Years before his Cronut inspired New Yorkers to line up around the block in SoHo, Dominique Ansel captured the attention of the French military. At 19, conscription sent the budding chef to French Guiana, where he provided culinary instruction and tore through ravines with a machete. “Like Indiana Jones,” he said. After stints at Fauchon in Paris and Daniel in New York, he invented the Cronut and started a global pastry empire, including bakeries in London and Tokyo and, later this year, his first full-fledged restaurant in Los Angeles. Mr. Ansel, 39, lives with his girlfriend and business partner, Amy Ma, in Columbus Circle.
BAKER’S HOURS I usually wake up in the very early morning. On the weekends, 5, 6 o’clock at latest. Usually, I wake up at 4, 5 o’clock, so Sundays are the only day where I can kind of like rest and take, I would say, a day off.
ROMANTIC SIDE In the very early morning, I will catch up on film — Netflix. Believe it or not, I like romantic comedies. It’s a good way to start the day. “Bridget Jones”: I liked the first one; the second one was good, too. Have you seen it?
ALL THE FOOD GROUPS I’ll drink a coffee. Just black. I’ll make myself a juice. I try to mix vegetables and fruit — pineapple, apple cucumbers and celery. And then I’ll add some mint as well. I do soft-scrambled eggs with chives and shallots and crème fraîche inside. On a toast — really, really good.
HAVE VAN, WILL TRAVEL I try to get away from the city if I can. We have a minivan that we use to bring the food from the kitchen to the bakery, so we take it after we’re done. I’m a pretty good parallel parker with minimal road rage. I’ve been to the Japanese market in New Jersey; it’s right after the George Washington Bridge. It’s called Mitsuwa Marketplace. Really, really good. I love exploring Queens as well. Flushing is good. I’ve been exploring Brooklyn a lot lately.
LEAVING ONE’S COMFORT ZONE I think it’s important in our industry to be curious. To go to places where you don’t usually go. To see places that you don’t usually see. Not to stay in your comfort zone. To me, it’s just exciting. It’s not work. A lot of places cannot afford rent in Manhattan, for instance. So they’re in the suburbs. They open restaurants. They dedicate their lives to it, and you can see it in the food they do.
SPEAKING OF WHICH I’m going to try fried chicken and waffles at Melba’s. It’s all the way up in Harlem. It’s my first time.
JUST CHECKING IN So, this happens in the afternoon: I’ll usually stop by and check on the team, the managers and kitchen chefs. Making sure that they have everything they need for the weekend. Nothing formal.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN After that, I try to visit a new place. This weekend I’m going to visit a distillery in Brooklyn, Kings County. Our director of operations has recommended that I stop by there.
SAFARI SHOPPING I’ll probably take the van at night. I call it safari shopping: I run quickly inside a supermarket to buy groceries.
DINNER My girlfriend taught me how to cook Chinese — Taiwanese, I’m sorry. Her mom tasted the food we made for her, and she said, “It’s not bad.” Which is a compliment. I was very nervous. I won’t cook anything random that I have no knowledge about. I’ve been cooking her family’s food for five years, and weekly, so I’ve learned a lot about the different condiments, the different way of cooking, the different cuts of meat. You can’t just wing it.
THE DISH I love the three-cup chicken, san bei ji. I love the beef noodle soup that I make. I usually buy the sukiyaki beef, the Japanese beef. It’s a thinner cut; it’s more tender.
INTERNATIONAL CALLS We stay in touch with Tokyo and London a lot. Late at night, I’ll talk to Tokyo because it’s their morning. And when I wake up in the morning, I catch up with London because it’s their afternoon.
LIGHTS OUT Not before midnight. It takes me about 15, 20 seconds to fall asleep. I close my eyes and I’m gone.
#FACTS In December 2013, Time magazine named the cronut as one of the “25 best inventions of 2013”