For as long as I remember I was always a “night crawler” or “vampire”, asleep through the day and awake at night. Whether I was watching reruns on television of my favorite cooking shows or wandering around the streets of Tel Aviv with my friends, I could just never go to bed before 2am. Believe me I tried, but I’m just not a morning person and if it was up to me, my day would not start before noon and would end in the wee hours of the night. But it’s only when I met Zack Engel, Chef of Federal Donuts that I understood I have it easy! Zack is a true night owl and not a “wannabe” like me. To make all the delicious fried chicken and mind-blowing donuts you can get at Federal Donuts as early as 7am (chicken at 11:45am) Zack arrives at work at midnight almost on a daily basis. And about twice a week he does it all by his lonesome! One night owl to another, Zack invited me to join him for his graveyard shift at FedNuts (as we call it at COOK) to see how it’s done and to keep him company so he could stop talking to himself for one night.
So I ramped up my caffeine intake and went along to meet Zack outside FedNuts around midnight. We open up and without wasting any time Zack went straight to work! In case you’ve never been to Federal Donuts, it’s a known fact that they run out of their fried chicken in lightning speed, sometimes within only an hour or two of opening. Zack says that people come to him all the time and ask him why can’t he just make more of it? The answer is simple–there is simply no room in the fridge to make more and here is living proof! This is it, ladies and gents: the only cold storage Zack has, and he’s making the best of it so cut him some slack!
First thing on the agenda is the dough for the donuts. Zack makes the dough fresh daily for the donuts that go on sale at 7am.
After he’s done with the dough, he moves on to the fried chicken batter.
As you can see, Zack fries it all by himself on a double fryer and then arranges them by portions. The chicken gets fried twice, once in advance and a second time when you order it.
Only after Zack’s done frying all the chicken for that day does he move on to making the donuts!
The “DONUT ROBOT” is an original donut fryer circa the 70′s. Alone it churns out hundreds of donuts daily, and believe me when I say it takes its sweet ass time doing so!
At about 4am the coating and glazing of the donuts occur. Every delicious little ring of fried dough gets glazed and dipped by hand! Not by a machine, but by Zack himself.
And we’re talking a bunch of glazes and toppings each day. Federal Donuts serves an average of 9 donut varieties per day.
Around 5am when the sun was just starting to come out was when I cracked and called it quits. Its was time for me to go to bed but not for Zack. He still has about 3 more hours of making sure his donuts are perfect before service.
I gotta hand it to you, Zack. I had no idea all this effort goes into making fried chicken and donuts! Now I’ll appreciate every single bite I take of it so much more. Thank you for one of the coolest “white nights” I had and good luck with the new Federal Donuts branch opening on 16th and Sansom in the near future!