Chef Kamal Grant ’04, No Ordinary Doughnut
CIA Alumni Bio
Kamal Grant took a big chance with his business plan for his small bakery in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood. The chef/owner of Sublime Doughnuts refused to serve the standard varieties. Instead, Kamal held fast to his belief that his creative flavor combinations and artistic presentation would win over patrons. “At first it was a struggle,” says Kamal. “People really didn’t know what to make of my creations. I’d tell my customers that I only use the best quality ingredients to create the best quality product and it would be the best doughnut they’ve ever tasted. When I saw my first return customer, I felt confident in the future.”
Saving up for College
When Kamal graduated high school he enlisted in the Navy. “I served as a Baker 3rd Class Petty Officer on the USS John Young,” Kamal says. “It was my first taste of large-scale baking and I saw how much my shipmates loved doughnuts. The Navy was good for me because it help me grow up and gave me structure.” The Navy also exposed him to different cuisines and flavor profiles from around the world, which expanded his palate and prepared him for the CIA. “If you want to be a chef you should go learn from great chefs at the world’s premier culinary college,” says Kamal. “I was able to use my GI Bill and the Navy College Fund for tuition. The admission counselors were very helpful and guided me through the veteran’s admission process.”
Make it and They will Come
After graduating from the CIA with an associate degree in baking and pastry, Kamal worked as a production supervisor at the Flowers Baking Company. But when Kamal passed a defunct doughnut shop with a “For Lease” sign in the window, he jumped at the chance to own his own shop. “I didn’t have a lot of money for advertising, so word of mouth was pretty important in the early days,” explained Kamal. “I really believed the adage ‘Make it and they will come.’ Happily, business has increased steadily since we opened.”
In 2011, an entrepreneur from Thailand approached Kamal with a proposal to open a Sublime Doughnut in Bangkok. Opened in February 2012, its popularity has added a new dimension to Kamal’s business—franchising. In April 2016, Kamal opened a second outpost of Sublime Doughnuts in the North Druid Hills section of Atlanta, and this shop is open 24 hours a day. He has expanded with a location in the Briar Cliff area of Atlanta, and two shops inside Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz stadium.
Kamal’s has written a cookbook, Homemade Doughnuts: Techniques and Recipes for Making Sublime Doughnuts in Your Home Kitchen and has a YouTube series called Will It Doughnut? where he spins the Wheel O’Doughnuts to choose wacky new flavors then creates the doughnut on camera. Each week after the new video comes out, customers can purchase the new creation.
A Strong Set of Skills
“I got so much out of my time at the CIA. You’re surrounded by like-minded people all who have a passion for food. You learn so much technique that you leave with a well-rounded education and a strong set of skills,” Kamal says. “The training and the background I received at the CIA gave me the tools to become a great chef. The lessons I learned—especially about using the best possible products and plate presentation—I still use every day. My customers always mention how beautiful the donuts look. Pastries are not just about baking, they also represent culinary art.”
Chef Kamal Grant majored in baking and pastry arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. He is the founder and creative director of Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta, GA.