Thetford native improvises with a global dish: the humble dumpling

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    Anna Magoon makes the dough for dumplings for her business, Dumps-A-GoGo, in her home in Hartford, Vt., on Jan. 31, 2019. "I tried other jobs and just nothing made me happy," Magoon said. "I opened up this six months ago, and I just really enjoy it. It gives me this opportunity to get to know myself better." (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Joseph Ressler

  • Dough made from flour, water and salt sits ready to be turned into dumplings for Anna Magoon's business, Dumps-A-GoGo, in Hartford, Vt., on Jan. 31, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Anna Magoon folds a roasted onion dumpling for her business, Dumps-A-GoGo, in Hartford, Vt., on Jan. 31, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/5/2019 10:02:28 PM
Modified: 2/5/2019 10:02:31 PM

Dumplings suit Anna Magoon. To begin with, she adores the plump, savory morsels. Before she started making them, she thought nothing of driving to Boston to satisfy her cravings.

Magoon and her culinary specialty also have a shared history. While attending chef school in New York City, she supported herself by assembling dumplings for a business that peddled them out of a rickshaw in Times Square.

And then there’s the “go-go” aspect of Dumps-A-GoGo, Magoon’s fledgling catering business. Dumplings, as a cuisine, cannot be pinned down to a particular region or culture. Magoon isn’t one to stay put either. She loves exploring local stores and far-flung specialty markets in search of inspiration and dreaming up new fillings to bundle in creative ways. And she loves the simplicity of her business model, which affords her the freedom to do as she pleases.

“I’m having fun, and I’m winging it,” said Magoon, 23, who runs her business out of her home in White River Junction. “Half of the things I make I’ve never made before.”

A second-generation American (her mother is from Mexico), Magoon grew up in Thetford and loved watching Julia Child with her dad on one of the three channels that came in on her family’s TV set. She also loved hands-on projects and trying new things. After graduating from Thetford Academy in 2013, she got accepted to the International Culinary Center in New York, where she studied French cuisine and met her childhood hero, Jacques Pepin, sharpening her dumpling-making skills on the side.

After a year in Americorps, providing nutritional guidance to low-income families and single moms in Columbus, Ohio, Magoon returned to the Upper Valley to pursue a culinary career. Finding work in the region wasn’t difficult, but career fulfillment proved more elusive. None of the kitchen crews she worked with shared her passion, and the work culture was rife with burnout and substance abuse (which are common in the industry, she said).

“For people like me who value this as my dream ... it’s really hard working alongside people who are just working for a paycheck,” said Magoon, who sports a tattoo of a spoon on one forearm and of a fork on the other, and who smiles almost constantly. “I really wanted to work on something on my own.”

And so, dumplings. “The idea just popped into my mind one day,” Magoon said.

After making a few batches and testing them out on her roommates — usually in the middle of the night — Magoon decided she was onto something. With a budget of just $500, she started Dumps-A-GoGo about six months ago, creating a website, locating a catering kitchen in South Royalton in which she can fulfill large orders and developing recipes ranging from traditional to offbeat, with a focus on local ingredients.

While many people think of dumplings as primarily an Asian staple, the definition actually encompasses a wide variety of dishes, including Mexican empanadas, Polish pierogies, Indian momos and Italian ravioli. Some of Magoon’s recent creations include kimchi dumplings, sweet potato and plantain empanadas, Russian mushroom and onion pelmenis and roasted onion with orange and fig dumplings.

“They can be from any culture, any place in the world,” said Magoon, who works part-time in the Thetford Academy cafeteria when she’s not making or delivering dumplings.

For one of her first catering jobs, Magoon made Mongolian dumplings called buuz for a Halloween event titled “Boos, Booze and Buuz,” in South Royalton. For New Year’s Eve, she made 500 dumplings for a party at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction. On Tuesday, she was scheduled to cater a Chinese New Year celebration at Dartmouth College, featuring traditional dumplings as well as a lemongrass-and-cabbage variety she recently dreamed up, and later this year she’ll provide finger food for a wedding.

Magoon is also starting to get smaller orders from people craving dumplings for dinner. She delivers all over the Upper Valley and beyond (delivery fees vary, based on mileage) and can also arrange pickup at several area food co-ops and businesses.

As word gets out, Magoon hopes to expand her business — but not necessarily in new directions. She wants to keep her focus on dumplings, and though the idea of having a storefront is tempting, she’d rather remain free to work creatively.

While the dumpling itself provides her plenty of inspiration, Magoon is also driven by the desire to succeed in a field dominated by white men. Compiling various industry statistics, she’s concluded that her chances of succeeding in her career as a female and member of a minority group are about 35 percent — and that just motivates her more.

“As much as you put into it, you’ll get out of it,” she said. “I take real pride in what I do, and I try to put that forward in every dumpling I make. ”

For more information on Dumps-A-GoGo, call 802-299-1280 or visit dumps-a-gogo.business.site.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com and 603-727-3268.




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