Cronut fans in Japan can swap local imitations for the real thing when the creator of the croissant-doughnut hybrid, pastry chef Dominique Ansel, opens his new bakery in Tokyo on June 20.
And the Frenchman is planning a few surprises to go alongside his legendary confection, which had New Yorkers lining up for hours outside his SoHo store when it first went on sale in 2013.
The eagerly awaited opening of Ansel’s Tokyo venture in Omotesando will cap a busy few months for the star chef. In April, he launched his second New York store, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, using a unique business model offering pastries made to order.
The Cronut’s success, spurred by its exclusivity and monthly roster of changing flavors, spawned so many copycat products that Ansel felt moved to copyright the name.
But the 37-year-old has since refused to trade on old glories, following up the Cronut with a range of bold and playful pastries. Now he believes the launch of Dominique Ansel Bakery Japan gives him the chance to push the envelope further.
“I’m very excited and looking forward to coming to Tokyo to open with the team,” Ansel tells The Japan Times. “All of our chefs and our manager came to New York to train for a few months with us, and some of our chefs are already in Tokyo now preparing for the opening. Everyone is very excited and we’re looking forward to a beautiful opening.”
Ansel says that Tokyo customers can look forward to “creative pastries.”
“We are always creative and innovative when it comes to pastry. People will see pastries that they don’t see anywhere else — things that are really interesting and exciting, that mix cultures and technique.”
Alongside the Cronut, the Tokyo lineup will include other Ansel favorites such as the Frozen S’more, a ice-cold marshmallow wrapped around chocolate wafers and custard ice cream, and the Cookie Shot, where the customer downs vanilla-infused milk from a small chocolate-chip-cookie cup.
Ansel is also promising exclusive items with a distinctly Japanese theme, but won’t disclose the details just yet.
“We are still working on a few Tokyo-only items,” he says. “It’s important to me to look into the traditions of Japanese culture, but also the techniques that are used. There are a few Japanese ingredients I am working with. I am trying to surprise people — it’s going to be a little bit of a surprise for everyone.”
Ansel also knows that what works in New York may not necessarily translate to the Japanese market, and intends to adjust his recipes accordingly.
“I have turned down the sugar level quite a bit,” he says. “I think it’s important to have a product that’s really good without having too much sugar. And something that matches Japanese culture — not too much sugar but more focused on the quality and the taste.”
The Tokyo bakery is housed in a three-story standalone building with two dining rooms and an upstairs kitchen, seats 88, and takes inspiration from subway stations, park spaces and Japanese tea rooms in its interior design.
Ansel has chosen Laurie Jon Moran as the head chef of the new bakery. Moran previously worked under Ansel at Daniel in New York before becoming executive pastry chef at both Le Bernardin and Quince.
The new venture expands Ansel’s business empire to three establishments, but he admits he is happiest in the kitchen.
“It’s two different jobs being a business owner and being a pastry chef,” he says. “I think being a pastry chef is a little bit easier because the only things you have to worry about are the kitchen and the team and the menu. Of course when you run a business there are so many more things that you have to worry about.”
Ansel acknowledges how much he owes to the phenomenal success of the Cronut, but refuses to let it define him.
“I think that the Cronut was a beautiful creation and I’m very happy and excited that it went the way it did,” he says. “I think it just opened doors to so many more things, so many opportunities for us to be creative. When you see people lining up outside the shop every morning, you push yourself to be better and work harder creating new things.”
The success of the Cronut was not without its controversy, however, as imitations popped up worldwide.
“When people take ideas as inspiration and they do other things with it, that’s one thing,” he says. “But when it’s just a copy to trick the customer into thinking it’s the same product, that’s not good.”
Now, however, Ansel’s mind is on other things. The launch of Dominique Ansel Bakery Japan puts Tokyo at the forefront of his thoughts, but the chef is not about to complain if it means having to spend more time in the city.
“I love so many things about Tokyo,” he says. “More than anything else, it’s a place where I get a lot of inspiration. I love the food, I love learning about the culture and I love the dedication that people have for food.”
Dominique Ansel Japan is located at 5-7-14 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo; 03 3486 1329. For more information, visit www.dominiqueanseljapan.com.