Kenneth Rodrigueza didn’t realise just how much he loved doughnuts until he moved to Australia from the Philippines seven years ago.
“We have a lot of doughnut stores in the Philippines,” he tells SBS. “We have donuts everywhere. Krispy Kreme, Mr Donut, as well as local chains.”
“I realised I was craving them but [back then] there weren’t really many doughnut stores in Sydney.”
So two years ago, Kenneth decided to put on an apron and start making his own, testing out his creations on co-workers at his full-time retail job.
“My first batch was a banana custard doughnut with white chocolate ganache. It took me almost two days and I wasn’t really happy with it,” he says.
“But I still brought it to work and someone said, ‘That’s the best doughnut I’ve ever had’.”
Kenneth started experimenting with different types of doughnut recipes (yeast-raised, cake batter-style) and began sharing his desserts on Instagram. He knew he wanted to start a business but couldn’t think of the right name.
“But I remembered in the Philippines, my dad would always bring us home doughnuts, so I decided to call it Donut Papi; like dad, father,” he explains.
“But I also got the name from Champagne Papi, like [rapper] Drake’s Instagram name,” he laughs.
Until now, Kenneth has been selling directly to a wholesaler and holding popups at markets but Donut Papi is slated to open its first retail store Redfern this December. As well as the classics, you can expect an ube doughnut (it’s dazzling colour taken from the bright purple yam), a matcha white chocolate glaze, a sweet strawberry sakura (cherry blossom) and a Thai milk tea bombo.
“Our signature will be the Redfern Velvet,” says Kenneth. “Like a red velvet that’s a dedication to the neighbourhood.”
And because nothing goes better with a fresh doughnut than a nice long black, Donut Papi will be serving up coffee from Allpress Espresso.
To date, Donut Papi has already gained a huge following thanks to both its market stalls and mouth-watering Instagram page.
“The highlight so far was when Nigella [Lawson] reposted a photo of mine,” says Kenneth. I’m a massive Nigella fan. It was our bombos (custard-filled doughnuts) and it just went crazy!”
When the doughnut orders started to increase, Kenneth knew he should call for backup, so he enlisted his sister Karen to help out.
“My sister has been there since day one. I started the business by taking orders from my workmates. The first day, I got orders for 150 doughnuts and I thought, ‘I can do this!’”
“But I started early in the morning and just couldn’t get it all done on my own.”
Kenneth and Karen now both work full-time at Donut Papi and another Rodrigueza sibling—who’s in Year 12—helps out on weekends. Are there ever any family spats in the kitchen?
“A lot!” they both laugh.
“Like, every day,” adds Karen. “We’re lucky because we can fight in our own language."
“Yep, we argue in Tagalog!” Kenneth says.
Donut Papi is open Wed - Fri 9am - 3pm and weekends 10am - 4pm.
34A Redfern St, Redfern NSW