Those who work in downtown Coos Bay near Anderson Street, have become accustomed to the indulgent scents of freshly baked bread and coffee that routinely waft forth mornings from Darrell’s Devil’s Food. They’ll lure the unsuspecting toward the steamy windows and open front door, where trays of wonderful chocolate treats are smartly displayed as you enter.
Shanan Folck greets me as I step inside, with friendly eyes and a sparkly smile, and her husband Darrell gives me a combination handshake/sideways hug. It has been almost ten years since Darrell and Shanan decided to move their growing family from the rush of Los Angeles to Coos Bay, bringing with them his impressive culinary credentials: 18 years of teaching experience at the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute and Le Cordon Bleu in California.
Darrell is tall, casually disheveled and lightly dusted with flour. He has a deep voice, pale blue eyes and a devilish, sideways smile. He tells me his mother is a lifelong “foodie” and his “dad is awesome,” noting he’s a great cook, who creates simple and delicious meals. “He’s an old man making meatballs, ya know,” Darrell chuckles, telling me also, that to this day, he uses the very same meatball recipe at the bakery. The respect and love for his parents is evident. They encouraged him to start cooking at age 12. He loved it and became determined to one day become a professional chef.
His father is a war veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and Darrell learned about empathy at a young age. He visibly softens as he says, ”I think I learned that humans can only take so much. Everyone has something they’re fighting; that wears them out. You have to learn how to handle that.” He explains these childhood experiences in part caused him to gravitate to being a chef. “I am calm under pressure. I love being on a team, as the captain or a player.” He smiles, “It makes you part of something that’s bigger than you.”
Darrell’s family is his core. His wife of 25 years, Shanan, is his biggest supporter in business and life and he has two daughters he adores more than anything. Although the bakery hours are demanding, he manages to grab days off to recharge and reconnect. Last summer he coached the girl’s softball team.“It’s the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Kids learn a lot of lessons about life with team sports – it helps define their character. It’s nice to be there and be able to facilitate that for kids.”
Finding balance is important and he spends as much time outside as he can. He grew up near the water and frequent visits to Coos County rivers and the ocean beaches nourish his spirit. “When I sit and listen to the water, I can be free and clear, relaxed.” He also maintains, “The proper ending to a long work day is to get home in time to see the sunset. It recharges my batteries.”
Since opening Darrell’s Devil’s Food a year ago, the community can’t get enough of the sinful goodies and amazing pizza the bakery is putting out. “They really love it: the fresh pastry and best pizza.” A customer comes in and Darrell steps over to help her. She picks out several pastries and confirms a catering gig right then and there. He comes back to our table looking satisfied. He asserts, “People are really together and understanding here. They are good people who are passionate for this area.”
Chocolate is Darrell’s thing. He reflects that in his early years as a chef he was mentored by a world class pastry chef who truly believed in him. The first thing he was taught him was how to crystallize chocolate. Darrell muses, “I fell in love with it. Chocolate probably saved my life.” He recalls that period as a clear turning point in his life: “I realized I could become a truly great professional or I could keep doing what I was doing, staying up all night, partying, not focusing on becoming a better person.”
Darrell’s favorite machine is the floor mixer. It’s still floured from kneading this morning’s bread and pizza dough. He uses all kinds of scrapers and tools that anyone could find at the hardware store, as well as tiny candy molds, delicate blades, sugar glitter and gold dust. We sample some dark Belgian chocolate from the Cacao Barry company. He tells me that it’s “the best of the best,” and sure enough as it melts in my mouth, the flavor is deep and divine and the texture unbelievably smooth. He shows me curled, painted white chocolate; tiny, delicate chocolate feathers; linzer tarts; blood orange candies; a beautiful “plato de oro” (which is a caramel and nut filled chocolate shell topped with a lovely gold candy crown); and his signature devil’s food decadence cake. At this point my stomach is growling insanely. Darrell makes me a “Detroit Style” pizza. I am a dairy-free vegetarian (yes, high maintenance, I know) so he does some customizing for me. I am so excited to try that rectangle crust! It does not disappoint – it is super steamy, full of beautiful air pockets and has crunch and chew all at once. The veggies are well seasoned and the olive oil is mild and flavorful. Needless to say, I am quite happy.
I gather my things (including pizza, pastries and fresh bread) and as I prepare to leave Darrell declares, “I’m not so serious about myself but I’m definitely serious about this food and what I’ll make will be the best around. I’m just gonna give it all I got – every day.” No doubt.
On a final note, Darrell and I talked for roughly two hours. I learned so much about his interesting life: his business savvy; thoughts on the economic state of Coos Bay; hiring, training and firing of restaurant staff; the struggles & joys of being a small business owner; the potential of retiring in Hawaii; and his abounding passion for teaching, cooking and sharing his gifts with the world. I could have written a novella with the insights, quotes and information that Darrell so freely shared with me. I can not stress enough how much he cares for his customers and making sure they all leave happy and satisfied. He knew everyone by name when they came in the door. And as I was leaving, a customer came in who had attempted to buy strawberry macarons on several occasions but kept arriving after they had been sold out. She was visibly disappointed but Darrell said, “Hold on. I’ll be right back.” He stepped into the kitchen and returned a minute later with half dozen strawberry macarons just for her.
Every person leaves with a smile. And a sweet tooth satisfied. Chef Darrell Folck and his wife Shanan don’t disappoint. Stop in next time you’re passing by. Better yet, make a trip of it. Come and support this delicious and unique Coos Bay business. Darrell’s Devil’s Food is here for you!
Darrell’s Devil’s Food
135 Anderson Street, Coos Bay