Weather Updates

Baker moves like jazz man all night

Updated: January 28, 2013 3:49PM

“If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.” ­— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The electrophonic sound of jazz and funk fuse with the sure, nimble fingers of the maestro pressing yellow cake dough.

It’s just after midnight inside Daddy O’s, a glowing storefront at an otherwise sleeping suburban strip mall. Horns wail. Snare drum, sticks and bass guitar snap, pop, groove.

Slowly, fanciful and also simple machinations give birth to treasured creations — gems in shades of sherbet orange, deep chocolate, red velvet.

The beat inside Daddy O’s ushers the baker through the night. His solo rhythms and sweet improvisations ebb and flow for six hours — from the time he pats the first white powdery flour on his baker’s table to when he flicks on the lights and opens his quaint shop.

Until then, it’s time to make the donuts.

So Adam works.

He dances and glides as the scent of sweetness rises with the gurgle of the 30-gallon deep fryer. By 2 a.m., another batch of golden brown O’s floats like miniature life preservers in a deep dark sea.

“Aye,” he says with a pirate’s grunt as he pushes another tray of adorned O’s onto a stainless steel tower.

He is Adam Bruce, 47, proprietor of Daddy O’s Donuts in Richton Park. Bruce is thin, coffee-bean-brown, and sure-handed as I watch him dart about his florescent-lighted kitchen doing what seems to come naturally: Rolling dough. Pounding. Pinching. Shaping. Frying. Frosting.

Calculating inside his head, he stares momentarily into space then snaps to the beat that blares through the night.

By hand, he crafts each donut with a certain pride — the process seeming, at times, cerebral even spiritual, and the idea of seeing a certain art or soul to the making of donuts not far-fetched when you witness the way Bruce makes them.

Erratic, he is, the way he riffs between the deep fryer, the giant mixing bowl, the table where he spreads, carves and twirls dough for twists between his mahogany digits, fluttering as if over the neck of a jazz guitar, his face contorting as he reaches for precision.

“Aye.” Another tray of glazed by 3 a.m.

“Aye.” By 4 a.m., the donuts are all cut and set for rising before frying.

“Aye,” he says with the same self-satisfaction of a James Brown, “Uh!”

This is the jazz of making donuts.

But it’s still dark outside, still hours before opening time. So the music plays.

Out of work, Bruce says he discovered the music of making donuts almost two years ago. There were these tasty joints at a donut shop in Joliet — so good that he would travel miles out of his way just to get a batch. So one day he got the idea that maybe if he learned to make the donuts, and if he then built his own shop, they would come.

So he did something maybe a little unorthodox. He went to that donut shop one day and told the baker he would work for free, with one catch: only if he promised to teach him to make the donuts. He taught him. Months later, Daddy O’s was born.

“Aye.” It’s 5:31.

The pace quickens. Bruce fills his glass showcases: cinnamon rolls, long Johns, apple fritters and assorted gems, plain or topped with coconut, chocolate, sprinkles or cream cheese.

A minute ‘til six, a customer awaits.

The baker flicks on the lights.

The donuts glisten, their scent rising. Sweet, so sweet. Like the sound of jazz.


© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.