Convincing local patisserie connoisseurs that donuts are anything but greasy fast food guzzled by the dozen was quite the challenge. But after seven years of hard work in the world’s culinary capital, trained pastry chef and rider Amanda Bankert has managed to change Parisians’ minds.
Amanda grew up in Washington D.C., but received her degree at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. After ten years of working as a pastry chef in Dublin, Amanda reconnected with Paris – a city she very quickly decided was going to be her home for life. A few years later, the donut bakery Boneshaker was born. Located in the heart of Paris on the Rue d'Aboukir, Boneshaker was one of the first donut shops in Paris seven years ago, Amanda remembers. And they started small: “It's our first brick-and-mortar location. When I first started, I had literally bought a fryer at a vide-grenier, like a yard sale, in my neighbourhood for ten bucks. And I started frying donuts and seeing if local coffee shops wanted to stock them. And we had a few clients – I would deliver their donuts on my bike.”
A ‘boneshaker’ is actually a bicycle,” she points out, “They were invented in France, and then they shipped them over to the United States, where the Americans started calling them boneshakers because when they would go over cobblestones their wooden frames would shake your bones.”
But how did Amanda manage to convince locals of the finesse of donut making? “It took a little convincing of French people to go for it because I think they really equated donuts with the worst of American culture in some ways,” Amanda explains, “but we explained to people it's just like the boulangerie: we're in early in the morning, we make our dough from scratch, and we make all of our glazes from scratch.” Like traditional patisserie, they also work with the seasons: “When rhubarb season is happening, I'll pick that up around the corner and we'll be having rhubarb donuts.” But Amanda’s pastry venture isn’t imported straight from across the pond. Boneshaker’s donuts nod to both French and American culture: “I trained in France, we're located in France, and so I wanted to pay homage to that as well and not just do straight up American donuts.”
Boneshaker’s donuts are a fusion of Amanda’s professional background in French pastry and traditional American donut making. But that’s not all that’s unique about the tasty treats. Although you won’t see it advertised, everything on Boneshaker’s counter is now vegan. Why Amanda chooses not to display the vegan-friendly benefits? Because she wanted her vegan recipes to be indecipherable from the non-vegan donuts they’d served up to customers before: “I wanted to in kind of a subversive way show that plant-based eating can be absolutely as equally delicious and creamy.”
And it’s not just the baking technique that calls to both Amanda’s American roots and French life. “A ‘boneshaker’ is actually a bicycle,” she points out, “They were invented in France, and then they shipped them over to the United States, where the Americans started calling them boneshakers because when they would go over cobblestones their wooden frames would shake your bones.” Riding in Paris over the pandemic has become even easier for cyclists like Amanda – expanded space for bikes on the roads have meant boneshaking-commutes are a thing of the past. “I am definitely a bit of a Sunday driver, I guess, when it comes to my style of cycling,” Amanda laughs, “I much prefer to take everything in as I'm going, take my time, enjoy the ride while I'm getting there.”
Amanda’s adoptive hometown of Paris is Amanda’s ceaseless source of inspiration: ”If I come out of a Metro and I see the light hitting the buildings in a certain way – even after all this time, it manages to really take my breath away.” And if Paris could be concocted into one of Amanda’s donuts? “If Paris was a donut, it would be something probably similar to our lemon and coconut donut,” Amanda said decidedly: “There are amazing, neighbourly vibes here. So I would say maybe a tough exterior, but a super sweet and delicious centre.” Sounds like a sweet treat we’d pick up from Boneshaker’s counter.