The Legendary Thunder Bay Persian: A Local Delicacy with Deep Roots

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Coffee and a Persian

THUNDER BAY – Business – In Thunder Bay we are the “Home of the Persian”. This iconic pastry with its bright pink icing is almost as much a symbol of our city as the Sleeping Giant.

The Persian has become synonymous with Thunder Bay’s culinary identity. It is an integral part of local traditions, celebrations, and community gatherings. Visitors often seek out this delectable treat as a must-try when exploring the city, adding to Thunder Bay’s allure as a unique culinary destination.

Now lets look at some of the history of these tasty treats. First, the Persian has absolutely nothing to do with the Middle East. A “Persian” is an oval-shaped pastry that’s fried and frosted with pink berry icing. It’s a local delicacy with deep roots in our city.

History of the Persian Roll

This prized pastry was first created in the 1940s by Art Bennett, the original founder of Bennett’s Bakery (formerly called “Art Bennett’s”). As the story goes, he named the sweet treat after John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, an American World War I General who allegedly visited his bakery while he was making the dough. As a result of this memorable meeting, Bennett dubbed his now-famed pastry a “Persian.”

“The formula hasn’t changed, the recipe hasn’t changed,” says Danny Nucci, owner of the legendary Bennett’s Bakery and The Persian Man in Thunder Bay. “So it’s still the same goodness that you used to get since its conception in the mid-1940s.”

Persian Rolls Today

Since then, Thunder Bay locals have been raised on these Persian doughnuts, even hosting eating competitions and selling them for community fundraisers. They’ll tell you that it’s a “must-eat” dish if you’re in town. Today, Bennett’s Bakery sells the dessert at their popular coffee shop, The Persian Man, as well as in packs of four at local grocery stores.

The Top-Secret Persian Roll Recipe

The original recipe remains under wraps, so we can only speculate about its irresistible ingredients. But some claim the signature pink icing is the clincher.

“It’s a berry icing,” says Nucci. “A lot of people pick up Persians with icing on the side. What they do is put ‘em in the freezer and then put the icing in the fridge, and then have one as needed.”

Regrettably, since Art Bennett’s original recipe remains a secret to this day, we’ll never know what exactly makes the Thunder Persian so dang delicious. Today, it’s been inherited by the Persian Man in Thunder Bay, who continues to use this classic recipe to make their cherished pastries.

“I got the recipe from working at the shop,” says Nucci. “Juliet Bennet ended up selling the bakery to my dad and his two cousins in 1962. It’s a secret, especially the dough product itself. There’s no set ingredients in the listing on the bag product.”

The Persian stands as a testament to Thunder Bay’s rich cultural heritage and the creativity of its culinary pioneers. This delightful pastry, with its pink icing, cinnamon-sugar coating, and sweet dough, holds a special place in the hearts of Thunder Bay residents and continues to captivate new generations. As a cherished symbol of the city’s culinary identity, the Persian remains a beloved treat that beautifully blends tradition, innovation, and community spirit.

So whether it is with your morning coffee or as a snack or treat, the Persian is a great local treat.

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