Would you wait in a huge line outside a bakery before sunrise in hopes of savoring a croissant-donut hybrid that’s so popular you’re limited to ordering just two?
That’s exactly what hundreds of New Yorkers do every day to taste the coveted cronut, a pastry sensation created by renowned chef Dominique Ansel. Ever since he debuted his sugary treat on May 10th, fans have flocked to his petite-sized shop just to snag one — which he describes as a flaky, buttery croissant rolled in sugar, filled with cream, and then topped with glaze. And as the name suggests, this edible creation isn’t like any other.
For starters, there is only one flavor available per month (August is coconut), and only 250 are prepared each day, which means they sell out quickly. The cronut craze has gotten so huge that one New York City-based delivery service says it charges up to $3,000 for customers who want to skip standing in line.
However, there’s more to Ansel than just the cronut. We chatted with the chef (while he was rolling out croissants, of course), about why the masses can’t get enough, his most outrageous experience with cronut fans, and what he has in store for us for fall.
FNM: What is it about the cronut that, in your opinion, people just can’t get enough of?
DA: You know what? I’m not sure! As a pastry chef, I found it very technically interesting. But I think it’s also about the iconic status of two great foods — the croissant and the doughnut.
FNM: Describe that moment when you first made the cronut. Where did the idea come from?
DA: We create new things here at the bakery all the time. The cronut was just one other item. There wasn’t that singular 'ah ha' moment. It was something I was slowly working on for months, and when it was delicious enough, I decided to launch it. It’s surreal the impact it made considering it is only just about three months old.
FNM: Since the debut of the cronut, there have been many attempts to recreate it. Are these potential copycats flattering or insulting to you?
DA: Imitation comes in many forms. When it comes in the form of inspiration and pushes other chefs to create and innovate, I’m very flattered by it. When it comes in the form of blatant ripping off for nothing more than commercial gain, it is something that I find very sad for the culinary community. There’s something precious about originality and respecting that for any creative field.
FNM: Are there any potential recipes in the works that may beat the cronut's popularity?
DA: There’s always something in the works here. It’s not about one creation over the next. It’s about creativity as a whole.
FNM: Some critics may say that the cronut is a one-hit wonder. How do you tackle criticism?
DA: We have had so many hits in the bakery in just the 1.5 years we’ve been opened. In the beginning it was the DKA (a croissant-like dough with a caramelized crunchy crust), which is still our best-seller today. Then it was the cannelé (a crunchy caramelized shell with a custard center), then Paris New York (featuring a chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter filling), and the religieuse. There are so many fans of our other pastries that they have all be great hits by any standard. Yes, the cronut is on a whole new level having traveled the world. But just because something is more popular doesn’t mean it is the only popular item.
FNM: What was the most outrageous thing you’ve seen someone do to get their hands on a cronut?
DA: We’ve had two proposals using cronuts so far, and we always send the nervous guy off with our best wishes and hope the girl says a big and happy 'Yes!' We’ve had a lot of touching stories, actually — it’s not a crazy crowd, but a really positive and happy one. One 89-year-old father stood in line for his son’s 61st birthday present. He said that he and son hadn’t spent that amount of time together since little league. Another woman came when she was nine-months-pregnant on her due date. We try our best to be the fairest we can and service everyone to the best of our ability.
FNM: What are your must-have desserts for fall?
DA: We’re doing a whole new fall dessert menu — we keep the signatures, but always offer up new items every six to eight weeks according to the seasons. Amongst the ones that I’m very excited about is a Coconut Lychee Pavlova and a Butterscotch Religeuse. We’re also bringing back my Whole Gala Apple Tart Tatin, which I always love because it’s served on a sable Breton (salted butter cookie), which is one of my favorites.
FNM: Any tips on how to prepare desserts at home like a pro?
DA: The best tip for any dessert is to always use the best ingredients.
FNM: Talk a little bit more about your celebrity fans. What are some of the most surprising things you’ve discovered about them?
DA: Well, I don’t get to watch much TV because of the crazy hours at work, so I’m not too familiar with the celebrities, actually. But my staff is always really grateful and excited when they do visit us.
FNM: What’s the one dessert you attempted to make that didn’t win you over?
DA: When I was in culinary school, they taught us how to make this simple chestnut cake. I didn’t think much of it, but was really craving it in recent years, and just cannot remember how to replicate it.