Where Did the Cronut Idea Come From?

Chef Dominique Ansel created a foodie’s dream this past summer in his namesake bakery’s cronut—a donut-croissant hybrid that has inspired copycats from coast-to-coast and even as far as Russia and China. But the Parisian pastry chef says his fame hasn’t impacted the vision he has for his business.

“Any good business should grow, but it should be mindful,” Ansel says. “It has to be done the right way. I want to grow the bakery, yes, but it has to be the right way. I absolutely want quality first.”

Growing up in Paris, Ansel says he was interested in creating a donut, but was more familiar with its Parisian counterpart—the croissant.

“I am French, so I don’t know recipes for donuts, but I wanted to do a donut somehow,” he says. “I really love croissants, and grew up eating croissants. I wanted something light, and fluffy, and very delicate. Something layered on the outside that was crisp that I could fill with crème.”

After working with his team on the recipe for two months, with more than ten batches, he says he came up with the perfect ratio. But he never could have dreamt of what happened next.

“It went viral overnight,” he says. “I thought it was a good product, and we put it out not expecting it to be that big.”

Today, people come from all over the globe to stand outside his Soho, New York bakery to wait in line for the famed cronut, which sells for $5 a pop, beginning as early as 4 and 5 a.m.  The bakery also sells out by 10 a.m. each day, after being open for only two hours, Ansel says.  Each month, the cronut has a new flavor, which has included coconut and fig in August and September.

Copycat cronuts have also popped up in New York, Los Angeles and even overseas, which Ansel is less crazy about.

“I think it’s good to inspire people, and I am flattered when they take it as inspiration, but when they try to copy it and make the same thing, that is different,” Ansel says.

And despite the runaway success of his summer hit, he says there is no pressure to think of the pastry world’s next big thing.

“I make new things all the time—this is the specialty of the bakery,” he says. “We don’t want this to kill our creativity. We change our menu every six-to-eight weeks, so this is keeping me excited, and keeping our customers excited.”

The bakery’s latest creation is the Magic Soufflé, with chocolate and brioche.

“It’s stable, light and very fluffy, like a perfect soufflé,” he says.