On the Line: Fenny Yan Of Poqet Donuts

Everybody has a preferred donut (mine is a glazed old-fashioned). So when I had the opportunity to chat with the owner of Poqet, I considered it a treat. Specializing in this particular pastry allows room for creativity and experimentation. On the customer side, the option to personalize a donut is also there. But let’s hear what owner Fenny Yan has to say.

Best culinary tip for the home baker.
Know what you need to know up front. Baking in general is very particular, and it’s important that every element that goes into making the perfect doughnut is precise and accurate. The ratio of ingredients, temperature, how long you bake or fry, everything is important. For example, you wouldn’t prepare a raised doughnut the same way you would a cake doughnut. Very different.

What are your best sellers, and what is your personal favorite?
I would have to say that our all-time best sellers are maple bacon and blueberry. Those two are classics, and it’s no surprise that people line up out the door for them. As for my personal favorite, that always changes. For now, though, I would have to say that our brand new addition takes the title: the blackberry sorbet doughnut. It features a blackberry puree buttercream topping. So delicious!

What’s the one thing people didn’t tell you about working in a bakery?
No one told me how hard it would be. As a business owner, I find that I have to juggle multiple things at the same time. From sales to the quality of the doughnuts, it’s just a lot to worry about. Every single element of our shop has to be on point, and that’s a lot of pressure.

You have a whole day to yourself; what would you do?
A whole day to myself? That’s rare! I would just play with my son all day. I’m so busy all of the time, it’s difficult to find time for myself, let alone hang out with my son. So any chance I get to be with him is a blessing. No one said being a mother and a business owner would be easy. 

Most important quality you look for in a baker.
Passion. Without a doubt. Why? Because I believe that the best product comes out of the most passion. I’ve found that if the baker is “blah” about the product and their job, you can really taste that in their food. If someone is excited about creating something delicious and being innovative, then wow. That’s the winner.

You’re making breakfast; what are you having?
Most people would be surprised by my answer, but my ultimate breakfast staple is plain oatmeal. What can I say? I like to keep things simple. I can’t really eat sweet foods first thing in the morning, and I’m constantly tasting doughnuts all throughout the day, so I guess you could say I’m saving myself for those times.

Last thing you searched online:
I just looked for some great furniture suppliers in the area. I’m planning on opening a new location later this year. Haven’t decided where yet. I just need new things to fill up the space: chairs, tables, cases, wood panels, etc. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

Where did you grow up, and where’s home these days?
I grew up in Shanghai. I was born and raised in a metropolitan city, so I’m used to the bustle and chaos that comes along with that lifestyle. That’s why I decided that Irvine was the ideal place for me to settle down. I feel like it’s the perfect balance between the suburbs and the city, so I’m always entertained. I’ve lived in other places before, and I was (for lack of a better word) bored because they felt too relaxed. I’m definitely not a suburb or country girl.

What is your earliest food memory?
When I was a child, I absolutely loved dim sum. Every weekend, my family and I would find a local spot to relax and dine at, and we would just sit, talk and eat. Thinking back to that memory now just makes me happy.

Most undervalued ingredient.
When people think of doughnuts in general, I don’t think the quality of the ingredients automatically comes to mind. Here, we love to focus on and emphasize the freshness of every element put into our food. For example, we don’t use the same glaze on every doughnut. We use a fresh, blueberry puree in the blueberry doughnut glaze; rich, chocolate on the vegan samoas doughnut, etc.

Any experimental flavors that didn’t make the cut?
Our team is very creative, and we pride ourselves in not being afraid to take risks. A couple experimental flavors that surprisingly didn’t work out were avocado (which we were super excited about) and mint. They were unique and interesting, but for some reason they just didn’t happen. Something was missing. But who knows? We could perfect them in the future!

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I love to try different restaurants and experience all types of different flavors. Most people think that because I’m around doughnuts all day that I only eat sweets, but I’m actually a huge lover of savory food. Some would call me adventurous, but I would just like to think that I’m always looking for the next best thing. 

Hardest lesson you’ve learned:
How hard it is to successfully open up and run a brand new business. It takes a lot of time and commitment. Finding good employees can be difficult, too. After all, you want the performance and the quality of the person to reflect in the food.

What’s your favorite childhood memory?
My grandfather would always take me to breakfast as a child, and we would eat fried dumplings. Honestly, it wasn’t so much the food, but the fact that I would just get to sit there and spend time with him. We had this tradition where I would only eat the inside of the dumpling, and he would eat the outside. I’ll always cherish those moments.

What is your guilty pleasure food?
I love a nice, juicy, fat steak. Most people would think that I have a massive sweet tooth because I own an artisan doughnut shop, but that’s not the case. Nothing beats a nice, big slab of meat.

What would you like to try if you weren’t in this business?
I would definitely do fashion if I wasn’t doing food, for sure. I think it’s important to find new ways to express myself, and I feel like clothing is a great outlet. I love staying up-to-date on all of the latest trends and styles. After all, you should look as good as you feel.

Poqet Donuts is located at 17655 Harvard Ave, Ste B, Irvine, (949) 932-0800; www.poqetdonuts.com.

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