When considering the history of Dominique Ansel Bakery, there’s BCE and CE — Before Cronut Era and Cronut Era.
On May 10, 2013, the 1 1⁄2-year-old bakery debuted the doughnut-croissant hybrid. It immediately spawned lines down Spring Street, inspired a slew of imitators in its wake and made a celebrity out of its creator.
Five years later, those lines still gather outside the SoHo bakery an hour before the 8 a.m. opening for one of a couple hundred Cronut pastries, which go for $6 and sell out daily.
“When we first started with the Cronut, we only had two people in the kitchen and two people in the front of the house,” Ansel recalls as his creation turns five. “It was a different time for me.”
Today, the bakery has about 10 people in the kitchen and 10-12 in the front of house, he says. And thanks to the (now trademarked) pastry’s popularity, the pastry chef’s empire has also grown over the past five years. Los Angeles, London and Tokyo now have a Dominique Ansel Bakery. Ansel has also opened a second NYC shop in the West Village, Dominique Ansel Kitchen (also home to the U.P. dessert tasting menu), and his first restaurant debuted in L.A. this past fall.
The original bakery has continued to make headlines for innovative creations like the Cookie Shot, Frozen S’more and Blossoming Hot Chocolate. But a hundred people aren’t lining up daily for those.
amNewYork spoke with Ansel, 40, about the Cronut.
Where did the idea come from?
I really wanted to push to come up with new things, and the Cronut was just one of them. I put it on the menu for Mother’s Day thinking it was going to be good. I made 35 the first day. Of course we sold out in a few minutes. We made 50 the next day. By day three we had over 150 line up. It was very overwhelming at first. It was a four-person staff managing such a big crowd. We were not prepared for it. People were writing about it, and people were traveling for it.
Did you think it would catch on like that?
No. Even with all the money of the world, an entire team of creators cannot plan anything like that. It was very organic. It happened very naturally. I think that’s the beauty of it.
How did you come up with the name?
It was very simple, it happened naturally. I always like to come up with fun names for our pastries, this was just one of them. This was obviously the one I preferred, so we went with it.
I understand it took a few months to perfect the recipe?
Yeah, it took me about three months. Before we launched it I was perfecting all the layers and textures. It’s pretty complex. The dough, it’s a little technical and scientific to perfect it. I took the time to get the result I had, I didn’t want to rush it. I didn’t want something on the menu I wasn’t happy with. The dough is fermented with a levain — a starter — and laminated — it’s a technique of folding the butter inside the dough and adding layers. Perfecting the recipe is one thing, making it right every day is another. It changes a lot with time, with the flour used, with the water. It’s always, always different every day. And you have to tweak it to make it perfect.
Over the past five years, how have you noticed the Cronut’s influence across the city?
It’s hard to define. The Cronut opened the doors to a lot of creativity definitely. I remember a pastry chef was telling me she was really excited by the Cronut because she was in the kitchen for 20 years, and it was the first time she saw something like this. And the reaction from people gave her the excitement again to go back into the kitchen and try something fun and new and think about pastry and baking differently. It’s a very big compliment for me to . . . make people think about food differently.
Most people now associate you with the Cronut. Does that annoy you?
I think the Cronut is a beautiful creation. It’s why I’ve been pushing forward and keep coming up with new ideas, from the Cookie Shot to hundreds and hundreds of other pastries that I created after that. That’s not something I’m going to stop doing anytime soon. It’s not a matter of recreating the Cronut; it’s a matter of keep being original and connecting with our guests.
Keep them on their toes.
Yeah, I see people coming back to the bakery now — they don’t look for the Cronut, they look for something new. They look for the latest creation, they look for the latest thing they haven’t tried. They come back for the creativity, not just for the Cronut.
IF YOU GO
Dominique Ansel Bakery will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Cronut on May 12 by surprising the line with Cronut holes at random times throughout the day and selling a limited-edition set of Cronut holes that includes the first flavors sold at each shop and the current flavor, strawberry fior di latte | 189 Spring St.