Chef Heidi Curry, the senior manager of bakery research and development at Dunkin' Brands, may have one of the most enviable jobs in the culinary world. She spends her days testing and tasting doughnuts and other Dunkin' products. She was also part of the innovation team that developed the brand's chocolate croissant. And, yes, the Dunkin' croissant doughnut. But before signing on with one of the largest doughnut producers in the country, Curry was a biology major who had already started a career in pharmaceuticals. She'd always loved food, so she decided to go to culinary school and try to make a career out of it. She applied for the job with Dunkin' Brands after seeing a posting on an alumni website from her culinary school, Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. Having been a lifelong Dunkin' Donuts fan, Curry says, she and her entire family were thrilled when they heard the news. We caught up with the corporate chef during a recent stop at the new Dunkin' Donuts shop in Santa Monica, the first to open in Southern California after the company's long hiatus.
Your first doughnut, and where was it from? It was probably a Dunkin' Donut. They were a staple at grandma's house growing up. We always had a couple boxes. We're a big family. Every time we went on family vacation or to the beach, we'd always stop and get Dunkin' Donuts before we headed out.
What's it like being a head chef there now? It's the perfect mix of my science background, my love of food and my creative side. I've worked with the beverage R&D (research and development) team, the savory R&D that works on sandwiches and stuff like that, and now the Dunkin' Donuts culinary team. I work on a team with other chefs, pastry chefs, food scientists, coffee excellence managers. The R&D lab in Massachusetts is nuts. Everyone has key cards to allow access because we have so many proprietary products.
The most doughnuts you've eaten in one day? Maybe 20. I work with a team, and we're constantly looking at different ingredients, tasting different products, trying to create new items and brainstorming ideas. We have meetings to taste all the different products we've made.
What are some doughnuts you've worked on that have made it to production? Both the Croissant Donut and Dunkin' Go Bar are products that had stemmed from innovation and a team effort to bring products from ideation to market. And a lot of items don't make it. A recent one was a fruitcake doughnut that didn't quite turn out as well as we hoped it would.
Favorite late-night snack? I'm always going for something sweet and salty. My most indulgent snack is the salted caramels I make at home.
Dunkin' Donuts, 1132 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 576-9200, www.dunkindonuts.com