Dominique Ansel is the man behind one of the most talked about foodie creations in recent history, we are of course talking about the Cronut ®, the delicious croissant, doughnut hybrid. Having opened his bakery in London last year, we caught up with him to talk all things indulgent, because there is a lot more to his repertoire than the Cronut ®.
You’re mainly known for the Cronut ® did you think it was ever going to be as successful as it is?
This is a question I get asked often. And I don’t think anyone could’ve imagined that the Cronut® would be this successful. It’s just a pastry. I’ve never seen anything like that happen before. I was just doing what we usually do, which is to change our menu often and come up with ideas that we think our guests may enjoy.
Was there a moment when you knew it had really taken off and everyone was going to know your name?
Same answer as above. This wasn’t something planned or imagined. I was just trying to make a fun pastry for everyone. And when it got popular, I was hand making hundreds more of them by myself and my small team of four at the time. We barely slept or ate. We weren’t keeping tabs on who knew our name!
Did you plan to make the Cronut ® or was it the result of experimenting?
It’s always both, isn’t it? I had an idea and direction and then a lot of testing and experimenting followed.
How much do you think social media has had a part to play in its success?
I think it happened at a time when social media, especially Instagram, was taking off. It allowed our little shop in New York to spread our creations and news to a worldwide audience.
What’s your favourite part about being a pastry chef?
Watching people eat the pastries. That’s always been my favourite moment.
Are there any downsides to your job?
Aren’t there downsides to every job? That’s why it’s a job, and not a hobby or pastime. Every job takes hard work to do it well. In the kitchen, it can be gruelling – 14 to 16 hour days on your feet isn’t easy, but the upside is always so great. We get to create and make beautiful things daily that make people happy.
We’re at your bakery, besides a Cronut ® what would you suggest we order?
The DKA (“Dominique’s Kouign Amann”) has actually always been our best seller in New York. It outsells the Cronut® three to one here. And in Tokyo, it’s the Frozen S’more – a vanilla ice cream covered with chocolate feuilletine and enrobed in marshmallow that is torched to order. For the London shop, there are quite a few exclusives that I’m proud of and worked with our chef there to develop. The Banoffee Paella is a banoffee pie that we’ve assembled upside down in a paella pan so that the bananas can get really nice and caramelized (with a bit passion fruit in the caramel to add an extra floral tint).
What’s been the biggest achievement of your career so far?
I hope the biggest achievement is still to come. I’m grateful for everything we’ve managed to accomplish so far. And it’s important for me to note that it is “we” as I’d never be where I am without my team.
What appealed to you about opening a bakery in London?
For me, London was love at first site. It is such an international blend of cultures. Even more so than New York. Whenever there’s a scene that eclectic, it is attractive. Because it is a city that will challenge and inspire you.
Did you expect to have people coming from all over the country for your opening day?
We were hopeful and prepared to do our best, but we never know what will happen on opening day.
Whilst everyone is still on a health kick do you think the tides are changing back to people indulging a bit more?
I think it’s always about balance, isn’t it?
There have been many Cronut ® imitations, do you find this flattering, or think people need to be more inventive?
When you are inspiration for another chef, that is very flattering. But when it is someone who is not inspired, but just imitating, then it’s less.
Is there one sensational food or product such as the Freakshake or rainbow bagels that you wish you had created?
No. I don’t want to create the Freakshake. What is that? I never want to create items for hype. For me, it’s about considerate, thoughtful creations.
Do you have plans to open any more sites soon?
We just announced that we are opening up our first full service restaurant in Los Angeles. That’s going to be a big one for the team, and opens up a whole new world that we can explore, including a full savoury menu and even cocktails.
What’s next for you, any more creations?
Always! We actually create more than 100+ items annually in all our shops. We’re always working on multiple menus all at once. I think that’s what people forget sometimes. For every one item that takes off, we’ve been working hard on hundreds more.