How To Eat Like A World Famous Baker
This interview was condensed and edited for Food & Wine
Below is the unedited version.
You might think the inventor of the Cronut has enough success and accolades now that he could kick up his heels and relax a little, but the reality is that Dominique Ansel is still waking up at the same time some of us are going to bed (at least on a Friday) and his days are still spent ensuring the quality of every item served at his bakery. I caught up with the pastry chef to find out what a typical day looks like.
Spoiler Alert: It’s not for the faint of heart.
3-4 a.m.: I usually wake up between 3 and 4 in the morning. I live on the UWS. I don’t eat or drink anything at home. I’ll go down to the bakery, and the first thing I’ll get is a coffee.
8-9 a.m.: The next thing I’ll eat is probably a DKA, almost everyday the same thing.
I always taste test the Cronut almost every day, at least a bite or two just to make sure the quality is there. We’ll take pastries out of the display case to check on them as well. We’ll cut a few up, maybe 4-5, and just taste them to make sure the quality is there.
I’m on my feet the whole time. (Dominique wears standard black kitchen clogs.)
1-2 p.m. For lunch I’ll grab a sandwich or a salad from the bakery. Like a Panini or salad, or soup, very light. I don’t eat whole meals. I just do a lot of tasting.
Do you ever sit down?
Oh, maybe 5 minutes for lunch.
What about the afternoon slump?
I have 2-3 espressos during the day. And I drink water. And in the afternoon I love to have a canelé. It’s my go-to snack. I like the outside. It’s crunchy and dark and it’s not too sweet. Ours is excellent. We make ours with Tahitian vanilla and Caribbean rum.
7-8 p.m.: I leave whenever I am done. This week I left between 10-11. Yesterday I left at midnight. (Truth be told when we chatted with Dominique, it was 10:45 p.m. on the evening of his NYCWFF Wonderland event, which was held at the Highline hotel.) But I usually leave around 7-8. I go home and then I usually go out for dinner. I love Japanese food, soba, sushi. I love Japanese cuisine in general. Then I walk home, and catch up on emails, and I go to bed around 12 a.m.
(In case you aren’t doing the math, that means he’s generally awake for 20 hours. Ready to be a baker?)
Is there anything in your fridge?
A lot of water…(he pauses)…some fruit, maybe a few vegetables.
What's your favorite drink?
I like a Bloody Mary once in a while. Champagne…But, I don't really drink much.
Do you ever sleep in?
No, no, I don’t sleep much. I sleep like 4-5 hours maximum.
Do you take days off?
No, not really. I’ve tried, but…
Dominique’s first cookbook,
, was published last week, and in 2015 he will be opening his second location in Omotesando, a hip SoHo-like neighborhood of Tokyo. Is it any wonder he barely sleeps?
Why did you choose Japan to open your first bakery?
I have always been attracted to Japanese culture, and the country. When I was in France, I had two choices: Take a job as a chef in Tokyo, and the other, to work at Daniel. I decided I needed to learn the language better, so I came to New York and I worked for Daniel and I fell in love with New York. This is home for me now.
Japan is the dream for any chef who wants to open a new place. There are hundreds of bakeries in Japan. They love French culture; they love American brunch, their bakeries. It is a perfect place for me, the people really respect the craft and the role of baking, and there is a lot to do there that hasn’t been touched yet.
Will you take the Cronut to Japan?
We will most likely incorporate many of the items from the bakery in New York to Tokyo, but I will be creating a few items that will be special for them that you won’t get in New York.
Do you think the Japanese will wait in line for your pastries?
Oh, yes, the Japanese love to wait in line. They will wait 2-3 hours for pancakes!
Wondering if you have what it takes to join Dominique’s team? He says the number one thing he looks for is personality and a passion for the craft, even more so than training.