This week’s New Yorker is the food issue, which means that it contains one of the most New Yorker forms of gossip: Two well-heeled chefs locked in mortal combat. And the contestants this week are City Bakery’s Maury Rubin, the of the pretzel croissant, dissing Dominique Ansel, the man who launched the cronut. In Rubin’s assessment, though, Ansel’s deep-fried creation is only masking sub-par boulangerie skills. A feud is brewing that would make a very highbrow Food Network show, y’all.
The article itself is Adam Gopnik’s exploration of the recent franken-pastry crazy, one arguably set off by the massive success of the cronut. Basically, Rubin is pointing out that the cost of pastries is accelerating in direct proportion to the price of butter. Most pastries are roughly half butter, which means that they can get pretty expensive to produce quickly. Unless you make something, ahem, that people covet so much taht they don’t mind waiting in line at 7 a.m. to produce.
“I’m a student of bakeries and baking. When I hear somebody’s opened a new bakery, I love it—I’m there every time.” In that spirit, he went to Dominique Ansel’s shop, back in the pre-Cronut era. “I thought the pastry was terrible, and I thought his croissant was especially terrible,” Rubin says. “I wasn’t surprised, because he’s a high-end dessert-maker.” Ansel, he knew, had made his reputation as the pastry chef—i.e., dessert chef—at the restaurant Daniel. “It was no surprise that that person would be so bad at pâtisserie and boulangerie. They’re like cardiology and podiatry. That a pastry chef is going to make a lousy croissant? You know what? I’m not even going to hold that against him, because most people make lousy croissants. That made more sense to me than not, but I certainly noted that the viennoiserie was really underwhelming.”
Pause to note how amazingly snobby that insult was. Please report back what happens the next time you’re talking to a friend about a brunch restaurant and you pause to say “the viennoiserie was really underwhelming.” But it gets even shadier
Rubin says, “When the Cronut became a thing, I just thought, Oh, my God, that’s perfect! His croissant sucked, so he threw it in oil. And I think, Brilliant! He must have known, so he threw it in hot oil.”
Aw, daaaaamn. Your croissant is so bad you had to deep-fry it! Harsh. But that wasn’t even the end of the cronut-bashing. No, Rubin wouldn’t rest until he had compared the cronut to the most dreaded hybrid of all: “The Twist.”
“The Cronut thing is what a bunch of musicians felt when they first saw Chubby Checker,” he says. Chubby Checker, for the innocent, sang the early sixties hit “The Twist,” which managed to cheapen R. & B. and degrade American pop-dance music at the same time. “It’s still amazing to me how few places make really good pastry, and on the innovative front I may be a tough critic,” he says. “But I think there are no critics out there.”
But Ansel, who also gets an interview in the piece, seems pretty unphased by criticism of the cronut. Probably because he’s too busy swimming in his giant pool filled with money, Scrooge McDuck-style.