Photography by Jeff Hunt
There's a dude in the Mission who makes vegan donuts and break-dances.
In this episode, we meet Vandor Hill. Vandor was born and raised in The City. He recently turned 40. He shares the story of how he came to love baking. It starts in the predominantly female house he grew up in.
Surrounded by his grandma and aunt, Vandor says a lot of his baking went uncredited. No one believed that he was the one who made whatever delicious treat they were eating. Peach cobbler soon became his signature bake.
Vandor shares the story of why his company is called Whack Donuts. It involves a group of young kids getting jumped in the Mission and the quiet one (Vandor) basically fending off the attackers. His buddies called him "Whacko" from that point on.
As part of the story of starting his donut business, Vandor takes us back to a tough period in his life. Between 2017 and 2019, he lost his grandmother, his mom, his aunt, a mentor, and a friend. His dancing suffered. His work wasn't willing to adjust or allow him space to grieve. His living situation deteriorated. And then, the pandemic hit.
We get into the early days of Whack Donuts and talk about why Vandor decided to make his product without any dairy. The story goes back to an internship he had in high school at a local donut shop. Eventually, enough people asked if the donuts were vegan, which inspired Vandor to bake his treats rather than fry them.
He traces his family history back to his grandfather, who moved from Mobile, Alabama, to San Francisco around the time of the Second Migration and met his wife (Vandor's grandma) here in The City. She was born and raised here; he was a quiet, strong man who learned how to dress from his new wife.
When he was two, Vandor's dad left the family. But he was surrounded by relatives and loved ones, most of them living in the same Victorian in Lower Pac Heights, on the lip of the Fillmore. Because his mom was young when she had Vandor, her own parents took over raising the boy.
Family gatherings in the house were common, and there was always a lot to eat. Vandor talks about those meals as well as some of the neighborhood spots they'd get their produce and meat from. They're places that aren't around anymore, but the owners were often friends of the family.
We turn to Vandor's teen years. He got into art, graffiti, and break-dancing in those days. He describes the contrast once he transferred from a private high school to Galileo, for him both socially and academically.
In his junior year, his sister was born, his parents were fighting, and he relocated to the East Bay because his mom and his grandma were on bad terms. He began to struggle in his schoolwork. He was working at the Exploratorium. The next year, his senior year in high school, he was told he was one credit short of what was needed to graduate.
He had befriended a photographer who also worked at the Exploratorium. They were set to attend and work at an event together, but Vandor got lost and missed it. It didn't matter, though. His friend had committed suicide.
Shortly after that, the family found out they were losing their house in Pac Heights over a family quarrel.
Despite all this, Vandor graduated high school.
We end this episode with Vandor's thoughts on what it means to still be here in San Francisco.
Follow Whack Donuts on Instagram.
Order Whack Donuts online.
We recorded this podcast at Abanico Coffee Roasters in the Mission in April 2022.
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