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Propaganda Doughnuts sets up shop on Division Avenue corridor

Tory O'Haire opens new doughnut shop on Division Avenue just blocks from his live/work studio and kitchen.
Tory O'Haire

Tory O'Haire /Eric Tank

Doughnuts from scratch

The Starving Artist, AKA Tory O'Haire, is bringing old school patisserie tradition to the burgeoning Division Avenue corridor.

Propaganda Doughnuts storefront

Propaganda Doughnuts storefront /Eric Tank

/Eric Tank

Grand Rapids' culinarian Tory O'Haire, dubbed The Starving Artist and known for his Full Moon Supper Club dinner parties, is now starting a new venture his new brick and morter doughnut shop.

Propaganda Doughnuts (117A South Division Avenue) plans to stand apart from the pack of other doughy fried goodies by offering the area's first health conscious, environmentally friendly doughnut and pastry shop.

O'Haire was working as a private chef before finding a live/work space to settle into on the Division Avenue corridor. For a little over five years he has been freelancing out of that space giving cooking lessons, catering and consulting.

O'Haire's culinary background stems from his family upbringing. He cites his mother as an extrordinary baker.

"She could really instill jealousy with her pastries," he says, along with his "coven" of aunts that all had their own specialties. 

"It was always so much fun because there were so many ways to learn about everything from throwing a fancy dinner party to tromping off in the woods, hunting and fishing and forageing, to growing vegetables and herbs," O'Haire says of his childhood.

O'Haire doesn't thinks of himself as a pastry chef.

"I always think it's silly for chefs to consider themselves primarily anything. In my mind you can either cook or you can't," says O'Haire. "You can have your preferences and you can have your favorites and you can have your cuisines of course. But to just flat out say, oh well I'm opening up a restaurant but desserts don't really matter [doesn't make sense]."

For O'Haire it comes down to a matter the whole. Everything, from the flavors to the textures to theme from start to finish- and even the experience, have to work collectively together to compliment one another.

His unique vision of a complete dining experience is exemplified in the Full Moon Supper Club, a monthly dinner party series with epicurian explorations in West Michigan. The now three year enterprise has become a popular yet still underground event.

With eclectic dishes varying month to month from pasta de jambon to pork shoulder in guava sauce to grilled octopus to fig brandy, O'Haire's palate for worldly cuisine involves a wide breadth of ingredients.

So why a leap from full dinner experiences to doughnuts?

O'Haire sees an opportunity in the breakfast culture, adding what he doesn't think there is enough of yet: variety and quailty. To his knowledge, no one in West Michigan is offering made-from-scratch doughnuts.

"I use exclusivly low saturated fat and transfat free oils," he says. "I have to special order them because no one in town orders them."

South Division Avenue has seen an arts resurgence in recent years, and new shops like The Local Epicurian are starting to arrive as well. Propaganda Doughnuts is the newest enterprise in a sucession of progressive efforts that call South Division home.

O'Haire's approach shares the tenacity of the old world French mentality. Uncompromising and diligent in creating only the best pastries he can offer, je insists that his doughnuts are not merely bourgious delicacies but can be equally delectable, affordable and simple as well. He believes in producing a quality product and standing behind it unwaveringly.

What you won't find at Propaganda Doughnuts is a dining space. There is a bench out front on the sidewalk and a few bar stools indoors which makes the shop primarily a stop-and-go type of place. No fancy new equipment here either. O'haire draws his inspiration from a 19th century patisserie tradition. He considers his hands and creative playfulness the real tool, saying he's "the opposite of fancy gadgets."

Propaganda Doughnuts is open for snacks like Zingerman's candy bars or to purchase t-shirts, while waiting for licensure and other legalities to be completed before the kitchen is fully operational.

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