Fresh donuts at last in Paris! And not just any ordinary donuts. We’re tasting and talking about plump, hand-rolled sweet pastries only to be found in a popular donut shop called Boneshaker in Paris’ food-centric second arrondissement. It was a dream come true for Irish-American expat, pastry chef and mother of three, Amanda Bankert and her husband Louis.
After six months of selling incredibly delicious and original donuts in a pop-up shop in the east end of the city, Amanda and Louis opened the doors of the Boneshaker donut shop in July 2016. It’s a sign of the times when one craves le donut with a café in France. Amanda shares how her love affair with donuts began and evolved in this exclusive interview with INSPIRELLE.
Amanda, you trained at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School, and have worked in different restaurants ranging from a Michelin-starred establishment to an organic café. So where did the inspiration to open up a donut shop in Paris come from?
The idea for Boneshaker came in 2013, when my husband, Louis, and I were eating cinnamon sugar donuts at the beach in New Jersey. There’s a mom-and-pop bakery there that I have visited every summer since I was a little girl. Lou and I and did the “morning donut run” for the house (my favorite/only type of run) and both thought, “I wish we could get these in Paris!”
We’ve worked in the service industry for years (he’s an old fixture in the Parisian Irish pub scene, and I’ve worked in restaurants in America, Ireland, and France since I was 15), so it made sense that the next step would be to open a space of our own.
We have a cinnamon sugar donut on our menu, called the “Beach Haven” – in honor of the town where it all began!
You are no stranger to Paris; did you ever wonder if Parisians would forsake a croissant with their cafés and embrace your donuts?
Not really. In modern-day Paris there is space for both croissants and donuts. I think that events like Le Bon Marché’s “Brooklyn Rive Gauche” are strongly illustrative of Parisians’ newfound interest in American food culture. Also, I did my pastry training here, so our donut recipes are ultimately rooted in classic French techniques. All of our pastries are vegan and made fresh every morning with the highest-quality ingredients by trained pastry chefs.
Tell us how you picked up your name “Boneshaker” and why you call your donuts “sweet rolls”?
The name Boneshaker comes from one of the first types of bicycles, invented in France in the 19th century. We’re history/vintage nerds, we love cycling, we live in France, bicycle wheels = “sweet rolls”…voilà.
Now we imagine that your donuts are not just any donuts! We’ve discovered cinnamon sugar donuts, raspberry lemon, chocolate, toffee and salted caramel, to name a delicious few. Which are the favorites?
Personally, I’m partial to anything that involves bourbon. Lou’s favourite is the Eton Mess.
How do you make your fresh donuts?
I spent a few months developing the base recipe for our dough. I am constantly creating new flavors. Our 100% plant-based menu is based equally on my mood, the season, and what I have in the kitchen. We have a list of “core” flavors – like the Vanilla Bean Beauty Queens, Spiced Orange, and Caramel Beurre Salé, but we also have an ever-changing array of options available.
It takes two days to make our donuts: I make the dough in the evening and leave it to rise overnight. The next morning, I get started around 5 am, rolling the dough, and hand cutting each donut before leaving them to rise a second time. Then they get fried and glazed! The whole process takes about 18 hours, start to finish.
Was it a challenge to get your business off the ground? What did you learn from the experience of opening up your own shop in Paris?
Anyone who has opened a business in France can tell you it’s a rollercoaster. It’s no accident that there are so many memoirs written about the sometimes comedic/relentlessly frustrating red tape and shrugged shoulders you will encounter. But, like most things in France (and in life), if you persevere, you’ll succeed – even if you end up taking a different route than you initially envisioned. Sometimes the alternate route is better than the original.
We never planned on starting our business as a 6-month pop-up, for example, and our first property deal fell through — which felt like the end of the world. But the pop-up was magnificent. It enabled us to successfully develop our business. And we are absolutely in love with our boutique — both the space itself and its location are better than we ever imagined.
We can’t wait to pick up a baker’s dozen of donuts. How easy is it for INSPIRELLE readers to find your donut shop?
Our shop is located at 86 rue d’Aboukir in the 2nd arrondissement, where we have awesome neighbors, including: Jean Hwang Carrant, Frenchie’s To Go, Hoppy Corner, and Lockwood, just to name a few!
From Virginia to New York to Dublin to Paris. Have you made the City of Light your home for your family?
I always thought I’d end up here. In my twenties I lived in Paris as a student (first as an art history undergraduate, later, while attending the Cordon Bleu) before life’s twists and turns took me to Ireland. I frequently daydreamed, however, of reclaiming my abandoned existence of picnics along the Seine, l’apéro, and rotisserie chicken as street food.
After eight years in Dublin, I packed up my Irish life and permanently relocated to France in 2012. Our family of five now lives in a vibrant neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement, sandwiched between Sacre Coeur and the neon lights of TATI. Our three boys are all in school or the crèche here, and of course, we have our donut shop. Paris feels likes home.
Is this a family affair?
It is most certainly a family affair; in fact, that’s a crucial element of our business (and life) plan. Louis and I really want to build something together. As the boys get older, you better believe we’ll have them in the kitchen and behind the counter, “slinging sweet rolls!”
86 rue d’Aboukir 75002 Paris
Metro: Sentier, Line 3