How the Cronut King Continues to Bake Up New Ideas

It seems as if Dominique Ansel, the creator of the famous ‘Cronut’ croissant-doughnut hybrid pastry never runs out of best selling ideas. In the two years since the Cronut was born, Chef Ansel has baked up numerous other blowout desserts including the milk and cookie shot, the frozen s’more and now offers an $85 eight course dessert tasting, which tickets for are sold out through mid September.

“Don’t wait, don’t hold onto it, explore it,” Ansel said. Any idea is worth the exploration, according to Ansel. Ansel noted a recent example of how he noticed nail art trends on Instagram and that he may explore the various techniques and designs for a future product. Comparing his baking with a fashion show, Ansel said that people should lead with their best ideas, instead of following the saying 'save the best for last.'

Ansel spoke about his trick to never running out of ideas on Monday at the first ever Accessories Council Summit hosted by Women’s Wear Daily. Growing up in France, Ansel said he made approximately $150 a month in his bakery job at age 16. One day, he walked by a store with a beautiful white shirt and decided to spend one month of his salary on the shirt. He decided that he would pack it away in the closet and wear when the time was right. But when the right time came around a few years later, the shirt’s sleeves were four inches too short and the shirt could not be worn. From that moment on, Ansel said that people should never wait with ideas.

The Cronut, which is arguably Ansel's best idea to date, has been a smashing success. Fans start lining up outside the bakery, which bears his name, at 5 a.m., or in some cases wait overnight. Because of the cronut's limited production, a type of black market formed and now the pastry can sell for up to 20 times its $5 price tag. In the immediate aftermath of the cronut's release, Ansel said that he heard of cronuts being scalped for $2,000.

Another one of his big ideas was the concept of ‘time is an ingredient,’ which resulted in a made-to-order bakery, where all of the items are made fresh. Ansel noticed that there were no bakeries in New York City where a customer could order a freshly made chocolate mousse. The new bakery features an open kitchen and theater style seating so customers can watch their pastries prepared right in front of them.

When creating new products, Ansel relies on the emotional connection and meaning of food to people. For example, in Ansel’s new dessert tasting sessions, the current theme is ‘first memories.’ Each dish is created to encompass an individual’s first memory. Ansel requests that each guest send what their first word was ahead of time and he creates a dessert with the word spelled out for them. Other desserts include the themes of one’s first kiss, first heartbreak and first time living alone.

Ansel and his team change up their menus every six to eight weeks, keeping the pressure on to deliver new, innovative items.