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Dave Siebeneck spends his days deep in dough for Schulte’s

Schulte's baker Dave Siebeneck stands behind the doughnut case. Many people agree Schulte's makes the best doughnuts in the area.

Schulte's baker Dave Siebeneck stands behind the doughnut case. Many people agree Schulte's makes the best doughnuts in the area. Photo by Julie Smith.

If Mid-Missouri had a “Doughnut King,” Dave Siebeneck, bakery manager at Schulte’s Fresh Foods, probably deserves to wear the crown.

The store’s doughnuts are so popular that some customers take 10 boxes back to Florida every time they visit. Other fans drive down from Kirksville almost weekly for their doughnut fix. Often, the line for orders stretches to the floral department.

“I see them come in and line up and they never mind waiting,” Siebeneck said.

The number of doughnuts the store produces is prodigious.

The No. 1 seller is the classic, round, glazed, yeast doughnut. On Fridays, Saturday and Sundays, the team makes between 160 and 200 dozen of the glazed rings. In addition, the team makes 80 to 90 dozen cake doughnuts, 30 dozen Long Johns, 10 dozen Twists and 30 to 40 dozen cinnamon rolls. They might make even more for special orders.

The biggest day of the year is “National Doughnut Day” on the first Friday in June. Last year, Siebeneck’s team made 1,225 dozen — 14,700 doughnuts — in a 16-hour window.

“It’s all hands on deck,” he said.

Every doughnut is made daily; nothing is held over. By mid-afternoon, what is left is boxed and sold at a reduced price.

For years Siebeneck was the man at the fryer. Today he manages the team that makes the donuts and he spends his days baking other goods, like cakes, pies and breads. But he still trains the workers who make the doughnuts. Some people have a natural talent for working with yeast dough, others need more time to learn the trade, he said.

His regular shift is from 4 a.m. to noon.

“I take pride in all of it. I really love my job most days,” Siebeneck said. “I enjoy meeting people and I have a lot of good customers who come in every day.”

And he loves the Schulte’s team.

“I have some wonderful, wonderful employees,” he said, including some 80-year-old workers who “do more work than most 19-year-olds.”

His family has a long history in the business.

“I’ve been baking all my life,” he said.

To make money, his father farmed during the day and baked at night. He started working at Jefferson City Baking Co., located downtown, in 1948 before taking a job as a Schulte’s manager in 1965. (At that time, the store was located at the current Schnuck’s site; it didn’t move to its Southwest Boulevard site until 1976.) His mother worked with his father in the bakery business, and the couple’s eight children all helped at one time or another.

Siebeneck, himself, has worked as a baker since the early 1970s.

“My dad got the reputation going in the 1960s,” he said.

The key to success, he believes, is making the doughnuts from scratch. The Schulte’s crew starts the process at midnight daily. Even the sugar glaze is made from scratch, which is unusual since it’s cheap to buy by the bucket.

He also uses the highest grade of cinnamon he can find, which he buys in 25-pound boxes. (Central Dairy buys cinnamon from Siebeneck when the dairy makes batches of cinnamon ice cream.)

A conveyor rolls the dough to the right thickness and a cutter forms the rings. The pastries are devoid of stabilizers and preservatives.

“I could make my doughnuts cheaper than I do. But I won’t because of our reputation. I don’t know anybody who does it this way,” he said.

Over the years he’s implemented a few changes to speed production. But, by and large, the process is the same as his dad’s.

“There are some secrets, but I don’t tell too many people,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “The biggest secret is: I do it every day.”

Siebeneck believes Schulte’s from-scratch method gives the pastries a fresher taste and superior texture, compared with other stores that rely upon product shipped frozen from commissaries off-site. Some doughnuts even arrive at their retail destination pre-fried.

Baking isn’t the only job that he’s held — he drove the school bus in the 1980s — but it’s the one that has defined his career.

As a career, commercial baking isn’t forgiving.

The crew works every day of the year, except for Christmas. If someone doesn’t show up to work, it’s Siebeneck’s responsibility to either fill the gap or find a replacement.

And the job has been tough on his health: he has diabetes and he walks with a limp from numerous hip and knee replacements.

To be successful, bakers have to be willing to work at lightning speeds.

“I make 24 dozen cookies every 11 minutes,” he said. “You have to make every step count.”

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