What do you get when you cross a croissant and a doughnut? It’s the cronut, the pastry sensation that has recently electrified Manhattan and the rest of the civilized world (which New Yorkers, of course, would define as being encompassed by the boundaries of the city).
The cronut is the creation of Dominique Ansel, a pastry chef of some repute---he was in charge of desserts for six years at Daniel, the Michelin three-star flagship of Daniel Boulud, before setting up his own shop in Soho. As you would expect, the cronut is far more than a fried croissant. Chef Ansel devised a special dough for his new concept, which apparently provides an inspired Gallic take on an American classic. From all reports they are light, fluffy and delightful, and the chef recommends having them for breakfast.
Here’s the catch: Ansel only makes 200 cronuts each day. Customers begin lining up to buy them at 6 a.m., and they sell out in minutes. The price of $5 apiece may sound steep, but there are already rumors of cronuts selling for $40 and more on the black market. Since they are a freshly made product with no preservatives, their sensory impact fades quickly if they’re shipped elsewhere.
Dominique Ansel now finds himself confronting one of the most puzzling of human dilemmas: the tyranny of instant success. His fans are demanding that he expand, and many foodies are convinced that the cronut will be the new cupcake. He has trademarked the idea as a precaution, but is apparently aware of how precarious his situation is. If he lines up venture capital and opens a cronut factory, his popularity might only last until the next sensation comes along a few months from now. If he succeeds in the long term, a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice will be obscured by his reputation as the inventor of a mutant doughnut.
While the prospect of short-term millions would trump everything else for most people, Ansel thus far is resisting the urge to expand (we’ll see how he feels next week). His temptations have ironic overtones, but then again he did choose to come to America. He’s a mere thirty seconds into his fifteen minutes of fame, and already life is more complex than he might have imagined.
Where’s Homer Simpson when you need him?
Mark Spival is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com