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Artisanal Doughnuts with a Mexican Twist

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Chef, entrepreneur, and James Beard Award nominated author Fany Gerson describes her work as a labor of love. Influenced by her Mexican upbringing and global culinary experience, Chef Gerson’s Brooklyn-based Fan-Fan Doughnuts reimagines the humble doughnut into artisanal, small-batch creations using high quality ingredients like salted brown butter, guava, and black currant. Beyondish caught up with Chef Gerson to talk about her influences, her culinary journey, and her delicious desserts.

Tell us about your upbringing and how that inspired your love for cooking and baking?

Growing up in Mexico I was surrounded by amazing produce and food. My love for food started when I was very little, but it was more because good food was all around. We had an amazing cook, Ofelia, who would come once a week. She hated having me in the kitchen, but I just loved being there trying to decipher what ingredients she would put together to create magic. In terms of baking, my sister and I would pretend to have our own baking show and she would be the director and I would bake – or tried to! Our mother didn’t cook a ton, but the few recipes she made were really delicious, so I guess it was a little bit of here and there.

Who were your role models growing up?

I really looked up to my parents. My mother was very involved with us, but also worked and had her own interests and passions. I was fascinated by all the friends my parents had who would come to the house. I looked up to so many of them because they were such interesting characters, so their individuality really stood out. I looked up to my dad my entire life because he was someone that I found interesting, thoughtful and kind.

When did you decide to pursue a food career?

I spent a year in Israel after high school and after that I went to culinary school in Mexico. Then I went to The Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York. My first culinary job was working in the kitchen of a coffeeshop at the university in Tel Aviv.

What did you learn from that experience?

I didn’t speak Hebrew, but I knew how to read a bit so I memorized the menu to know what the orders were. I had also never worked in a kitchen so I was lost. I learned that you will always be faced with challenges and you have to learn to adapt, ask for help, and speak up.

When did you launch Fan-Fan Doughnuts?

October 2020, so right in the middle of the pandemic.

Was it hard to walk away from your previous jobs to start your own business?

I had spent a year traveling around Mexico doing research and writing my first cookbook, My Sweet Mexico. When I came back I really wanted to start by own business. Not because I had an entrepreneurial spirit, but because I wanted creative freedom. I wasn’t walking away from a job, but rather starting something new.

What challenges did you face at the outset?

I am a creative and don’t have a business background so I’ve struggled with that since the very beginning. I also didn’t know how to start – where do we find out about permits, how do I become an entity, what is an entity? I didn’t know so many things.

How did you overcome those challenges?

I worked in a shared kitchen and there were a lot of people like myself, so we kind of helped each other out and learned together. I am still learning.

What are the most popular items at Fan-Fan Doughnuts?

Our customers love the Guava and cheese, churros and chocolate, the “Danny Boy” (salted brown butter caramel), and classic braid. We also have a lot of rotating and special flavors and collaborations.

How do you come up with your menu items?

I am always thinking of new flavors. Inspiration is all around.

What has the feedback been like from your community?

I used to have another doughnut shop at that location and sold that company, so starting again with a different recipe and focus during the pandemic was amazing. We have a lot of regulars, but also people that come from afar. We put a lot of love into what and how we do things, and we are grateful for the loving response.

Where do you shop for ingredients?

We have a lot of different purveyors, but I also seek out different ingredients at farmers markets and specialty stores.

What flavors from your Mexican culture do you draw inspiration from?

These are usually rooted in nostalgia of something I long for, or a memory tied to someone in particular.

Your book My Sweet Mexico was nominated for a James Beard Award. Can you tell us about your writing process?

The research part takes a long time. To me it’s about the story and the people, trying to document and give continuity to beautiful traditions, and also celebrate the flavors I grew up with.

You’ve written three books – My Sweet Mexico, Paletas, and Mexican Ice Cream. What’s next?

I am working on a new proposal at the moment.

You’ve met a lot of other local bakers and chefs by doing events all over NYC. In your opinion, where is the food scene heading?

I think it’s always evolving and interesting and I think it’s more diverse and expressive. So more personal, and that’s exciting.

What’s next for Fan-Fan Doughnuts?

We want to continue doing collaborations that inspire and hope to open other locations in 2025.


Marc Cuenco

Marc Cuenco is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer with over 10 years of experience covering pop culture, food, fashion and lifestyle. A healthcare professional by day, Marc spends his free time taking photos of his puppy Chandler and exploring L.A.’s diverse food scene.


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