Kurt Evans is a lot of things. The multi-hyphenate Chef, activist, and entrepreneur is as focused on his next dish as he is ending mass incarceration across the country.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Evans started cooking southern-style cuisine with his grandmother at a young age. 14 years into his culinary career, his passion for innovative and creative recipes has continued to grow along his passion for activism against America’s broken prison system.
As the Culinary Director at New York-based nonprofit Drive Change, Kurt managed a professional training fellowship program for formerly incarcerated youth. When the program ended due to the COVID-19, Evans returned to Philly to re-establishing a workforce development program, Down North Pizza, a fair wage, equitable workplace for all its employees who have been formerly incarcerated.
On August 30, Evans will be joining us on our Instagram Live at 9AM EST for a live cooking demonstration, where he’ll be showing us how to make his special Coffee Cream Donut recipe using our Lyon blend, along with a conversation on social justice with our friend Clarice Metzger of Kno Media. Leading up to the event, we asked Kurt to share a little bit about himself and what inspires him.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
KURT: When I’m not cooking I love to spend time with my family. I’m a cook book collector, I hunt & fish. I love hip hop, Jay-z is my favorite rapper.
What’s your favorite dish to make?
KURT: Without a doubt I love making fried chicken & cornbread
What’s the easiest yet most delicious meal people can make at home?
KURT: Fish & grits and if you want to get fancy you can add greens or cabbage.
There’s a magic inherent in African American cuisine, especially soul food. How have you seen soul food specifically bring people together?
KURT: Soul food is connected to historical events and has social significance. Soul food has fueled the activists marching for change for years.
Tell us a little bit about your work around ending mass incarceration (EMI).
KURT: EMI Dinner series we’re passionately committed to education, advocacy, and service to communities that face disproportionate rates of incarceration, and to assisting people who are impacted by incarceration. This dinner series explores food and conversation to create deeper understanding of mass incarceration that can ultimately inform practice and policy on clinical, micro and macro levels as it pertains to mass incarceration.
Food has always been a powerful tool for connecting different people and cultures. What role do you feel food plays in driving change?
KURT: Food to me has always plays the role of connector. Families and friends gather together to eat. All major social events seemed to include food, from weddings to fundraisers.
Any wise words for people who think they’re bad at cooking?
KURT: Don’t overload your brain with too many cook books, and TV shows. Do not compare yourself with other cooks, you have to cater for your own need.
Last but not least, how do you take your coffee?
Learn more about Kurt on his site here and read his donut recipe below. Learn more about Clarice and Kno. Media on their site here. And be sure to tune into our Breakfast for Change event on our Instagram Live on August 30 at 9AM EST.
HOW TO MAKE COFFEE CREAM DONUTS
How to Make the Dough:
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled
- 3 large eggs, room temp
- 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- vegetable oil, or other frying oil, as needed
- Pour milk and water into a microwave-safe container. Heat for 20- 30 seconds until warm (100-110 degrees F”).
- Stir in sugar and active dry yeast. Let sit for 5-8 minutes until foamy.
- Pour mixture into the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add melted butter and lightly whisked eggs. Turn mixture onto low and slowly add about half the flour.
- Change to a dough hook. Increase speed and continue to add remaining flour. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth.
- Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for one hour.
- Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll or pat dough to about 1/2-inch thick. Use a round cutter to punch out rounds. Cover with plastic wrap.
- Fill a large pot with 4’’ of vegetable oil. Using a thermometer, bring oil to 350 degrees F over medium heat.
- Depending on the size of your pot, add 3-5 doughnuts to the pot at a time. Turn doughnuts over once they float to the top and cook on the other side until golden brown all over.
- Remove doughnuts from oil and let drain on paper towels. Let cool completely.
How to Make the Coffee Pastry Cream:
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp La Colombe Lyon ground for espresso
- 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Grind coffee beans to espresso grind.
- Line a quarter-sheet baking pan with plastic wrap, making sure the sides of the pan are also covered. Set aside.
- Pour 1 1/2 cups milk into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add salt and 1/2 cup sugar, and coffee. Whisk together.
- Place over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to make sure the milk does not burn along the sides or bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a separate medium bowl, whisk together cornstarch, 1/4 cup sugar. Add in remaining 1/2 cup milk and 4 egg yolks. Whisk until smooth.
- Once milk has boiled, turn off heat and strain out espresso grinds. Place espresso steeped milk back into the pan and return to a low heat.
- Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the custard has thickened. Keep whisking and let the custard come to boil to cook out the cornstarch flavor. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter until smooth. Add vanilla and whisk until combined.
- Pour the hot pastry cream into the prepared plastic wrapped sheet pan. Spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 10-15 minutes until the pastry cream has cooled to room temperature. Remove from freezer and transfer to an airtight container. Place plastic wrap directly on pastry cream to avoid condensation. Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Transfer cream to a pastry bag, poke a hole into the doughnut and pipe pastry cream in.
How to Make the Topping
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 Tbsp melted butter
- Frozen chocolate bar
- In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cinnamon.
- Lightly brush doughnuts with melted butter
- Dunk doughnuts in cinnamon sugar mixture.
- Zest chocolate bar over doughnuts.