Dominique Ansel: The Man, The Myth, The Cronut
For the past two months, the proprietor of New York's Dominique Ansel Bakery has been at the center of an extraordinary international whirlwind of public excitement and media buzz. Dominique Ansel perfected and released his croissant-donut hybrid cronut in May, spawning persistent lines, scalper services, endless knockoffs and celebrity endorsements (see Jerry Seinfeld, Kelly Ripa et al). If you don't get in line with the 100-150 other people waiting by 6:55 a.m., you're probably not getting one, but that may soon change.
We spoke with the wonderfully genial Ansel about the meteoric rise of the cronut, the romantic relationships it has facilitated and the other evil genius ideas he has up his sleeve, including possible national delivery.
Zagat: Your website says that you are working on a way to ship cronuts around the country?
Dominique Ansel: The cronut takes about three days to make. It takes one day to make the dough, one day to laminate the dough and one day to fry it and fill it. It's a very labor intensive process. I haven't found a way to ship it yet but we are working on a way to make it a little bit different but still really good so we can ship it overnight.
Zagat: Do you have plans to expand and open more bakeries?
DA: Dominique Ansel Bakery, there is only one, and it's in New York City. I think it's really important to focus on the quality of what I do. We do a lot of small batches at our bakery, that's sort of our thing. We bake madeleines fresh to order. We bake kouign amann like four or five times a day, we bake the canneles like six or seven times a day. There's constantly something coming out of the oven. Our cookies are baked every 30 to 45 minutes. You will always see us bringing out baked stuff from the oven in our open kitchen. I really focus on the quality over the quantity.
Zagat: Do you feel outside pressure to make more cronuts though?
DA: We started the cronuts about eight weeks ago only, so this is pretty new. We have a small team at the bakery and we went from making 15 to making 100 to making 200 and now we make between 300-350. It's still new on the market and we've increased production and are trying to make as many as we can. But I want to focus on the quality of what I sell and I don't want to overproduce. I want people to see the other stuff that we have at the bakery.
Zagat: You've got this crazy new frozen s'mores thing, right?
DA: I was in Turkey and had this ice cream that is sort of chewy and a little bit elastic and I wanted to do something similar. I came back and worked on a recipe of marshmallow-y ice cream that I could freeze with vanilla ice cream in the center and covered with crispy chocolate coating and we put it on a smoked willow wood branch. Once people order it, we put the ice cream on the smoked branch and we torch it to order. So it's a very unique experience, you just have a few minutes to eat it and it's fresh from the freezer. It's a mix of different textures and you have the smell to remind you of the campfire. You have the crunch of the marshmallow and inside it's cold. It's very fun to eat!
Zagat: You tweeted that someone met their boyfriend or girlfriend in the cronut line?
DA: I've heard some interesting stories from the cronut line. One or two people told me that they met their boyfriend and girlfriend in line; one [couple] knew each other and started dating after being together in the cronut line.
There was also an 89-year-old man who came with his son, who was 60 years old. They didn't know how to get a cronut and we told him, "Sir, you have to wait in line, we don't make any exceptions for anyone, but we will take good care of you and get you water while you wait." They waited, got the cronuts and left with some and I later got an email from the son telling me that since he was five years old it was the best time he ever spent with him. It was pretty touching.
Zagat: Is there any pastry chef out there who is having more fun than you right now?
DA: You tell me!