Editor’s Note: Ansel’s long-awaited bakery opens November 3.
When I read a few months ago that Dominique Ansel was opening a bakery at the Grove, I knew I wanted to be the first Angeleno to kiss up to him. I surely didn’t want to repeat my mistake from 2013, when my crusty-eyed son and I shuffled into his eponymous New York bakery one morning only to find that his famed Cronuts were sold out.
His croissants were fine consolations, but I longed to try the mad baker’s crazier inventions. The man named Best Pastry Chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants committee this year has dreamed up a cookie cup filled with vanilla milk, a frozen s’more, and a “magic soufflé” that doesn’t collapse.
But when I meet Ansel and his partner, Amy Ma, in Griffith Park, I am reminded of the adage “Do not meet your pastry heroes.” Ansel is not the Willy Wonka nutjob I expected. He is cheery and a little romantic (he changes the Cronut flavor monthly), but mostly he is an obsessive hard worker from a tough suburb of Paris. He built his first bakery himself, even doing the plumbing and electrical. He peeled foam from the ceiling pipes and piled it on the floor so he could sleep there. “Dude, you were a straight-up hamster,” Ma says to him as we sip coffee at the Trails Café.
His L.A. spot, 189 by Dominique Ansel (the number is the address of his first bakery), will be his largest yet, with his first-ever restaurant upstairs. He’ll serve rustic small plates, like young rotisserie chicken with a shot of chicken jus you’re supposed to drink. (I’m willing to mainline chicken jus if it gets me pastries.)
Ansel and Ma plan to spend six months a year here, and they seem excited. So I point them toward a Griffith Observatory hiking trail and implore them to eat tacos at Salazar along the L.A. River. Yet all my ass-kissing is for naught. There is a strict no-cutting rule at his bakeries. Ansel says his commitment to equal hospitality has lost him friends, but he remains firm. His message to the glitterati: Don’t expect special treatment.
And that’s when I realize that no matter how good his food, he’s never going to make it in this town.
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