More than three years after leaving the Salty Donut, pastry chef Max Santiago's doughnuts will make their way back to South Florida with the debut of Sweet Alchemy Confectionery. The concept, which will specialize in doughnuts and ice cream, is slated to open a permanent location in Davie before year's end, with weekend pop-ups beginning this Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16.
Santiago, who has more than 25 years of pastry experience, has spent the better part of the past three years opening doughnut shops across the world, including in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Portugal, and creating pastry partnerships with Sugar Factory and the Canadian chain Tim Hortons. More recently, in late summer 2019, he opened Batch, the Cookie Company in Fort Lauderdale with partners Adam August and Nik Hicks. Though Batch has seen tremendous success since its debut, Santiago's longtime goal remained to open a doughnut concept in South Florida.
"As I opened more doughnut shops around the world, it became even more difficult to find the right partner to open one on my own," he explains. "I had partnerships in the works before, but they never quite worked out. I also still had my noncompete agreement [with the Salty Donut] up until a year ago."
About six months ago, the owners behind the longstanding Flashback Diner, a 24-hour, 365-day restaurant with locations in Hallandale Beach, Boca, and Davie, reached out to Santiago. Owners Toula Amanna and George Thiakos had followed his career since his time at the Salty Donut and wanted to gauge his interest in creating a partnership with them.
"They are such good people," Santiago says. "People have approached me countless times, but they always fall through. Toula and George were different. They have incredible restaurant experience. They actually approached me first right before I went to work at Sugar Factory. So when they approached me again at Batch, it all just made sense."
Together, they will open Sweet Alchemy Confectionery within the complex that houses Flashback Diner's Davie location. Until the shop debuts, Santiago will host indefinite weekend doughnut pop-ups with seven different flavors, one of which will rotate each weekend. Doughnuts at the pop-up include original glazed, cinnamon and sugar, hibiscus and blueberry, tiramisu, key lime creme brûlée, apple fritter, and a vegan and gluten-free chocolate chip cookie dough ($3 to $5).
"Every weekend, one of the doughnuts will rotate," he says. "There will always be something different to try."
As for the store, the 4,000-square-foot space will include a spacious open kitchen with a window for customers to witness the doughnut-making process as well as two large ice cream machines, all with a whimsical Harry Potter-inspired vibe. There will even be an entire wall with funky candy featuring "bugs" and "eyeballs." The menu will include a lineup of doughnuts, sticky buns, and cookies, along with a dozen ice cream flavors, six of which will be infused with liquor.
"Through the years, I never stopped the recipe and development stage for my doughnuts," Santiago explains. "Every time I visited a new country, I had to find proper ingredients. Sometimes I couldn't find everything I needed. I learned so much more about how to work with dough. The recipe I use now is very light and efficient for proofing and frying."
Once Sweet Alchemy's Davie location opens, the partners plan to debut a second location, in downtown Fort Lauderdale. As for Batch, where Santiago is a chef and partner, he hopes to expand, adding anywhere from 30 to 50 locations across the nation.
"Doughnuts have been very good to me," he says. "I always planned to come back. I can't wait."
Sweet Alchemy Confectionery Pop-Up at Flashback Diner Davie. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16, at Flashback Diner Davie, 4125 Davie Rd., Davie; instagram.com/sweetalchemyconfectionery. Pop-ups will take place every Saturday and Sunday until further notice.