Dominique Ansel heads West

by Pia Velasco & Jameelah Robinson

Dominique Ansel Bakery looks regular upon walking past it with a royal blue canopy, a collection of seats and chairs, and a neon side to the right that says ICE CREAM with blinking lights. However, upon entering and inspecting the desserts and reading the menu, it becomes evident that this place is everything but ordinary.

Dominique Ansel is an award-winning chef. Recently named the World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2017 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, one of business Insider’s “Most Innovative People Under 40”, and Crain’s “40 under 40”, Ansel is actually most known as the “Cronut Man”.

In 2013 he created this pastry that would make him an overnight sensation. The delicious donut-croissant hybrid put him on a global radar and for months after its launch it was common to find a line that wrapped around the block made up of people eager to taste what the hype was all about.

Cronut: Photo by Jameelah Robinson

Ever since then Ansel has gone on to create other sensations such as the Cookie Shot and Frozen S’Mores that have been just as successful, Now he has two locations in the New York City, one in Soho that works as the bakery and one in the West Village named the Kitchen. “The majority of items at the KITCHEN are finished-to-order and more classic. Here you’ll find pillowy-soft beignets fried just before serving, dusted with mounds of matcha powdered sugar, for a freshly prepared treat like you’ve never tasted. The focus is time and how it affects the final experience of the food,” reads the description on its website.

To the left is the picture of a cookie shot. To right is the picture of the chocolate Smore. Photo by: Jameelah Robinson

His modern twist on classics attracts not only foodies looking for the newest trend, but also those who are looking for a taste of home. Simon Schwendner, 28, is a German consultant who has been living in New York for four years and found that taste upon stumbling upon Ansel’s beignets that remind him of his childhood.

“When you’re a child you always get a bag full of theses on the Christmas market and that’s what every German child really looks forward to.’’

Schwendner further reflected on his culture and his new home in New York City:

Germans are a little different from other cultures. We kind of go abroad to immerse ourselves in the different culture rather than seeking the familiar. Every once in a while there’s some of these tokens that you can’t give up, and this is one of them.”

Ansel’s success has catapulted him to international culinary stardom, with locations now in major cities such as Tokyo and London. In order to pull off such a successful business that operates on very hectic and busy schedule Ansel needed to build a team of passionate hard-workers that believed in his vision just as much as he.

Columbia Journalism student, Jameelah Robinson, interviewed the Bakery’s sous-chef, Robert Lough, to find out what it takes to run such a fast-paced and successful spot.

Sous-chef Robert Lough and Dominique Ansel. Instagram / @robertlough
The first thing that I do [is] I look over the case items. And then from there I check out all the baked viennoiserie, the cookies, and everything like that to make sure nothing is over dark [and] nothing is looking not 100% percent. Then from there l’ll check on one of my other stations to make sure that they are on time, on schedule. Then I’ll check on lamination, find out how far they are on the batons.

Now Ansel is about to launch his first West Coast location this Fall 2017 that is also slated to be his largest project ever. So far he’s mostly kept his lips shut on the details on the upcoming L.A. location, but has said that he’s eager to return to the world of savory foods after years being a James Beard Foundation award-winning pastry chef.

Want to keep up-to-date? Make sure to follow his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts!