John Harvey Kellogg is credited with inventing corn flakes. Paul and David Merage are the masterminds of the afterschool classic, Hot Pockets. But it’s New York pastry maestro Dominique Ansel who can claim credit for creating of 2013’s most buzzed-about culinary creations — the Cronut. While no one is sure if his half-croissant, half-donut treat will live on in kitchen lore (and bellies) as long as the other items, Ansel is sure enjoying the confectionery ride while he can.
His next stop? The New York City Wine & Food Fest (October 17 through 20), where Ansel will participate in both a seminar with his mentor and Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Daniel Boulud and a tailgating cook-off with NFL legend Joe Namath. The chef recently chatted with Forbes Travel Guide about those events, other concoctions coming from his eponymous Manhattan bakery and how Cronuts are helping in the fight against hunger. Take that, Hot Pockets!
What events are you most excited about during NYCWFF?
It’s a very different year at the NYCWFF for me because it’s the first year where instead of SWEET (which all the pastry guys attend), there’s a little mixing up of savory and sweet and new ideas. I’m excited about both the events I’m participating in: “Jets + Chefs: The Ultimate Tailgate” will just be this amazingly large crowd, and we’re serving Cronut holes for the first time, so that’ll be exciting. And the seminar with Daniel Boulud (Family Meal: A Conversation with Daniel Boulud and his Culinary Kin) is something that’s near and dear to me because he’s like a father and this will be a family reunion.
How did you come up with the Cronut?
We challenge ourselves to do new things every day. The Cronut was just one of the many items. And it’s the biggest proof that you just have to keep creating.
Did you ever think it would create such a craze?
Haha… never. Not because I didn’t think it was amazing, just because there’s seldom this much love for any one food or pastry item.
You recently teamed up and created The Cronut Project. Tell me a bit about this, and are you planning on doing something like this again?
We worked together with three interns from BBH (advertising company Bartle Bogle Hegarty) to put together a citywide donation pool, where we would draw out winners for Cronuts for six days straight. All the proceeds went to Food Bank for New York City. In six days, with only 12 Cronuts, we raised more than $6,000, or enough to provide 28,000 meals. What’s more, the news of The Cronut Project was heard in over 67 countries, and we raised search engine awareness for Food Bank by 56% during a time in the summer when most charities struggle.
Right after the Cronut Project, we launched a t-shirt marketing [campaign called] Crolanthropy, where anyone wearing the shirt in the month of September gets to double the maximum of Cronuts [they can order] from two to four. And, the sweetest part is that the proceeds also go to supporting Food Bank. I think it’s amazing to take the power and love of Cronuts and harness it into the love of doing something good.
Tell me about the frozen s’more. How did you think of that?
It was summer time, so I wanted to create an ice cream. It was during the week of the heat wave, and I wanted to play on this idea of hot and cold and take a very wintery dessert, and make it refreshing and cool for the summer time.
Do you think it will catch on as quickly as the Cronut?
I’m not sure. We sell hundreds daily, but you know, every creation has its own following and own rhythm. I’m fine with that.
If you had to pick, croissant or donut?
Croissant! I’m French — can’t live without the croissant.
Photo Courtesy of Dominique Ansel