“Free-From” Business Spotlight: Ryan Panchoo, Founder Of Borough 22, Gluten-Free Doughnuts in London
Delicious, decadent Sugar, Cinnamon, Vanilla Glazed, Raspberry, Nutella doughnuts,Â all of which are vegan and gluten-free. Do I have your attention yet? What about 72% Rio Caribe Cacao, Salted Caramel, and cookie crumble brownies, also free from eggs, dairy, soy, and gluten. Now we’re talking. These are some of the delicious creations being made at the London Bakehouse Borough 22.Â In honor of National Doughnut Day, I caught up with the ultimate authority on doughnuts (specifically the allergy-free kind),Â Ryan Panchoo of Borough 22 in London, England.
I first stumbled upon Borough 22 on Instagram, one of my favorite resources for finding local “free-from” bakeries and businesses. Immediately I became obsessed with the vibrant colors and flavors of their delicious allergen-free baked goods, and wanted to learn more about the founder Ryan Panchoo. I reached out to Ryan to chat about how Borough got started, his thoughts about #boyswhobake, his plans to one day (hopefully) be a nut-free facility,Â recommendations for the best allergy-free spots in London, and more.
AFW: What inspired you to start Borough 22?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â It was for my family and I never actually set out to start anything. It kind of grew organically. My wife has multiple allergies, like your husband, and my children were both dairy intolerant. It was time consuming making different things for them all and upsetting to have limited, inferior options available when we were eating out. I decided to research something they all could eat that didnâ€™t compromise on taste.
AFW:Â Where does the name Borough 22 come from?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â Borough 22 is my homage to NYC actually. I love the 5 boroughs and upon reflection realised that London has its own boroughs too, 32 in fact (33 if you count the centre of town). A quick check on the internet saw that the Royal Borough of Greenwich where I live is the 22nd Borough, hence the name.
AFW:Â What were you doing before Borough 22?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â I was and in fact still am working full time as a project manager for a property investment company. Baking is a late and lonely affair which enables me to balance the two. And I am slightly crazy, which helps.
AFW:Â What’s your baking background? How were you able to come up with the winning ingredient mixture for your delicious free-from doughnuts?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â I have no prior experience. I have learnt everything through the internet, cooking shows, cook books and trial and error. A whole lot of the latter. The recipe is a mixture of a few I had researched and adapted. I could never take credit for all the hard working bakers out there who made this information available for all to share. I think this has inspired many to have-a-go and get creative within the free from world which canâ€™t be bad at all!
AFW:Â I noticed that the doughnuts are not nut-free. Any plans to have a special nut-free option in the future?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â Well actually they are nut free in that there are no peanuts or tree nut products used in the base recipe. I use Nutella as a topping which I top with chopped hazelnuts and I make both a peanut butter glaze and raspberry pistachio glaze. Many customers with nut allergies are fine if these products are left out. Unfortunately if you have a severe allergy to nuts then you still cannot eat them. I would like to one day be nut free, if I get my own kitchen.
AFW:Â Although your main product is doughnuts, do you offer other baked goods? What’s your favorite?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â I do make what I believe to be Londonâ€™s best gluten free brownie. Iâ€™ve made it dairy and gluten free and also dairy & gluten free and vegan as well and they are all winners in their own right. It was actually on the strength of our brownies as to why I started the business. Doughnuts were my greatest afterthought and now my main focus but I will always make a batch of brownies for any customers who request them.
AFW:Â Tell us about your top three flavor choices for doughnuts.
Ryan/Borough 22:Â No. 1 has to be cinnamon sugar. When this is fresh out the oven and I carefully remove it from the pan and sugar itâ€¦ It is tear inducing. Itâ€™s like a fairground doughnut. One customer says it reminds them of December 25th.Â Second has to be the cherry crumble. It is a mini doughnut sugar dusted and filled with black cherry compote ( jam/ jelly. Compote sounds fancy though). Then it is covered with a layer of gluten and dairy free crumble topping. This one makes us break dance. Usually accompanied by the â€œAxel Foley Themeâ€ showing my age.Â Third would be Peanut Butter Jelly. Itâ€™s the salty pairing with the sweet. Itâ€™s, well, itâ€™s just yes. Even the peanut butter glaze works so well in its own right.
AFW:Â Do you take custom orders? What’s the craziest thing you’ve been asked for?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â I do yes. Craziest was a customer who couldnâ€™t eat gluten, egg, nuts, sugar, and legumes. I gave her an empty box and a hug. Actually I managed to make something up for her. It was a challenge though!
AFW:Â I love that you use the hashtag #boyswhobake. It seems that the “free-from” community is primarily led by females. Are you friends with other Boys Who Bake?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â Iâ€™m friends with boys that chef but to date none other who bake professionally. I do have one friend, Jason that makes incredible cheesecakes but you would have to run a mile from them, and him. Sad face.
AFW:Â It’s 10 years from now, where do you see Borough 22?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â I want us to be well established. I want people to refer to us as an object â€œShall we get a borough 22?â€ that kind of thing. That excites me. Juggling this and work is forcing me to be grounded and frugal so Iâ€™m not even sure that I would want a physical bricks and mortar establishment. There are plenty of those places. Iâ€™d like to be a lodger in a select number of them though.
AFW:Â Name three words to keep in mind when baking allergy-free treats.
Ryan/Borough 22:Â Clean. Methodical. Patient
AFW:Â What are your favorite allergy-free spots in London?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â The Artisan BakeryÂ â€“ They are now supplying Wholefoods. If you are celiac or gluten free especially the thing you miss the most are breads and pastries. These guys are the masters of both.
Honest Burgers â€“ I guess if you are diagnosed with allergies itâ€™s surprising how much of your culinary experience is affected. Honest Burger do it justice and they make gluten free onion rings to boot!
BirdÂ â€“ Similar to Honest Burger fast food is very important. Who doesnâ€™t want to indulge every evening! Bird do it well without even trying. Gluten free because it works not because they are trying to be!
AFW:Â Who’s your biggest inspiration?
Ryan/Borough 22:Â My wife Madeka. She has seen this from conception and she is the sole reason it is where it is now. I love her. She gives me reason for another day to keep pushing Borough 22. She also laughs, out loud, every time I say Iâ€™m packing it all in! Sheâ€™s grounding.