When it comes to living life, Kahnawa’kehró:non James Day said he goes by one motto: “You’ve got to think outside the box, because soon enough, you’ll be in one.”
And, as usual, thinking outside the box has led to another eccentric business venture for Day, owner of Haunted Dogs, a restaurant providing all sorts of outlandish fast-food options. Now, nestled between “pig dogs” – a deep-fried hot dog wrapped in bacon – and “possessed poutine,” you’ll find Day’s latest creepy confection: Devil’s Donuts.
“It all started with Haunted Dogs, but once you’ve had your dog, you’re going to want a dessert after that, aren’t you?” Day said. He decided to launch a line of “Deadly Desserts,” with the debut treat being the Devil’s Donut.
“We started fooling around with different designs. I bought all kinds of sprinkles, and I love colour, so I just got every colour, as well as eyes and teeth, all the craziest things,” he said. “I want people to get this food that they’d get at a circus or a stateside fair right here in Kahnawake.”
Day has been selling his cinnamon-flavoured Devil’s Donuts in batches of five for $8. Though it’s only been about a month, Day’s notoriety as a wickedly fun local cook means he’s got a booming clientele, with folks placing pre-orders already. Donuts can be ordered for pickup or delivery by contacting Haunted Dogs directly.
“I thought, oh, I’m gonna have to buy a bigger donut machine,” Day said.
Angus Ken’niwatenhra:a Deer is one of those many paying customers. He decided to let Day pick what types of donuts to give him, instead of picking out a customized assortment.
“I figured I’d let the creative mind pick for me, and they were really good!” he said. Deer explained that he always supports Day’s latest culinary inventions.
“I believe in James’ ideas, and I hope he continues to develop his skills and art in everything he does,” Deer said. “With James it all comes back to benefitting the community. It’s something we all can and should get behind.”
Whipping up batches of brightly coloured donuts is no easy task. Day spends hours every week preparing the dough, maintaining his kitchen, and decorating the donuts.
“I’ve got an assembly line. I’ve got the mixers, I’ve got to form the donuts, then boom! Time to start the drying process, lay it on the wax paper, dip ‘em, glaze ‘em, get creative, add the sprinkles, add whatever you wanna add!” Day said. “Now you’re looking at the donut like ‘Wow, this is so cool’. It’s very, very fast-paced.”
Right now, Day is thinking about what other flavours of donut to add to the menu. One that he’s already preparing to launch comes from The Eastern Door’s very own Ni:ne McComber, whose innocent question “Are they spicy?” immediately made Day decide to add hot peppers to his menu.
“I was like, no, but now my creative flow is flowing,” Day laughed. “Now I have to make this extremely hot donut!”
Day will be testing recipes for his “death donut” and will launch the ring of fire as soon as he lands on the perfect formula.
“You gotta just see what works, but try everything!” he said of his culinary process.
Trying new recipes and coming up with wild ideas for his customers is more than just fun for Day. Being able to make people smile and bringing joy to young peoples’ lives is ultimately what drives him.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t get acceptance, and to me I’m still that oddball kid. Everyone said I was just going to get in trouble,” he said. Day noted that he’s had his own personal struggles, but entertaining his community changed everything. “When I opened the Haunted Woods, it fixed me eternally. I did a 360.”
Now, Day is honoured to be a familiar face to all in the community.
“All the kids come up to me. They just want to see the tattooed man! And those kids are medicine. Every kid brings me more and more light,” he explained. “So for them, I’ll just help make their light a little bit brighter. I’m honoured to be in a position like that. I’m just super grateful.”
Day said that he will never take for granted the support of his community.
“I’m so happy. I always thought it was something out of this town that I was looking for,” he said. “But it was really here the whole time.”