5 Questions With Vincent Van Doughnut's Vincent Marsden
Donuts certainly aren’t strangers to the St. Louis culinary scene, but as far as we know, there’s only one 1960 Ford Grumman Olson step van named Clyde dishing them out to locals. The Vincent Van Doughnut food truck rolled onto the scene last year, serving up artisanal, made-from-scratch donuts. Following the company’s major win on the Cooking Channel’s “Donut Showndown” earlier this summer, we caught up with co-owner Vincent Marsden to chat about why he decided to do a food truck, how he collaborates with other restaurants and what we can expect next from the artisanal donut purveyor.
ALIVE: Can you give us a brief timeline of the company’s history in St. Louis?
Vincent Marsden: Vincent Van Doughnut has been a food truck for a year now. Personally, I’ve been making donuts for about three years seriously. That was out of my home kitchen with a little stand mixer and a 2.7-litre fryer. My wife thought I was nuts! I’ve been in the restaurant business for about 23, 24 years now. I used to own Mirasol, and I started playing around with dough with churros back in 2003. It’s kind of evolved from there. Donuts are a noticeable trend, but they have certainly been around for a long time. They passed them out at Ellis Island! So, they’ve never gone away, which is really cool. They’ve mixed in a lot of the dining fads, too. When everybody was on the Atkins diet people still seemed to find the time to eat donuts.
ALIVE: Why did you first choose to do a food truck in St. Louis as opposed to a brick-and-mortar shop?
VM: It was kind of a market test. I’d been sitting on the idea to do an artisanal-style, elevated donut shop for about four years. And then the Strange Donuts guys came along, and I thought this was a really good time. It meant that St. Louis was ready to see this stuff. We’ve been compared to Blue Star Donuts in Portland, which is one of my favorite donut shops. Strange Donuts is more like Voodoo Doughnut. We do everything from scratch. I have nine ingredients in my yeast dough and 10 ingredients in my cake dough.
So, the food truck was a market test, and it would be easier to recoup that money if it didn’t work. But we’ve had an incredible response since day one. Initially, I saw that I was getting a really good response to the stuff I was turning out at home in my kitchen for private events and stuff like that. Then, I decided to take it up a level and do a food truck. Vincent Van Doughnut is still the only donut food truck in St. Louis, and there aren’t many other morning trucks, either. It filled a void for something that St. Louis didn’t have, and it gave me the opportunity to take the donuts on the road to people to market test for the next step, which is going to be a storefront.
ALIVE: We’ve spotted Vincent Van Doughnut’s donuts in restaurants across town, from Alumni to Atomic Cowboy. How do you seek out new collaborations with local restaurants?
VM: Atomic Cowboy was launching their brunch, and they wanted to try to do new stuff. Ironically, the chef over there used to be one of my chefs at Mirasol, and they do a lot of neat dishes. They wanted some high-end donuts, so they called me. My brother owns White Box Eatery, and we’re producing donuts for their shop. I was sought out by Alumni as well to do donut bread pudding. They wanted to do local-made, from-scratch donuts. I’ve been asked by a few other people, and nothing’s set in stone, but I’m working on a few other things right now. These are more mainstay collaborations where we’re featured on the menu, as opposed to specials that are only available certain nights.
ALIVE: Congratulations on Vincent Van Doughnut’s win on “Donut Showdown!” How did this milestone impact your business in St. Louis?
VM: It certainly has impacted business, which is another reason why it’s a good time to go start looking for a storefront. We haven’t necessarily outgrown the food truck, but we are definitely looking to do bigger things. I’m producing a lot more every day, and we’re continuing to sell out.
ALIVE: What’s next for Vincent Van Doughnut?
VM: We’ll definitely still have the food truck for special events, and it will likely still go out daily, or at least five days a week. We’ll continue selling our donuts at Straub’s locations on the weekends, too. We’ve had offers from bigger chains, but I don’t want to get it to be watered down. I like the small production and I have no problem with the production growing, but I don’t want it to be as readily available as being in all Schnucks and Dierbergs and so on. We like to maintain the quality. I’m the one who makes all the donuts, so every time the truck goes out or anytime the donuts are sold at Straub’s, it’s always me on the other end making them. The storefront will allow for more production. For now, we’re probably going to keep to Straub’s on the weekends and the truck. With the storefront, people will know where we are every day if they can’t seem to find the truck.