The renovated Pikes Peak Summit Complex  has opened— with a brand-new Donut Robot churning out the world-famous sweet treats and new food options. (Video by Katie Klann)

All aboard! The train heading to the top of Pikes Peak is back in operation. And once you get there, you be able to enjoy the visitor center’s famous doughnuts again.

That’s because the new Pikes Peak Summit Complex opens Thursday — with a brand-new Donut Robot churning out the world-famous sweet treats. The employees preparing food in the new bigger kitchen and dining facility have been busy learning the ropes the past weeks.

Starting with a new chef. Jacob Leithner joined the Aramark Corp. culinary team as chef manager in March. Aramark, a food service company that provides snacks and meals to a wide range of businesses, has been the food contractor for the visitor center on Pikes Peak since 1990.

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Leithner has worked in the restaurant industry for more than 16 years, mainly at sports stadiums and entertainment venues. He’s prepared to feed hungry visitors with a new menu that features soups, fresh salads, sandwiches, burgers and, of course, the famous doughnuts, which are his favorite menu item.

“We’ve put a focus on offering healthier options too,” he said. “For instance, we’ll have a salad with local greens, grapes and walnuts with a lighter cider dressing. There’s also a grilled chicken Caesar salad. And soups like chicken noodle and vegetable soup.”

On the menu, you’ll also find turkey panini with roasted turkey, cheddar, tomatoes and lettuce from Colorado farms on wheat berry bread; 100% Angus beef burgers; vegan burgers; and bratwursts. The chicken salad sandwich and pesto chicken sandwich will both use Red Bird Farms products.

In the grab-and-go case there are granola bars, apples, carrots, Greek yogurt and Sabra hummus with pretzels, among other choices like brownies, peanut butter cookies, and chips.

As for the doughnuts, the same science-tested and time-honored recipe will be used to fry the estimated 700 sweet treats an hour.

“The doughnuts are often compared to cake doughnuts, but they are not,” said Maria Paniagua, a 13-year visitor center worker and Aramark’s front of house manager for Pikes Peak — America’s Mountain. “They are halfway between a cake and yeast doughnut. We serve them plain or with a fudge topping.”

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Something new this year for the doughnuts is the addition of sprinkles — a rainbow mix for a bright, colorful options.

The entire dining experience requires 50 to 60 employees for cooking and working the front of the house. Leithner says they will work year-round.

“The first train arrives at the summit after we’ve opened in the morning, and the last train leaves prior to our closing,” he said. “So we drive because we need to be able to get up and down as needed, and ensure we have food and beverages ready prior to the first guests arriving.”

Getting supplies to the top of the mountain is no easy task.

“We transport food and supplies up in our cargo van as well as a refrigerated box truck,” he said. “We are not able to get deliveries directly to the mountain in large trucks from suppliers. We follow Aramark’s rigorous receiving procedures to ensure the absolute safety of all products at every point from receiving to service.”

Son of longtime Colorado Springs restaurant owner following his father's footsteps

Contact the writer: 636-0271.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

Food editor

Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

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