Video: Student discusses experience working at renowned San Francisco doughnut shop


Alexander Herz

San Francisco’s vibrant night life exists well beyond the clubs. Bob’s Donut and Pastry Shop, widely revered as the source of some of the city’s most scrumptious treats, is all the rage on Polk Street.

Bob’s, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is currently owned by the family of senior Rachel Ahn. The business has been in the Ahn family since the 70s, when Rachel’s grandmother bought the shop from Bob, the original owner.

Ahn began working at Bob’s her freshman year, and believes that the process of making a doughnut is much harder than it appears.

“All of our doughnuts are handmade from scratch, so it takes a lot longer and requires a lot more manual labor than larger doughnut manufacturers like Krispy Kreme who use machines,” Ahn said. “I do a lot of other things; I do crew, I tutor, I babysit, but I think working at Bob’s is my hardest job. It’s a lot more physically challenging.”

It has also been challenging for Ahn to balance her job, school and extracurriculars. Last year, Ahn decided to help at the shop on weeknights, as they are frequently the busiest times of the week.

“As a junior, I would leave crew practice, go to work, get home at 3 a.m., and then go to school the next day,” Ahn said. “It definitely affected my school work and concentration, but it’s helped build my time management skills.”

Working at Bob’s impacted Ahn’s college application process as well. Ahn began her college applications during winter break, and allocated her college application time schedule around work.

“I worked with [my mom] until 3 a.m., did college applications until 10 a.m., went to sleep, and then woke up and did it all over again,” Ahn said.

But this wasn’t exactly a new experience for Ahn, as she has been exposed to the Bob’s environment from a very young age. Naturally, Ahn has become a little sick of doughnuts.

“I’ve watched my mom work since I was four, and my parents would feed me doughnuts when I got hungry, so I’ve lost the taste for them,” Ahn said.

Customers have much more of a sweet tooth than Ahn, especially those who partake in the doughnut eating challenge, in which participants eat an oversized doughnut in three minutes or less.

“I’d say it’s about a dozen glazed doughnuts together… if you win, you get your money back, a T-shirt, and your name on the wall, so it’s pretty exciting,” Ahn said.

Many people accept the challenge, but according to Ahn, only one out of ten of the participants succeed.

While such experiences can be entertaining, Ahn, who doesn’t get paid, works for the innate reward of helping her family.

“My mom works 12 to 14 hour shifts every night. She is so exhausted all the time and I wanted to give her a break,” Ahn said. “Now that my sister and I work for her, we can give her two days off a week. The most rewarding part of working at Bob’s, for me, is seeing my mom happier and more relaxed.”

Bob’s Donut and Pastry Shop is located on 1621 Polk St., San Francisco.