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A Richmond Pop-Up Finds Out What Would Happen If a Biscuit and a Doughnut Had a Baby

When chef Ernie LaBrecque found himself furloughed from his job, he decided to toy with a family recipe for buttermilk biscuits — and created the “Beaunut”

A box filled with nine multi-colored beaunuts
Beanuts are crispy on the outside with an almost cake-like interior.
Stephanie Ganz/For Eater D.C.

When Ernie LaBrecque found himself furloughed from his job as the chef de cuisine at a vineyard outside of Richmond, he started thinking about his grandma’s recipe for buttermilk biscuits. LeBrecque needed work, which led him to the idea of starting a pop-up based on the family recipe. But instead of baking pillowy beauties, the chef tweaked the formula to create a one-of-a-kind biscuit-doughnut hybrid. He called the creation a “beaunut,” the Southern successor to famous pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s croissant-eclipsing cronut.

LaBrecque’s pop-up is named Beaunuts, naturally. He sells hefty fried pastries in Southern flavors like banana pudding with Nilla Wafers, Mississippi mud pie, and Cheerwine glaze. The beaunuts themselves, crispy on the outside with an almost cake-like interior, offer a reason to take a day trip to Richmond.

“Since it’s a Southern biscuit dough, [it’s] full of butter and buttermilk,” says LaBrecque, 37. he’s done “plays on Moon PIes and Watergate salad, a relic of Southern picnics composed of pistachio jello, canned pineapple, pecans, marshmallows, and Cool Whip. “We try to stick with that Southern theme that I love and know best,” he says. “It’s what I grew up on.”

The chef sells his creations out of a clementine-colored trailer that pops up everywhere from a covered bridge in the Crown Grant neighborhood of Tuckahoe to a bustling corner of Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood to as far east as Virginia Beach. In addition to two weekly pop-ups, Beaunuts caters private events, including weddings, and LaBrecque says the nimble operation is ready and willing to travel wherever there’s demand.

Available for pre-order or hot off the truck, Beaunuts’ menu changes slightly each week. One special menu paid homage to LaBrecque’s favorite Richmond chefs and restaurants with beaunuts like a Disco Balls with a cereal milk glaze and rainbow sprinkles inspired by L’Opossum — an award-winning fine dining restaurant known for its playful menu descriptions and quirky decor. A Peach Tart beaunut was inspired by the Southern-style desserts at the Roosevelt, where LaBrecque’s close friend is the chef, came with a peach glaze and oat crumble. And Brewer’s Café, a community-focused coffee shop in Southside, inspired the Cuppa Joe donut, with Red Rooster coffee frosting, espresso dust, and a chocolate hazelnut drizzle

Lifting up the restaurant community is especially important to the lifelong chef because those industry connections gave Beaunuts the opportunity to launch in the midst of the pandemic.

“We wanted to take those places we love and chefs we respect and send some love out by naming a donut after them and doing a play on a cuisine or style they’re known for,” LaBrecque says.

LaBrecque says his wife, Kathryn, is the “the brains and the heart” of the business. For the couple’s first pop-up, held at the Roosevelt, they “scraped together the last $200 we had before bills, bought ingredients, and ended up selling over 1,000 donuts in two days.”

With the combination of money and momentum, the LaBrecques were able to operate a business that has stayed in the black at a time when restaurants everywhere are floundering.

Later this year, Beaunuts will put down roots south of Richmond at a standalone location in Petersburg, Virginia. The couple plans to introduce a menu of fancy fried hot dogs and french fries, in addition to beaunuts.

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