Have your cake and eat it too – The Wordrobe chats with Dominique Ansel, the chef behind the iconic Cronut® craze
So, what inspired you to become a pastry chef?
I first got into the kitchen as a way to help bring in somcae extra income for my family as we were rather poor. I started off actually as a dishwasher and worked my way up. But the moment I really fell in love with pastry was when I realised it was that perfect blend of science and art.
Tell us more about your culinary background…
Following the story I mentioned from above, I remembered going to do my military service at the age of 19 and I was actually teaching people how to cook in my program, which was in French Guiana.
After I finished the military, I used all of my savings, purchased a small car, and drove to Paris dropping off resumes. Eventually, I ended up as a seasonal worker at Fauchon along with 30 others.
At the end of the holiday, they let me know they would only be keeping one person and chose me. I stayed with Fauchon for over eight years, eventually leading all international expansion, before moving to New York as the Executive Pastry Chef for Daniel with my two suitcases.
I started my bakery just five years ago. At that point in time, we only had four employees. How fast time things have changed!
You’ve achieved a lot in your career so far. What has been the proudest moment?
It isn’t any of the awards, or even when the Cronut turned viral. But opening up my first little bakery in Soho five years ago was a very proud moment.
We only had four people, and I was bringing out the trash daily and making coffee for the guests. We didn’t know what we were doing, but we were so excited and happy.
If you weren’t a chef, which career would you like to pursue?
I’m not sure…, a chef has been always what I have been. But I guess it would’ve always been something creative. I wasn’t very good at school, and innovation has always been a big passion for me.
What’s your favourite midnight snack?
It’s whatever is the easiest – currently, Salt & Vinegar Pringles.
What gave you inspiration for the Cronut®?
We change the menu constantly and this was just another idea that we tried. It was just one more creation. Someone asked me to make a doughnut, and I didn’t have any doughnut recipes, so I thought I’d do something unique.
Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
I always say that it’s not a career choice, but a life choice. When your work is your passion, it all blurs into one.
How would you describe your style of baking?
I think it’s ever-evolving, as it is with all chefs. But for me, the story of the items is sometimes more important than anything else. It has to be something that relates to your guests, connects them.
What provides you with inspiration for new recipes?
I always look outside of the kitchen. From nail art, to origami, to physics – there’s a lot of inspiration out there.
Do you have any role models?
Daniel Boulud has always been a great mentor of mine. He was the first chef I met who taught me how to never say “no”. He was always looking for new ways to please his guests, and I learned the same from him.
What food takes you back to childhood?
My childhood? I’m afraid I didn’t have very much to eat growing up as our family wasn’t scraping by. But a really fresh baguette, buttered and topped with a plaque of chocolate was my favourite treat.
If you could share dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I travel so much that these days my favourite place is just to eat at home with my girlfriend. It’s such a luxury just to be able to do that.
Do you have any favourite spring recipes?
In spring, I love the micro herbs and early harvest fruits that we’re getting. But I’m always open to all recipes.
PLUS: Try the Cronut® for yourself at Dominique’s London bakery
17-21 Elizabeth St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9RP