During the past decade, pastry chef Tom Culleeney has literally traveled throughout the United States in search of the perfect donut. The reason he has done so is part of his career story.
Today, he is leading a donut revival in Chicago, where Dazed and Infused, founded a year ago by restaurateur Scott Harris along with partners Culleeney and Megan Brown, has already grown to five locations throughout Chicago.
Culleeney is a native of the Chicago area, and he fell in love with cooking at a very young age.
The year 2001 was a fortunate year for doughnut-lover Culleeney, as Lettuce Entertain You became heavily involved with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, becoming the sole franchisee in the Northwest part of the United States. He moved to the Seattle area and opened the first Krispy Kreme store in that part of the country. Over the next eight years he opened 11 more stores in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Canada, and coordinated doughnut production for all of the operations.
Culleeney’s contributions to Lettuce Entertain You and Krispy Kreme, from a product development standpoint, were very significant. He developed recipes and production methods for a wide range of doughnut flavors and he also spearheaded the development of scones, breakfast pastries, bagels, cakes, fritters, cake doughnut mixes, all of which increased sales in these Krispy Kreme stores by 20 percent.
Throughout this period he also devoted many days to researching the best donut shops in the United States. Most of the true stars of the doughnut business, from a product perspective, were small, mom and pop type shops. What they lacked in style they made up for in substance, with great recipes, high quality and an artist’s eye for what the public would be enthusiastic about. One of his greatest observations was that while true doughnut lovers appreciate great renditions of classic flavors, they also will adopt new flavors if they work. In other words, creativity definitely has its place in the doughnut world.
In 2011, after many years working in a larger corporate environment, Culleeney chose to scale back a bit and return to a more personal, entrepreneurial business. He had been thinking a great deal about artisan doughnuts—taking doughnuts back to their handcrafted, amazingly delicious roots. He had known chef and restaurateur Scott Harris for many years, and he was correct in believing that if he approached Harris with his idea for an artisan doughnut shop, Harris would quickly embrace the idea. These initial discussions eventually led to the formation of Glazed and Infused, which is now under the Francesca’s Restaurants umbrella.
In his new role, Culleeney is one of the leaders of a highly skilled team which plans to take donuts to new heights, build a large following and become a highly respected company throughout the country. To learn more, visit www.goglazed.com.