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Celebrate Donut Day With Greenpoint Guru Behind Moe's Doughs

By Gwynne Hogan | June 2, 2017 7:42am
 Mohamed Saleh was the head baker at Peter Pan for 18 years before he opened Moe's Dough's on Nassau Ave.
Moe's Dough's
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GREENPOINT — Celebrate National Donut Day on Friday with a tasty treat that might be made of dough, but it certainly won't cost you much of it.

Greenpoint's Mohamed Saleh, of Moe's Doughs, churns out hundreds of fresh donuts each day in flavors including rainbow cake, vanilla sprinkle, Oreo, Nutella and cannoli all starting at $1.10, in an area known more and more for its $14 hamburgers and $5.50 scoops of ice cream.

Saleh, who was the main baker at Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop for 18 years before he opened his own shop nearby at 126 Nassau Ave. in 2014, keeps his prices bargain basement low, while boasting fresh and high quality ingredients, he said.

"We use the best quality stuff, it's always fresh every day, sometimes I make [donuts] two times," he said.

When Saleh splintered off from Peter Pan in 2014, he was dubbed a copycat by the Village Voice but, as at his son Hossam Saleh, 20, points out, his father was Peter Pan's head baker for all those years and had perfected his own recipe, which he then passed on to Peter Pan's bakers.

And they insist there is no bitter rivalry between two shops as was floated earlier by the New York Times.

"There's no hard feelings," Hossam said. Though his father would rather not talk about it.

"It's done, I left, that's it. I got to move forward," Mohamed said with a chuckle.

Owners at Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

Mohamed moved to the United States at age 25 from Egypt with his wife and young son, speaking little English. While he had a background in civil engineering, he had to take whatever work he could scrounge up to support his family.

Saleh started washing dishes at a donut and pastry shop in Downtown Brooklyn, and as he worked, he'd spy the pastry chef out of the corner of his eye, watching his concoctions and tactics. The cook would sometimes ditch out of work, and Saleh stepped up. 

"I say: 'Let me do the job,'" Saleh said.

He had a keen eye for detail and measurements, was sensitive to changes in weather that would effect how the donuts turned out and excelled. From there he found a job at Peter Pan, where he perfected his donut-making skills over nearly two decades.

"I don't feel bad to come to work from the beginning, even in Egypt, I always liked to cook," he said.

Saleh's children grew up at Peter Pan, spending countless hours there, watching their father's craft.

"[Peter Pan] was my second home. We had a lot of donuts growing up," said Hossam, who is the second oldest Mohamed's four children. "He'd start baking at 3 a.m. I'd go visit him at 6 a.m., just go and stand around, watching my father work."

In 2014, the whole family got involved as Saleh transitioned from baker at Peter Pan to running his own store. They still take turns working at the shop, Saleh's youngest son, 7-year-old Suhieb, with fiery red hair, has endeared himself to clients with drawings and notes he hands out as they leave.

Hossam and his older brother have dreams of opening their own donut shop, with their dad's blessing of course, in another borough or another city.

"I know the recipe. It's written across the family," he said. "It's a secret recipe."

At then end of the day, Hossam said, they just want to listen to the needs of their dedicated clientele, who've ordered donuts shipped to other states and requested that they cater weddings.

"We just want to make people happy," Hossam said.