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Vincent Marsden, ’99, earned degrees from Maryville University in psychology and sociology, but his doughnut-making career path has roots in an unlikely elective class: metalsmithing. That’s where he learned the intricacies of following a set pattern, the bedrock of his successful Vincent Van Doughnut food truck and Clayton, Mo., store.
“When we make doughnuts, we take calculated steps to get a consistent product. That was something taught in that class,” Marsden says.
His love of doughnuts goes back to a childhood addiction to the cakey, powdery deliciousness. But as an adult, managing the dining establishments of Chase Park Plaza and owning Mirasol Latin tapas restaurant, Marsden had no idea he’d one day earn a living making dough.
A trip to Germany exposed him to a new world of baked goods. Marsden came home with visions of creating the perfect doughnut.
“I became obsessed. I couldn’t even sleep,” he remembers.
Countless hours in the kitchen eventually yielded a tasty square (even the shape of his doughnuts is unique) deemed ready for the public, so he bought a food truck. When the Cooking Channel’s “Doughnut Showdown” invited Marsden to compete, he won. The $10,000 prize was enough to open his brick-and-mortar location last March.
There’s no single ingredient in his success — or his dough. “Just sugar, butter, milk, water, yeast, bread flour, salt and nutmeg, for the yeast variety,” he says. “The secret is basically the ratios.”
Another essential component is family involvement. “My wife did the store design and my brother-in-law is a business partner. My 7-year-old son, ‘Mini Vinny,’ is the official taste-tester,” Marsden says. His father, Bill Marsden — a Maryville alumnus — helped with PR.
Vincent Van Doughnut features creations such as vanilla mascarpone rosettes atop a cream cheese glaze, finished with raspberries. Taste is the bottom line, Marsden says, but presentation is important because “you taste with your eyes first.”
This story was first published in the Fall 2015 edition of Maryville Magazine.