He might be best known as the creator of the Cronut, but Dominique Ansel is far from a one-hit wonder. Here, the French-born, New York-based pastry chef chats about creativity, the SoHo food community and his upcoming cookbook.
By
April Smallwood

30 May 2014 - 3:56 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2014 - 3:54 PM

Where do you craft your ideas? I'm always on my feet, actually. As a chef, you don't really have an office or place away from the kitchen. I write down little inspirations on my iPhone and try to test them out one by one. Do you think America has allowed for greater creative rein than had you remained in France? Some of the most creative chefs I know work in France, and pastry is a huge part of French culture. I see ideas that I was working on in France 10 years ago just reaching the US now. But what's great about New York is the energy. It's a town that pushes you to reach further and work harder. 

What’s the staff favourite at your bakery? Since day one, it's always been the DKA [Dominique's Kouign Amann]. This is my take on the traditional Breton pastry that's similar to a caramelised croissant. It's classic and simple, but so hard to execute well. It's our staff favourite, the favourite of our regulars, and my favourite too. What are your interactions like with customers? I open the door daily at 8am and meeting the customers is a real highlight. I just met a couple who told me they had their first date in the bakery, where they ate pastries for three hours. And now they're engaged. They asked me to do the wedding cake.

The media has long focused on chefs doing savoury food. Are pastry chefs finally receiving recognition? Pastry is a very different rhythm to savoury food – it's a lot more technical and scientific. But I've always thought dessert was the "last word" of a meal and so very important. I'm excited by the future of pastry and there are so many great pastry chefs out there that are wonderfully inspiring. Passion is more important than recognition. And we are a passionate group. Is the community a tight-knit one? We all work too hard for too many hours to have time to sit down and exchange ideas, I'm afraid. But the chef culture – and not just limited to pastry chefs – is really cordial and supportive in New York. When the Cronut® first launched, a lot of nearby restaurants in SoHo sent our team lunch to support us, since we were working so many hours. 

The Milk & Cookie Shot is all the talk at your bakery. How has its reception differed from last year’s release of the Cronut? The Milk & Cookie Shot was launched at an event I co-hosted at SXSW. I created it just for that event, but there was overwhelming demand from our customers in New York. On the day of the Cronut® launch, we made 20 or so and they were sold out within 15 minutes. On the first day of the Cookie Shot, we made 300 plus and the line started three hours before [opening], with four live video crews covering the line. It was insane! What can we expect from your debut cookbook? I'm so excited about this book! I wanted to offer a range of skill levels for the baker. There are some tough recipes in there, and some very simple ones. It's about growth and progress, which I think is important in any cookbook. When I was learning how to make pastries in school, the first time I tried something, it was never perfect. So you dust it off and try again. That's what it always takes.

 

Dominique Ansel's coobook is scheduled for release later this year. 

Check out 15 of our favourite doughnut picks here.

For everyday baking recipes, check out our Bakeproof column here.

Photography by Thomas Schauer.