Pandemic induced side project morphs into massive sales as New Yorkers go bonkers for specialty donuts

What started out as a humble endeavor in the wake of New York City’s shuttering of thousands of businesses over the COVID pandemic has blossomed into a booming specialty food business with incredible demand.

Kora bakery makes Filipino-inspired gourmet doughnuts that New Yorkers are bonkers for, as evidenced by the fact that, at one point, the waiting list topped 10,000 customers.

Yes, you read that right.

Out of an apartment in Woodlawn, Queens, the bakery was the invention of chef Kimberly Camara and her partner, Kevin Borja, after they found themselves suddenly unemployed in the summer of 2020.

(Video: YouTube/Food Insider)

“When we started Kora we had no intention of turning it into a full-blown business,” Camara, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, told the Guardian. “It was something that we thought would just be a seasonal project, something that maybe we would start and end in a couple of months during the summer of 2020. We kind of just went with the flow.”

Family members initially helped deliver the doughnuts from the apartment, with signature items such as a leche flan (baked custard usually) composed of brioche dough with a flan center and a shiny blob made of the purple yam dish “ube.” Demand reached such extremes they could no longer keep up without hiring more employees.

“It’s really about the connection that we’ve been able to make with people through the doughnuts,” Camara said. “Whether it’s through nostalgia, storytelling – people can relate to a lot of the stories that I would tell regarding how I came up with certain flavors and brought them to life through a doughnut.”

The owners had to temporarily close off the waiting list until it was reduced to a more manageable but still gargantuan 5,000 customers, all of whom presumably are prepared to wait indefinitely for the scrumptious concoctions.

The bakery is again currently closed to orders in order to play catch up and process the thousands of orders that winter holiday feasting brings with it. They expect to reopen on Jan. 10 and have announced plans to build a brick-and-mortar shop as they currently operate exclusively online. Kora’s Instagram page boasts 39,000 followers.

For Camara, the success has been much more than just financially gratifying. She has an avenue to share her recipes — many of them inspired by her late grandmother Kora’s own cookbook – and has been expanding their menu with her own imaginative delights. Quite the triumph when one considers the stringent crackdowns on all manner of everyday life that business owners and customers alike in the Big Apple have endured at the hands of their local and state governments.

“Kora is the coming together of my entire life. There is no way that my grandmother is looking down on us and isn’t so proud of all of the work that we’ve done,” Camara told Eater. “Wherever Kora takes us, behind all of it is my connection with her and my connection with my heritage.”


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