Photo by Kim Ashford
Fry it and they will come.
I show up around six in the morning. But Jeff Herman of Tiger Deaux-Nuts has been there for two hours already. Because he has a dream about donuts.
Herman counts off the unglazed donuts on his racks, figuring out how many of each kind to make this morning. Tiger Deaux-Nuts doesn’t just specialize in gourmet donuts—it’s all he makes. Currently that includes a maple bacon, bananas foster, chocolate mint, chocolate peanut butter, s’mores, apple pie, key lime pie and, my favorite, a vanilla jalapeno.
“I have to keep six aside with just maple for one of my regulars.” At this point, Tiger Deaux-Nuts is a very personal business. It’s only open Saturday mornings on the backside of a nondescript strip of shops on Jones Creek Road, just north of the intersection with Coursey. One doesn’t wind up here by accident.
“I’d like it to be where a hundred people walk in and I know what seventy-five of them are going to order,” says Herman. There is a ways to go, but he has the dream and he has the product.
These are the best donuts within a hundred miles. The donut itself has a heft and crispness you just are not going to find in a place that has to deal in volume, and each one is hand decorated to ensure a culinary experience to its fullest. I know this for a fact because after I confessed to a stint working in a donut shop in high school, Herman orders me to scrub up and puts me to work.
“We have to work quickly because the vanilla glaze hardens quickly,” Herman offers as I start plugging the centers with marinated apple chunks for the apple pie donuts and then drizzling them with the thick juice of the marinade. Donut making is a weirdly antiquarian business, one where you apprentice with a donut cutter before you are left to work the dough and the fryer and the icing bags yourself.
Herman learned his way by watching every YouTube video he could on the subject and then hanging out in area donut shops, peeking through the kitchen door to glean what he could.
“When you start conceiving of a business, you have to look five years, ten years down the line,” says Herman as he lays out handfuls of crumbled bacon on a tray of maple-glazed bounty. He looked at places like Voodoo Donuts in Portland, places where the foodies’ hunger for the next thing meets the eagerness of the entrepreneur. “I don’t just want to be in the donut business,” Herman explains. “I want to be in the business-starting business.”
That said, there are donuts to fill. I am tasked with pushing jalapeno slivers into the icing while his sister Nicole steps in to spread melted marshmallow on the s’more versions. Herman is off to the side carefully tending to a commercial grade mixer. “I think I have a perfect meringue going here.”
The whole reason he is working out of this location is because he’s partnering with a catering business that works here the rest of the week. He wields an icing bag, pushing the aforementioned perfect meringue into holes in the side of the donut shells destined for the key lime variety.
“I’d like to move into mid-city or maybe over in the Perkins overpass area.” He talks of a bistro, of partnering with other businesses, of more things this donut business can become.
Now, before we get all starry eyed with possibility, let us address the product at hand. His donuts are amazing, and not in a way that subs for clever or inventive, but straight up amazing. There is the tiniest crunch to the donut holes, the glaze carrying a toothiness that you just don’t find elsewhere.
His maple bacon is the big seller, a tag-team of rich sweetness with just a nod of salt from the bacon. The chocolate mint and peanut butter ones are exercises in restraint. There is just enough topping piped in on these to get the flavor across without becoming too much.
The apple pie, bananas Foster, and key lime varieties are architectural feats. “I like to think of them as deconstructions,” Herman offers as he balances chocolate graham crackers with lime slices fresh from the mandolin. Almost as much thought goes into them as does work.
The vanilla jalapeno variety is probably the simplest in structure, but to my taste, the most inventive of the bunch. The peppers are seeded and cut into moons, offering a twinge of heat to bounce off the vanilla icing, tickling every flavor profile on the rebound. “That heat comes on quickly and then disappears before you get the burn,” he smiles as I steal a bite.
8 am rolls around just as the last of the peanut butter has been piped, the final row of apple pie has been dusted with crumble, and Herman changes into a light purple Oxford.
He sets a table up by the door with his meticulous, dream-filled bounty behind him as he updates Facebook to tell the world he’s open. Then, with a slight exhale, he looks to the door, ready for whatever opportunity comes through.
Details. Details. Details.
4608 Jones Creek Road. Suite 250 (in the back)
Baton Rouge, La.
Open Saturdays from 7:30 am–12:30 pm
$10 a dozen, $6 for a half-dozen, $2 apiece
Cash or credit card