Cronut® creator Dominique Ansel dishes on everything from his favorite pastry to his shop’s humble beginnings.
Offerings at U.P. at Dominique Ansel Kitchen.
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been five years since pastry chef Dominique Ansel opened his eponymous bakery on Spring St. Since then, his creations have spawned thousands of Instagram photos, lines around the block, and dozens of imitations. We sat down with the visionary patissier to chat about what’s changed (and what hasn’t) in the last five years.
Five years! Does it feel like it’s been that long? DOMINIQUE ANSEL: Those five years have passed by so quickly. I cannot believe it. I still remember the first day of opening like it was yesterday.
You started with just four employees, right? DA: Yes. I started it with everything I had. I was washing dishes, taking out the trash, making coffee. I electrocuted myself a few times [laughs]. I did some painting, tiling; I’ve done everything. I know every square inch of this bakery.
And how many employees do you have now? DA: We have about 70-80 people in New York, 100 in Tokyo, and 60 in London.
When you first opened, the DKA (Dominique's Kouign Amann) was the crown jewel of your pastries. But then the Cronut happened. How many years ago was that? DA: It launched in May 2013.
When you first came up with that idea, did you ever imagine that it would become the phenomenon that it has? DA: I don’t think anyone can imagine something like this happening. As chefs, we always push ourselves to create and come up with new ideas. It’s great; it’s a really nice thing that’s happened. It’s given us more chances to talk about creativity, our work, and to promote what we do in the pastry field.
How do you feel five years later? You’re certainly in a very different place. DA: I feel good. There’s still always so much work to do. I feel grateful for all of the people who come to the shop every day, whether it’s in New York, Tokyo, or London. I feel grateful to have a chance to express myself creatively and to have a chance to feed people and make them happy.
Tell us what’s happening at the bakery this weekend for the five-year anniversary. DA: We’re bringing one item each from the Tokyo and London bakeries. From London, it’s the banoffee paella. It’s made with beautiful, caramelized bananas deglazed with some passion fruit, dulce cream, and cookie crumb. From Tokyo, we’re bringing the onigiri ice cream, which is served in a nori cone with puffed rice, homemade jam, and fermented plum. We’re also going to serve some birthday cake and hot chocolate for our customers.
Do you have a pastry that you’ve created that didn’t sell? Everything you sell seems to always go viral! DA: There are things that don’t work, but the ones that make it to the shop always sell very well. Before [it’s in the shop], we study it, we see if it’s technically and physically possible, we make sure it’s a mindful and thoughtful idea; that people will connect with it. There’s never been anything that’s a big flop but there have been some tests in the kitchen that were not successful. We’re always on the edge; trying things that nobody else can do or wants to do. It’s not easy.
Is there a technique that you’d love to try? DA: I’ve been looking into 3D printing. I’m still trying to figure out what that would be or how it would be possible to do something with pastry and 3D printing.
You’re also launching the new dessert menu at U.P. at Dominique Ansel Kitchen. DA: It’s really fun. It’s casual, simple and tasty food. We’re exploring all different ways of cooking meals that are shareable, like fondue, Korean barbeque, Japanese yakiniku, and mezze. But we have our own version of it, which is dessert.
Do you have a favorite pastry that you make? DA: I don’t have a favorite; I love them all! But if I had to choose one: the DKA. I can’t get tired of it. Actually, I eat one every morning. I just love it: the flakiness, the crunchiness of the outside, especially when it’s warm, it’s just unbelievable. I’ve been eating one every morning since we opened the shop.