in a variety of cool events across the city. Here’s just a sampling:
- Creating custom wedding doughnuts at the request of some beautiful fall brides, such as Pumpkin Spice and Sweet Potato Pie
- Hanging out with the lions at the National Zoo for ZooFari, a gourmet restaurant tasting
- Rocking out with live musicians at the DC Funk Parade
We love having a good time, and we’re committed to creating experiences you’ll enjoy and remember.
Doughnut Diplomacy: Sharing our Story
Here in DC, we’re fortunate to share our hometown with some incredible people, including many who play an important role in leading our country and our world.
While our city’s residents may at times be divided in their views and interests, we enjoy bringing people together through the universal language of food. This has included:
- Delivering doughnuts to Wolf Blitzer at CNN’s Situation Room
- Hanging out with Major League Soccer players Chris Pontius and Sean Franklin from DC United
- Promoting childhood hunger awareness at Taste of the Nation DC’s “No Kid Hungry” campaign
We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve been given to share our story and look forward to many more.
America's Next Doughnut
The dream, the journey, and how you can join the experience.
Two years and thousands of doughnuts later, we’re thrilled to have launched our first store location this past summer, thanks to an incredible team and a countless host of friends, family members and fans who have helped us along the way.
However, our store is part of a bigger dream: to become America’s next doughnut. This dream embodies what we’re all about: great ideas, hard work and the pursuit of excellence.
To realize our dream, we’ve committed ourselves to the following:
- Quality. We will always handcraft our doughnuts with the freshest ingredients and finest recipes we can find.
- Creativity. We will continue draw inspiration for new and better doughnuts from our customers, our fans and our fellow food entrepreneurs.
- Service. Most importantly, we are here to serve you and make sure you have a delightful experience.
The Journey Ahead
District Doughnut is (and will be) an unfinished story. It’s because we want to constantly reinvent ourselves in order to create better doughnuts, to design better experiences and to share our story with more people.
That’s why we’re inviting you to join us on our journey. To reach the next step, we need your support. In fact, we want you to hold us accountable to our commitment to quality.
Right now, here are four ways you can help us out:
- Try a doughnut. Stop by the store and grab a doughnut; we’d love to say hello..
- Tell us what you think. There are many ways to do this, but we especially enjoy reading reviews on Yelp.
- "Follow" us. Track our progress by following us on social media. We’re on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, and we distribute original content on our blog.
- Share our story. Tell your family, friends, colleagues and fellow foodies about your experience so we can share our doughnuts with them!
Thanks for reading our story, and for helping us write our next chapter. We can’t wait to serve you!