Dominique Ansel: "There’s nothing flattering about someone ripping off your product"

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel looks beyond Cronuts for his Treehouse bistro and bakery in London

Related tags: Pastry chef, Pastry, bakery, Bistro, London, Dominique Ansel

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel is looking beyond Cronuts for his second London opening, Treehouse in Covent Garden, which is part boutique bakery, part bistro.

Why Treehouse?
Because it suggests whimsy and adventure. I was interested in doing something in London that was more akin to the Dominique Ansel Kitchen in New York, but I didn’t want it to just feel like a fancy offshoot of the bakery in Belgravia. The idea was to create a broader menu that was elegant and exciting, and serve it in a uniquely playful space. The treehouse epitomises that sense of visual imagination, and when we acquired this two-story site in Covent Garden, I thought it was the perfect place to build one.

Was it always the plan to do something new this time around?
Yes and no. We had always thought about exploring new concepts as and when we grew the business in London, but securing the site first was key. My approach has always been to start with the location, and decide on the concept from there. 

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Tell us about the concept
During my career I’ve worked in a lot of big restaurant kitchens, and have seen so many different approaches and techniques to creating the perfect pastry. I wanted to do something, away from a more traditional bakery setting, where I could focus on my own methods. A pastry chef is one of the most important figures in a restaurant kitchen, because they’re working on multiple areas of the menu simultaneously. They’re making the breads; the pies; the pastas; and the puddings. There’s so much breadth in what you can do with pastry, and I wanted the menu at Treehouse to reflect that. Of course, making the doughs is a very visual process, and we’re fortunate to have an open kitchen so diners can experience the various preparation techniques. Having that was very important to me; all of my sites have open kitchens, as it allows for a more theatrical and exciting energy.

What’s on the menu?
There’s a real focus on experimenting with recipes. For example, there’s a mille-feuille, which we layer with chicken liver mousse and serve with a candied mandarin and a brown butter dust; a savoury take on a classic pastry dessert.  We’ve also got some pasta dishes. When I was training as a chef back in France, one of the first tasks I would do in the morning is make batches of fresh pasta; it’s a process that needs consistency, and a delicate touch, which is one of the hallmarks of a great pastry chef. One of the varieties we’ve created here is a two-tone caramelle that’s filled with a mix of ricotta and cashew, and served with a golden tomato and marjoram cream sauce.

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Is there a signature dish at Treehouse?
I don’t know if I’d call it the signature, but one of my favourite preparations for puff pastry is what’s known as inverse puff pastry, which means you put the butter on the outside prior to the lamination. It gives the dough a beautiful, buttery flavour and a fine, crispy texture that melts in the mouth. Here we’ve used that to create a vol-au-vent shell, which we fill with wild mushrooms, confit chicken and bechamel, and then serve at the table with a tarragon velouté

You’ve decided not to serve the famed Cronut at Treehouse, how come?
It’s very important for me to always be moving forward and exploring new ideas. Treehouse is similar to the New York Kitchen, but is isn’t really like anything I’ve done before, and I want it to be a place where I can show my guests something innovative and unexpected. 

The Cronut is notable for having its own trademark, what was the ethos behind that?
It’s something very personal to me. The Cronut is a product that represents both my French heritage and my time spent living and working in New York, and I wanted to protect it. The safeguarding of intellectual property is a common practise, more so than people think, and is something everyone should be mindful of. You see it a lot with food products sold in supermarkets, but I think chefs and creators working in kitchens need to also be aware of it as it can stop others from taking your creation and serving it as their own. I appreciate people saying that ‘imitation is a form of flattery’, but there’s nothing flattering about someone trying to rip off your product and use it to boost their own profits. 

What are your future plans?
We have just opened a bakery in Hong Kong and the initial reception has been great; we’re very fortunate to have a massive fanbase there. For me, now, the focus will be on ensuring we can retain the same high-level of quality across all of our bakery and café locations. We have built fantastic foundations, and it’s very important to keep focused on that. We do have plans to open in Dubai later this year, but beyond that it’s about honing our skills in all our sites in Asia, America and the UK.

24 Floral St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DP
dominiqueanseltreehouse.com

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