Some things never change--that is, unless you're Dominique Ansel, in which case they change all the time. Every six to eight weeks, the chef and owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery rotates his menu, doing away with items customers love for the sake of keeping them--and him--on their toes.
It's an arduous task replacing items so often, but it's one Ansel's come to respect. More than anyone, Ansel believes that change is good, and more than anyone, he embodies this ethos.
Ansel, whose cronut became the poster pastry for food fads across the country last year, has earned numerous accolades for his creative spirit, including this year's James Beard award for the country's most outstanding pastry chef. At the heart of Ansel's creativity, he told Inc. recently, is his desire to push himself further, make pastries more fun, and challenge his team of bakers to think deeply about what they create.
Here, in his own words, are a few of the ways in which innovation inspires the chef's work:
Change keeps things interesting
"I think that's what keeps me very excited here. My customers love change. I remember in the beginning people were surprised to see the pastries they liked [disappear]. They didn't understand. But now we see the same people coming back with friends and with family and being so excited about the new items on the menu."
Change brings improvements
"Most of the time when we think of a new menu, I will sit down with my chef and my sous-chef and we'll think about ideas that could work--combination, flavor, texture, the way it looks. We'll brainstorm and come up with a first tasting, then we'll eventually have a second tasting, and a third one if we need. In between, we'll ask our staff to work with us on the recipe, to perfect it, tweak it, and also if they have ideas."
Change keeps staff engaged
"In a lot of pastry shops in France, you'll be asked to just produce. They give you a recipe and you just make the recipe, and that's all you do. I want my team to be a bit different. I want them to be truly involved and to work differently. I believe we're a new generation of pastry chefs ... I believe pastry is a job where you have to be passionate, you have to really love what you do. It's not easy: You work long hours, you work weekends, holidays, and you don't see much of your family or your friends. It's a job that requires a lot of commitment and I think involving my staff in all the creative aspects and not only the production is important to me. It keeps them excited about what they do."