When Psycho Donuts head chef Ron Levi and his assistant Joe Cloutier were tapped to compete in TV show Donut Showdown, the bakery’s Bay Area following had no clue. The six episodes aired in April on Food Network Canada.
“It was this huge accomplishment that our local fans and customers had no knowledge of,” says Psycho owner Jordan Zweigoron. “When the show was first created, there was a very good prospect for the show to get licensed to air in the U.S., but we never knew if this would happen, or when.”
Now, it’s happening. At 7pm on July 3, chefs Levi and Cloutier duke it out in front of a national audience on the Cooking Channel in an episode titled “Fire and Ice.”
“The experience for us was surreal,” Zweigoron says.
After watching Levi’s (deliberately) cheesy audition video, producers Architect Films asked the quirky Silicon Valley donut chain, which has stores in San Jose and Campbell, if they could fly Levi and his culinary sidekick up to Toronto last October to compete in the series.
“Ron was wildly excited, but it was a lot of work preparing for the unknown of such an intense experience,” Zweigoron says. “His job at Psycho Donuts is pretty demanding also, so there wasn’t much time for Ron and Joe to practice together.”
A lot of time and sugar-fueled energy go into creating unconventional donuts like the Foie Bomb (which recently riled up local vegans and animal rights groups) or the bacon-cheddar-flavored cricket-topped Chirp Derp, so Levi and Cloutier didn’t get to brainstorm before their whirlwind trip for the television showdown, where they faced limited ingredients, time restrictions, cutthroat competition and the constant watch of TV cameras.
In the first round, Levi cooked up a batch of vanilla cake donuts with chocolate hazelnut icing, candied walnuts and fruit-flavored popping candy. In round two, competitors were asked to make six dozen raised donuts in three improvised categories. Levi nailed it, whipping up a Mayan hot chocolate s’mores donut with a caramel halo, a salted caramel chipotle apple fritter with hot cinnamon crackle and a margarita bullseye donut with tequila-chantilly cream filling, margarita icing and a salted key lime drizzle.
Spoiler alert: Psycho Donuts beat 42 contestants from around the world, leaving the battle with the $10,000 grand prize.
Psycho Donuts is featured on ‘Donut Showdown’
July 3, 7pm on the Cooking Channel.