Most award-winning chefs let fame go to their heads, but fame isn't why pastry chef (and James Beard award-winner) Dominique Ansel is in business. He aims to delight, and if his customers aren't excited, he isn't going to be either. 

You probably know Ansel from the cronut craze he launched last year out of his cozy New York bakery. Nestled in the trendy Soho neighborhood, it's everything you would expect from a bakery--Easter-colored, dollhouse-like--and everything you would not. There are rows upon rows of glistening pastries, but a patio beckons customers to hang, sip coffee, and slurp waffogatos

With 100 to 200 customers waiting to get their cronut fix in the morning, it's clear that Ansel's strategy is working. But why? "I think to build a really strong brand there are no real secrets," he tells Inc. "We care a lot about our customers and the bakery." Here, in his own words, Ansel explains why catering to customers just works. 

On taking care of customers  

"With the bakery, I hope to give people a special experience. They line up very early in the morning. And for me, it's important to take care of them as soon as they come, as soon as they wait outside, not only when they walk into the shop. With between 100 to 200 people [waiting] in the morning, we give them madeleines, hot chocolate, hand warmers during the winter. We take very good care of them and make sure they have all information. We give them menus, we talk to them, and we let them know what new items we're doing. It's very important for me to interact with my customers, giving them new, different experiences when it comes to pastry, but also have them explore and enjoy pastry in a different way." 

On creating a casual space  

"There are a lot of French pastry shops where you walk in and it's very sealed, it's very clean, neat--just like walking into a jewelry shop. I didn't want people to have this feeling. I wanted a place where it was casual, it was fun, it's playing nice music. [Here], it feels like New York, like a coffeeshop in New York where you also have beautiful pastries."

On keeping quality high 

"Very often, every other day, we take a bunch of pastries from the case and I'll sit down with my chefs, cut it, eat it together, analyze it, and make sure [it has] the right consistency, the perfect texture, the right seasoning, and everything. And we always, always do tweaking and changes. That's only to get better."

The Life of a Chef is a Life of Commitment
Published on: Oct 1, 2014