1950 American Doughnut Kitchen at Queen Victoria Market

The American Doughnut Kitchen van outside F Shed at Queen Victoria Market. Image: Tripadvisor

The American Doughnut Kitchen is a Melbourne institution, familiar to anyone who has shopped at the Queen Victoria Market in the last 70 years or so. Still (in 2024) operated by the same two families that started the business in 1950, it serves up hot, jam-filled doughnuts from a food truck parked outside F-shed from 7 am on market days. Except for Saturdays, when it’s an early start at 6am.

The business, formerly known as the German Doughnut Kitchen,  was bought by former schoolmates Arnold Bridges and Dave Christie in 1950. The pair had run a wood yard together when, looking for something less arduous, they customised two vans and began producing their doughnuts. Despite the name, there’s nothing American about them. They’re doughnuts without a hole, based on the German Berliner pfannkuchen which are said to have been invented in 1756 by a field baker to Frederick the Great. But in the aftermath of World War II, the partners thought “American” was likely to be much more popular than “German”.

The recipe for the yeasty doughnuts is a closely guarded secret, known only to American Doughnut Kitchen employees and protected by confidentiality deeds. It makes no concessions to vegans or vegetarians, proudly proclaiming that the doughnuts are cooked in beef fat. And it’s doughnuts, not donuts – rejecting the American spelling despite the name.

There’s a knack to eating the golden, puffy treats if you don’t want a blob of hot plum and raspberry jam squirting down your front. The idea is to take your first bite from the spot where the jam has been injected, so the only place it oozes is into your mouth. You might want to let the doughnut cool down a little first. At $20 for five doughnuts (as of 2024) they’re a bargain.

While the American Doughnut Kitchen is best known for its market location, in the early days it was much more peripatetic. During football season, at a time when the market closed at 1 pm on Saturdays, the van would be off to the MCG to feed the crowds. It also travelled to country shows, race meetings and music festivals. These days it stays put, but the owners have opened a second location – a bricks and mortar shop at the Prahran Market in Melbourne’s south-east. In 2023, the business received a Lord Mayor’s Small Business Award, recognising its iconic status in inner-city Melbourne.

While probably the most feted, the Kitchen is not the only purveyor of hot doughnuts. A Broadsheet article, The Secret History of the Hot Jam Doughnut, points out that Melbourne is the only city in the world where doughnuts are served hot. It identifies other sellers including Dandee Donuts at the Dandenong Market and the, sadly now defunct, Olympic Doughnuts caravan at the Footscray railway station where the jam was famously squirted from the nose of a model dolphin.

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