The magical man behind Bobs' dining hall doughnut Thursdays
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On Thursday mornings, many students resist the temptation to hit the snooze button and sleep through breakfast. Some even wake up earlier than normal in order to get to the dining hall before the doughnuts run out. But few students know the man who creates the delicious glazed, powdered and jam-filled concoctions that make those Thursday mornings special.
For the past 19 years, David Jacobs has been coming into Roberts’ Dining Hall at 4:30 a.m. every other Thursday to make doughnuts. And now that Dana Dining Hall has started serving doughnuts on Thursdays as well, he comes in every week and alternates between the two kitchens. “I’m amazed that I put 60 dozen doughnuts out [last] Thursday, and within two hours I didn’t have any left,” Jacobs said of the remarkable student response to his baking. “I haven’t seen anyone who didn’t like doughnuts,” he said.
Jacobs, 72, is a small, soft-spoken man, but he possesses a vitality that’s uncommon for his age. “Baking keeps you in good shape because you’re always moving,” he said with a smile.
Jacobs is humble when he talks about his work, to which he maintains an endearingly old-fashioned dedication. Today, most people who buy doughnuts “either go to Dunkin Donuts or some other chain,” he said; but it’s just not the same. Jacobs makes all of his doughnuts from scratch—“they’re not out of a bag”—he said, adding that one of his doughnut recipes even came from the 1965 World Fair in Chicago.
This old-fashioned approach to baking makes sense—Jacobs has been making food for others for over 50 years. He got his start in the food industry when he served as a cook and baker in the army for two years. “I’d never baked before I went into service,” he said, but he had fun experimenting with different recipes. “What I love about baking is that you’re always learning something new,” he said.
After the army, Jacobs spent his early 20s working at a bakery in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Eventually, he opened two bakeries of his own, small “neighborhood” shops back in a time when there was a “bakery on every block,” he said. He ran the shops until his five children grew up and moved away, and he and his wife decided to relocate. They put the bakeries and their house up for sale and moved to a house on a lake in Canaan, Maine, where they currently reside.
Jacobs’ neighbor at his house in Canaan was the head chef at Dana Dining Hall at the time, and he offered Jacobs the chance to come work in food services on the Hill. The kitchen wasn’t really set up for making doughnuts, Jacob said, “but I made it happen.”
Nineteen years later, Jacobs is still here, and he’s still baking. Of course, many things have changed during this time—especially our attitudes toward food and nutrition—and an increased emphasis on eating healthy has caused less-than-nutritious snacks such as doughnuts to develop a sort of stigma.
“But everyone needs a treat every now and then,” Jacobs said. Or perhaps just every Thursday morning.