Last night at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Top Chef judge Gail Simmons sat down with pastry wizard Dominique Ansel to chat about his highly anticipated cookbook, Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes, which hit shelves this past Tuesday. The duo discussed everything from Ansel's unlikely source of inspiration to the importance of innovation in the kitchen, and of course, the Cronut, Ansel's famed creation that Simmons notes "took the world by storm."
Below, the best quotes from the night:
1.) Ansel, on the importance of innovation in his kitchen: "To me it was always frustrating, because I had my ideas and I wanted to share it and I wanted to make things better. I want a staff that will grow with me, and that will give them best of themselves to make the whole kitchen better. Encouraging them to participate in making new things does that."
2.) Ansel, on the differences between working in a bakery versus a restaurant: "When you work in a bakery you have a schedule, you know what you are going to make for the day and the week. When you work in a restaurant...it's all about the flow, and service. Everything is delicate, everything is complicated. A pastry chef in a bakery can't necessarily do what a pastry chef in a restaurant does."
3.) Ansel, on the challenges of adapting his recipes for the home cook: "I actually made all the recipes at home, and trust me, the first few times they were not a success... New York kitchens are very very tiny. There's no counter space...the oven doesn't always work, the fridge is too full."
4.) Simmons, on her NYC conspiracy theory: "I used to believe...that New York was designed as a conspiracy between architects and restaurateurs to force you to eat out all the time because no one has a normal kitchen."
5.) Simmons, on Ansel's ability to reinvent desserts: "It seems like your goal is to often take a dessert that everyone knows but that no one questions and to question it a little more."
6.) Ansel, on the name of the book : "In many many kitchens, chefs keep their recipes [too secret] and hold it for themselves...I think that this era is gone, this world is [now] so open. Kids can go online and find a recipe in a few seconds...this a world in which you have to share what you've learned and keep moving on to grow."
7.) Simmons, on the Cronut: "I can't think of a single pastry ever in existence that has had this much impact on popular culture."
8.) Ansel, on the unexpected success of the Cronut: "At the time [when the Cronut was first released] I only had two people to open the shop with me, and two people in the kitchen. So I had to do a motivational speech every morning to remind them that things would be okay even though there were huge lines outside."
9.) Ansel, on whether or not his father has had a Cronut: "No, he didn't want to wait in line."
10.) Ansel, on fingernail art, his unlikely source of inspiration: "I look at it and I see a lot of techniques and a lot of things I could eventually, someday I could use in the kitchen. It's detailed, and small, and pretty, and beautiful."