WU sophomore Roy Antoine bakes everything from donuts to caramel cake. And then he gives it all away.
With a muscular frame well suited for his sport of choice, rugby, and pursuing a major in mechanical engineering, sophomore Roy Antoine isn’t the person you’d expect to have a soft spot for baking cinnamon rolls. Yet, he does. And Antoine doesn’t just stop there—he’s also fond of whipping up donuts, beignets and caramel cake, to name just a few of his many culinary creations.
Antoine started baking during his first semester at Washington University in the Eliot A dorm kitchen. Before baking, however, Antoine started out as a chef. Being an athlete at Washington University, he wanted simple protein and vegetable-heavy meals that were hard to find in the campus dining halls. While he started simple, he said that he got more into the process because he found he enjoyed the process and flow of cooking.
Yet, Antoine admitted, he has had a sweet tooth since he was a kid, and the temptation of freshly-baked goods was too good to resist. He began experimenting with recipes for pastries and found he had a knack for it.
But since Antoine was cognizant of his health, he didn’t bake as much as he liked. “I didn’t want to try to dedicate too much time to something I can’t eat too much of,” he said. It didn’t take long before he found the solution to his problem — hungry college kids.
“I used the dorm kitchens and people were in there, so I just gave it out,” Antoine explained.
Once the University sent everyone home in March of 2020, Antoine said that quarantine and online school slowed his baking frenzy to a crawl. Now, however, living in an apartment off-campus with his roommate, Antoine is taking full advantage of his personal kitchen.
“We came to St. Louis before school started—so you’ve got to fill the time somehow,” he said.
Antoine has also kept his practice of giving away much of what he bakes. “We were thinking maybe we should start selling them for profit, maybe, just help out with rent or something,” he said, “but I don’t mind just doing it for free.”
Antoine claims that with enough of the raw ingredients in bulk, he isn’t spending much money on supplies. He also is aware that the gift of baked goods adds sweetness to a year that sorely needs a little extra joy.
“There’s COVID, there’s political stuff, there’s social stuff,” Antoine said. “I’m trying to make positive space.”
Antoine is also including himself in that positive space—baking is meditative, an escape from hours of engineering classes and something to look forward to on weekends.
Though Antoine started baking only a year ago, he’s already well-versed in the ins and outs of pastry dough. It’s not difficult for him to dive into impassioned spiels of the technical side of baking, especially when it comes to his nemesis: pie crust.
“[My roommate] is lactose intolerant, so I can’t use a lot of real butter. And when it comes to pastry dough you don’t necessarily want to skimp out on what the recipe calls for,” he said. Antoine went on to lament the delicate balance of flour to moisture. Too dry, and the crust becomes brittle and breakable. Too wet, and you can’t roll it out without sticking. And don’t even get him started on premade crusts: “It’s not authentic!”
Antoine has developed other less-typical baking habits too –– he likes to bake alone, typically without music or radio in the background. He doesn’t believe in cake frosting either, but “glazes are fine,” he said.
Antoine’s most recent project was a plethora of Valentine’s Day care packages, which contained brownies, candy and either stuffed bear or rose — the latter of which was randomly assigned. He said, over email: “I gave it out to those who wanted one. For every box, they took I also gave ‘em some cookies I baked.”
This spring, Antoine and his roommate are considering selling pizzas on the side to help cover living costs. But until then, Antoine is content with his current routine: “for me personally, my thing is [to] bake for fun, and give it out,” he said.