An Interview with Dominique Ansel, Creator of the Cronut

Happy National Doughnut Day, y'all!  We at Dale's Fried Pies are certainly fans of fried dough, so it has been with great interest that I've been following the recent "cronut" craze that is taking over NYC.  Cronuts are croissant-doughnut hybrids, created by Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho, and by all accounts, they are very very good.  Their rise to full on phenom is well documented, and as I've been following along, I've been impressed with chef Ansel's focus on quality over quantity as the demand for cronuts has become so great it's created a cronut black market, with cronuts selling for as much as $40 on Craigslist.  Mr. Ansel was kind enough to answer a few questions I had to see what I could learn from a fried dough maverick. 

Photo courtesy of Niko Triantafillou

Photo courtesy of Niko Triantafillou

Dale's Fried Pies: You trademarked the word "cronut."  Was this before or after you realized cronuts were becoming such a huge phenomenon?  And what advice to you have for small creative business owners who think they have a fantastic idea? 

Dominique Ansel: The trademark of Cronut was really more of serendipity. I was working with our lawyers on internationally trademarking my name, and my lawyer suggested some other items she thought we would be fit. We were a few days from launching the Cronut at that point. I think it is important for small business owners to protect their ideas, but at the same time, it's often hard to predict which ideas will really take off. So I would say: Don't spend too much time thinking about protecting the idea...spend more time on creating more ideas.

Dale's Fried Pies: How do you price the items in you bakery?  Why do you choose to maintain the original price of cronuts, when you could clearly charge much more? 

Dominique Ansel:  It's simple: always try to offer the best price you can for the customers while still being fair to the labor of your team and quality of ingredients. That is only way to run a genuine business.

Dale's Fried Pies:  You only make 200 cronuts each day, which is a supply much smaller than the demand for cronuts. What goes into your decision about whether or not to scale up production? 

Dominique Ansel: A lot of it is not my decision at all. Scaling up takes time, and is not an over night process. So I take it one step at a time, and make sure that I'm not compromising on my quality.

Dale's Fried Pies: Do you believe this kind of craze is beneficial to your business in the long run?  Do you mind being known as the "cronut guy?" 

Dominique Ansel: I don't think any Chef would be upset finding out that people love an item they are making. I the Cronut guy? Well, depending on when you met me, I'm also the DKA Guy, the Cannele Guy, and the Madeleine Guy. Any of those are fine. I'll be in the kitchen making more stuff when you need me. 

Dale's Fried Pies: Do you have any general advice for small creative business owners? 

Dominique Ansel: My biggest advice is just to work hard. You'd be surprised how many people don't work half as hard for their own businesses as they should be. Hard work solves and prevents a lot of problems.