Dominique Ansel on the launch of his UK bakery
The renowned pastry chef – and inventor of the cronut – on bringing a flavour of his innovative culinary creations to London
I started working in the kitchen less out of choice and more because my parents couldn't afford to give me more of an education. I started to look for a job at a young age and thought working in a restaurant would be easy - but, of course, I was wrong. At the same time, I went to culinary school as part of a local initiative for families that didn't have much money. I decided to learn more about cooking, specifically baking, so I then enrolled in a programme for a year in my hometown in France and I really loved it. With the money I earned, I bought a small car and drove to Paris, without knowing anyone. I just had a paper map and I would drive around the city completely lost. I would jump out and drop off CVs and a week later, I got a job offer and started in a small bakery.
After a year in Paris, I began to work for Fauchon. I started on 1 September 1999 and was one of 30 people they hired for the holidays. They said they would keep three and then, after that, only one. It was really challenging but they offered me the position. I was meant to stay for four months; I ended up staying for eight years.
In 2006, I received a call from Daniel Boulud asking me if I would come and work with him in New York. I didn't have any experience as a chef in a fine-dining restaurant, but he invited me to do a tasting for him so I made a series of desserts, which he loved, and he offered me a job on the spot. Eight weeks later, I was in New York with my suitcases. I learnt a lot from Daniel – not just technical skills, but also about how to please customers.
I spent almost six years there, during which we earned our third Michelin star – one of the biggest accomplishments in a chef's career. Under Daniel, I developed a lot professionally and wanted to continue challenging myself, which is why I founded my own shop in 2011. Since we opened, we've constantly been inventing new pastries and changing the menu. The success of the cronut – a hybrid between a croissant and a doughnut – was a nice surprise. I remember a blogger put up a picture of it and he phoned me a few hours later and said it had gone viral. By the third day, we had more than 100 people waiting outside for one. It's not something anyone can plan.
We have continued to grow over the past few years, first with another location in New York and then in Japan. We are now very excited to be launching a new store in London – our first in Europe. I think it is one of the most attractive cities in the world when it comes to food, with a very international outlook. I even tried my first Sri Lankan cuisine here. Setting up in the capital has been an amazing chance to learn about the tradition and culture of the food and it's always inspiring for me to see what other chefs are doing.
We will be bringing over some of our most loved items from New York, such as our Frozen S'Mores, DKA – which stands for Dominique's Kouign Amann, one of my personal favourites – and, of course, the cronut. But more than 30 per cent of the menu will be dedicated to those items created exclusively for London and influenced by the local cuisine – from savouries such as a Welsh rarebit croissant to desserts including an Eton mess lunchbox, which draws on the concept of Korean lunchboxes, in which the ingredients are shaken up before you eat them.
I've always been interested in the emotional connection with food and this is something I hope to bring to London. At the end of the day, nothing makes me happier than to see someone with a huge smile on their face after they've tasted one of my pastries.
New York-based pastry chef DOMINIQUE ANSEL is known for his creative approach and hybrid pastries, the most famous of which is the cronut, combining a croissant and a doughnut. A new London outpost of the Dominique Ansel Bakery will open on 30 September; dominiqueansellondon.com