Gary Leech, owner of Congdon’s Doughnuts in Wells, knows he will probably never win the Incredible Breakfast Cook-Off. Up against a bunch of restaurant chefs who have prepared sophisticated breakfast bites for the public to try, he knows his doughnuts – no matter how good – are perennial also-rans.
Ticket holders at the event vote for their favorites by dropping tokens in boxes placed on each competitor’s table. Leech jokingly admits he has thought about cheating: “They weigh the box,” he said. “If I can get a hold of that thing, I’m going to put a big rock in there.”
Congdon’s Doughnuts has participated in the cook-off every year since it began. The Congdon’s table has become known for its peculiarities, such as the “cheeseburger doughnuts” made with a chocolate “meat” donut sandwiched between two slices of jelly donut. The “cheese” is either Bavarian cream or cream cheese, and raspberry jelly stands in for ketchup.
Leech also always brings a humongous doughnut made from a four-pound ball of dough (the hole in the center is as large as a regular doughnut) and a whopper of a whoopie pie that weighs six pounds. The items are sometimes auctioned off to raise more money for Preble Street. The foot-wide doughnut takes three to four minutes to fry in a large fryer, Leech said, and sells in his donut shop for $25.
The first year of the cook-off, Leech brought a ham strata to serve that appeared to be a hit, but the next year went back to just serving doughnuts. He gets a kick out of watching people try to resist them. “Doughnuts are funny because everyone is ‘Oh no, no, no, I can’t have one.’ And then: ‘What kind do you have?’”
Leech brings about 500 pieces to serve, including doughnuts, doughnut holes and halved fritters. He always brings extra because people often ask if they can take some back to the office to share with coworkers, or save for themselves for later. Sometimes he’ll send a couple of big boxes of doughnuts to Preble Street’s soup kitchen.
A couple years ago, Leech started bringing pieces of bacon dipped in chocolate, which has become an “extremely popular” addition to his table. (Overheard at the Congdon’s table in 2013: “Dude, chocolate-covered bacon. It’s the final bastion of gluttony.”)