Doughnut divas living their dream

By Seema Akhtar

Kathy Aldridge (right) and Angela Firman hard at work making the cherry doughnuts that would get them past round one on the Donut Showdown. Photo courtesy of Donut Showdown.

Kathy Aldridge (right) and Angela Firman hard at work making the cherry doughnuts that would get them past round one on the Donut Showdown. Photo courtesy of Donut Showdown.

As I sit with Kathy Aldridge on the couch by the window in Bridgehead at Bank and Second, a woman walks in with a huge smile on her face. She approaches Aldridge and says something along the lines of: “I just had to come in and say hello … you were on Donut Showdown, weren’t you? I saw you on TV! You were great.” I ask Aldridge if that happens often, and she casually responds, “Oh yes, like five times a day.” So why is she suddenly famous? Aldridge and her business partner Angela Firman won $10,000 on the Food Network’s Donut Showdown on September 15.

Aldridge ran a home daycare in the Glebe for 20 years and now works at a golf course and for the Ottawa Senators, and Firman is a local horticulturalist. The two women only started making doughnuts about a year ago, and they were up against stiff competition on Donut Showdown: culinary arts teachers Chris Sheppard and Roger Dewling and third-generation doughnut makers Danny Plazarin and Katie Willing. But did that faze Aldridge and Firman? No. Their recipe for success? Practice. “We watched Season 1 of Donut Showdown at least twice. We took notes,” says Aldridge. “We would rewind to see where they kept the equipment in the show’s kitchen. We were ready.”

It didn’t hurt that Aldridge and Firman also make a great team. They work together seamlessly, finishing each other’s tasks in the kitchen. “If I step away from something, Angela takes over”, says Aldridge. In fact, this teamwork saved them on Donut Showdown when Aldridge nearly burned the toasted coconut topping for a doughnut by forgetting to start the timer and Firman stepped in to save it. “Angela always saves my butt,” says Aldridge on the show. The two women’s talents are also complementary: Aldridge is the doughnut dough lady and Firman is the sauce lady. Firman does the paperwork; Aldridge does the public relations. But they have both been baking and cooking for a long time and they both love experimenting in the kitchen, coming up with innovative, mouth-watering, enticing doughnut creations.

Despite her sudden fame, Aldridge seems down to earth. She is energetic, has an infectious positive energy and a bit of a mischievous glint in her eye. And Aldridge is also clearly courageous. At a barbecue on Canada Day in 2013, after eating the Tim Horton’s doughnuts that Firman had brought – cut in half, grilled and stuffed with ice cream – Kathy said, “We have got to do something with these.” And do something they did. They applied to be part of Privé’s Underground Chef’s Market held at the Ottawa Convention Centre in November 2013. When they were accepted, Firman said, “Uh, we can’t bring Tim Horton’s doughnuts!” And so began the research and experimenting to come up with their original cake and yeast doughnut recipes. Aldridge and Firman hand made a thousand doughnuts, grilled them and filled them for the Underground Chef’s Market. They haven’t looked back since.

When I ask Aldridge how you get over the fear of starting something completely new, she says, “Just do it. We’re flying by the seat of our pants. We just took one step, one more step, then another. Then, one day, we looked up and said ‘look how far we have come in one year!’”

Aldridge says she has only recently stopped laughing when she says the name of their company: “Hot Cream Holes.” The name, which a good friend of Firman and Aldridge’s came up with, describes the ice cream oozing out of the doughnut holes. And, well, it is memorable!

So, what are Aldridge and Firman going to do with the $10,000? They have already bought a vintage food trailer. They are having it gutted and fitted to their needs with a stainless steel interior. They’ll be able to pull the trailer with their cars and set up shop wherever. They’re thinking the canal during the winter, Jazzfest, Bluesfest … and yes, don’t worry, they’re looking into a Glebe location too.
Hot Cream Holes will be at the Ottawa Convention Centre on October 18 for an event called 613 Night Market. But, if you want to make sure you’re the first to know where you can get yourself a Sherry’s Cherry or a Sweet Salty Sue (yes, all the doughnuts have names!), “like” the Hot Cream Holes Facebook page. Just do it. You know you want to.

Seema Akhtar is a regular contributor to the Glebe Report who can’t wait to taste a Sweet Salty Sue (a grilled doughnut, cut in half, stuffed with ice cream, topped with salted butter caramel sauce and sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt).

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