As every cronut lover (or, “Crony”) already knows, Dominique Ansel is the man with the master plan. The hysteria surrounding Ansel’s trademarked invention is so far-reaching that just about every bakery in my neighborhood has their own un-trademarked, “inspired by” versions. This is quite a feat, considering that the legit cronuts are officially only available at Ansel’s SoHo bakery (with Downtown LA being quite south-east of SoHo), and no possibility of “franchising” in the foreseeable future. Although, a “Crunkin’ Cronuts” is a delicious thought (gimme a dozen “crunchkins”, please).
Even though Ansel may have invented the singular, zeitgeisty hybrid item of the decade (Croissant x Donut limited edition collabo), success can be a double-edged paring knife: Ansel recently expressed to the UK Guardian how he feared that the cronut would destroy his kitchen team’s creative juices. But in the process, he comes off as – how do you say – l’pompous? When asked why it is important to “stay creative” in the pastry field, Ansel remarked “If Van Gogh had only painted one painting and stopped there, no one would know about him.” Prétentieux!
Has Dominique Ansel’s cronut become the “Gangnam Style” of the food world? The cronut ain’t exactly a one-hit wonder – SoHo Dom and his team have plenty of other tricks up their sleeves (including a trying-too-hard cookie shot creation that dropped this week): Eight new spring menu desserts are inventive, with high-minded concepts that could have been found in a hippy’s journal following a monumental LSD trip. The “panda religieuse” is a praying panda filled with yuzu cream, “Lime Me Up” is an interactive sauce-making adventure, and “The Garden” is a miniature cross-sectioned garden with a delicate chocolate ladybug on the crust (he only “digs” deep enough so as not to disturb Chef Gaston, who is rolling over in his grave).
This past weekend, Ansel attempted to divert attention from his famous creation with a collection of inventive new desserts that beg to be analyzed and toyed with. For example, the “Blushing Rose” Pomegranate Tart features a crystallized rose petal and includes a dropper full of rose water – when the rose water is lovingly dripped on the crystallized rose petal… Le voilà!
It must be maddening for a true artist like Ansel to be pigeonholed due to the immense popularity of one creation. Who knew that his famous fusion would become a world-wide sensation? Well, filing a trademark for a pastry that you invented is not exactly a naive act (although Ansel is quick to credit this decision to a well-meaning adviser) but the all-encompassing mania that ensued was still wholly unexpected. How do you cope with sudden fame threatening to diminish all of the important pastry work that your team has planned? When does it become acceptable to at once “own” the creation, and also disown it?
The contribution that Ansel’s cronut has given to the pastry chef community is very valuable. It’s success is a reminder that a chef’s new work doesn’t need to be completely original, sometimes the “best of both worlds” approach can be the most effective form of invention. The cronut was the creation of a visionary who recognizes that making something feel extraordinary and “new” can be achieved by simply remixing the classics. The cronut effectively put Ansel on the map, but now it seems that he wants to leave it in his rear-view. Come on, Dom, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.