Saturday, February 21, 2009
There are certain scents that instantly transport you to another place in time. The best ones are those that awaken vivid memories of happy experiences, like the smell of something deliciously sweet baking. If you walk down the breezeway in front of the racing office at Santa Anita late in the afternoon, you will be overwhelmed by just such a delicious aroma wafting down from above.
That breezeway runs underneath Santa Anita's main kitchen, where donuts and other pastries are being made. They have been making donuts in that kitchen, in the same wonderful old donut machine, for as long as anyone at the track can remember.
On a special tour of the pastry kitchen, I was able to videotape the donut-making process and talk to pastry chef Colt Cheyne and cook Steve Chitchurwong. Chitchurwong, who has worked there 34 years, said the donut machine has been there at least as long as he has. It can produce nearly 80 dozen cake donuts per hour. The donuts are then iced or sugared by hand. There are four types -- chocolate, coconut, cinnamon sugar and plain.
According to Randy Fowler, Santa Anita's Director of Hospitality, it is fairly unusual these days for a company that is not an actual donut shop to make its own donuts. But donuts are a Santa Anita tradition, enjoyed by racetrack regulars every day from before sunrise at Clockers' Corner until late afternoon in the stands.
My tour ended with a taste of a fresh, warm coconut donut that was like a piece of heaven! Enjoy the video, but I don't recommend watching it when you're hungry.