Two of the most innovative chefs around have set their sights on doughnuts. And they’re baking them right under our noses.
By Scott Edwards • Photography by Josh DeHonney
In their seminal 2013 cookbook, Maximum Flavor—Recipes that Will Change the Way You Cook (which drew praise from the likes of David Chang, Michael Voltaggio and Sean Brock), Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot achieved new benchmarks for most of our staples: fries, burgers, wings, steak, doughnuts. But leaving well enough, or even pure perfection, alone isn’t who they are. After years of deflating paradigms, the couple’s only just begun to truly understand itself. They’re obsessive. “And there’s something really exciting about following an obsession,” Talbot says.
So when Kamozawa and Talbot wandered into the Stockton Market, in the riverside New Jersey town, last August and decided, on the spot, to rent a stall and start selling their own frozen custard and doughnuts, they were always going to start from scratch. Because that’s what they do. They made two doughnuts, an entirely new one and then the Maximum Flavor one, challenging themselves. The Maximum Flavor doughnut was way better. A third followed, made with the parts of both recipes that worked the best. So began the aptly named Curiosity Doughnuts.
Talbot, who picks up speed as the conversation progresses, is a firm believer that the humble doughnut is capable of revelation. Since they opened in October, he and Kamozawa have developed several iterations (naturally), but the simple yeasted doughnut is the origin of this particular obsession. The outside, or crust, if you will, is just crisp enough for a soul-quenching crunch. The inside’s unusually soft and moist, almost custard-like when it’s warm. (And it really should be eaten warm.) It’s sweet, but not cake sweet. Revelatory, yes. But perfect? “Well, today it was perfect,” Talbot says, conceding more than celebrating. “But doughnuts are interesting. Things change. You’ve got great doughnut days and good doughnut days. I think, right now, these are darn good doughnuts, but we’re tinkerers at heart.”
Stockton Market, 19 Bridge Street, Stockton, NJ; stocktonfarmmarket.com.