Interview: Dominique Ansel, creator of the ‘cronut’

By Mariam Digges

Interview: Dominique Ansel, creator of the ‘cronut’
Creator of the revered doughnut-croissant hybrid, the 'cronut™', New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel talks to MiNDFOOD.

From Adriano Zumbo’s “zonuts” to MoVida Bakery in Melbourne’s “dossants”, doughnut fever has well and truly hit. But New York is where it all started …

At 6am on a quiet street in SoHo (New York is a ghost town before 9am) eager pastry devotees queue outside Paris-born Dominique Ansel’s bakery for his now-legendary “cronuts”.

With strict buying procedures in place (think Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi” episode) where a firm two-cronut-per-person rule applies, rumour has it that a cronut black market has scalpers selling these delicious glazed treats on the street at a premium.

The making of these pastries is an arduous three-day task carried out by Ansel’s team of 20, contributing to the growing demand. “Today we sold about 300 cronuts,” he says.

Ansel’s short but punchy resumé includes time at French pastry institution Fauchon and three Michelin-star restaurant Daniel in New York before he opened his eponymous bakery in 2011. But it wasn’t until he launched the notorious cronut earlier this year that foodies from all over the world have begun flocking to him.

I like to challenge my team to think of new things at our weekly meetings, and originally, I made this as a snack for them<” he tells of his reasons for creating the cronut. “They wanted to eat a doughnut, but I’m not too familiar with many doughnut recipes, so I thought I would do my own twist on it.”

Unlike conventional doughnuts, Ansel’s creations are feather-light, with a crisp, buttery crust and slight caramelisation at the edges. They also have all the doughnut trimmings: a cream centre, a light dusting of sugar, and glaze.

As for how to best enjoy a cronut, Ansel’s advice is minimal: “I like to cut mine in half with a serrated knife. Only use a serrated knife and gently saw to cut because a regular knife will crush the layers and make the cream spill out.”

5 Minutes with Dominique Ansel

For those who don’t know, what exactly is a Cronut™ is?
The Cronut™ is a special pastry item we do here at the bakery that is a hybrid between a croissant and doughnut. We are not actually frying croissant dough, but a modified laminated dough. And after a light dusting of sugar, we fill it with cream and top with a glaze.


How many staff work at Dominique Ansel Bakery?

We are a constantly growing and changing the team. I would say about 20 at the moment.

What is the proper “Cronut™etiquette”?

There’s a full list of instructions for buying Cronut™ on our website. We’re constantly changing and updating it, so it’s best to check there.

Who are your food inspirations?
There are so many amazing chefs around the world who I really admire. My former boss, Christophe Adam from Fauchon, is one of the most creative people I’ve ever worked with, and I learned a lot from him.

What is your culinary background?
I started my culinary career when I was just 16 years old. After attending culinary school, I went to my mandatory military service in France and returned to find work in Paris. My resume is very short – it just includes two places: French pastry institution Fauchon, where I was in charge of international development, and restaurant Daniel here in New York, where I was the executive pastry chef for over six years.

How many cronuts™ does the bakery sell each day?
This is ever-increasing. Today we did about 300 for the line outside.


How would you suggest a cronut™ best be experienced ?
I like to cut mine in half with a serrated knife – only use a serrated knife and gently saw to cut because a regular knife will crush the layers and make the cream spill out. We do one flavour a month, and so far, I’ve  really liked our recent Blackberry flavour. It’s very light, and for cronuts™, it’s more about the experience of the texture than weighing it down with very heavy flavors.

What is coming up next for you?
A lot of people ask us this, but we have already moved onto many new things. This summer, we launched our Pastry Chef Series, where we invited six of my favorite pastry chefs from the US and France to collaborate with us on different desserts. The chefs were Michael Laiskonis, Johnny Iuzzini, Sherry Yard, Francisco Migoya, Christophe Michalak, and Christophe Adam. Each chef’s dessert is on sale here at the bakery for two weeks.

We also launched a brand new summer menu with five new pastry items. One of my favourites is a cake that was designed by the artist Will Cotton (you may know him from Katy Perry’s Californial Girl video, where he made an entire candy land set for her). I worked together with Will and made a strawberry fraisier that is very whimsical. I’m also currently working on some new fun ice cream items for the summer. There’s no need to stop – we just keep inventing and moving forward.

The Dominique Ansel Bakery is located at 189 Spring Street, New York City 10012


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