Treat Maker Sweet on L.A. as New Bakery’s Home


The inventor of the Cronut is coming to Los Angeles.

Chef Dominique Ansel said last week that he will open the fourth and largest outpost of his eponymous New York-based bakery in Los Angeles this year. Ansel, 39, will also open his first sit-down restaurant at the same spot as the new outpost.

He plans to announce the location in the spring.

“I’m most excited about the restaurant,” said Ansel. “Opening a restaurant has always been a dream of mine. The space in L.A. provides the opportunity.”

Ansel said that it would be harder to open such a sit-down restaurant, which is planned at more than 4,000 square feet, in New York, where space is at a premium. Although he has already secured the L.A. location, he’s waiting to announce it out of deference to the current tenant. The restaurant will serve savory foods, cocktails, and brunch.

Although trained as a chef, Ansel got side-tracked in the realm of sweets when he opened the Dominque Ansel Bakery in SoHo in 2011. That was where, a couple of years later, he came up with the Cronut, a croissant-donut hybrid, after an employee suggested he serve donuts.

“I’m French, so I don’t have any recipes for donuts,” said Ansel. “So I came up with the Cronut and it took off by storm.”

After the delicacy’s strong reception, Ansel quickly trademarked the name. The treat was so popular that he raised $100,000 for charity in 2013 from the sale of 24 Cronuts, which normally sell for $5.75, according to the bakery’s website.

Ansel also got his first taste of Los Angeles that year when he opened a one-day pop-up shop at the Grove in L.A.’s Fairfax District and donated the proceeds to charity. More than 750 customers lined up, starting at 2 a.m. in the rain, according to the bakery.

“I was doing it for charity,” said Ansel. “But, of course, I saw how great the reception was, how much people enjoyed our pastries, how people knew about us, and it was something I kept at the back of my mind over the years.”

Ansel opened a store in Tokyo more than two years ago and a shop in London last year. He is scheduled to open a second Tokyo store at the end of this month.

The chef, who served as executive pastry chef at celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s Michelin-starred New York restaurant Daniel before opening his bakery, has been choosy about shop locations.

“It’s important for me to be mindful of where we open,” said Ansel. “I want to make sure the places we go to love us and we understand our customers.”

Ansel declined to provide any financial figures, but said his New York store averages about 200 customers a day.

The L.A. bakery will sell Cronuts and other signature treats, including frozen s’mores and cookie shots as well as some creations made just for the city.

“We always challenge ourselves to change the menu and incorporate local ingredients,” said Ansel.

Something Brewing

When Herbert and Mona Hyman turned their office coffee supply business into a café in Brentwood in 1968, gourmet coffee identified by its origins was fairly novel. The world has changed a lot since then, and the business has grown to become an international chain with about 1,000 coffee shops. Now, it is looking to refresh the branding at corporate-owned stores in Southern California.

“We’re a much older brand in Los Angeles,” said Tim Welsh, vice president of development at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. “We wanted to give it some new life, a refresh in Los Angeles and Southern California.”

In 1998, the Hymans sold their company to Singaporean concert promoter Victor Sassoon. Several private equity firms have since bought stakes in parent company International Coffee & Tea.

The Miracle Mile-headquartered company, which according to its website has its greatest concentration of stores in Southern California, spent the past year conducting focus groups to home in on what customers love and what they want more of.

“Part of being in Southern California is that it’s sunny, happy, and bright,” said Welsh. “We developed a look that is fresher and brighter.” (See story Page 1.)

The focus groups said customers want more charging stations and better Wi-Fi.

Other changes include a new logo, which the company has started printing on its packaging, and allowing baristas to dress more casually and ditch their branded caps.

“We’re trying to be more a part of the community, more relevant,” said Welsh, adding that individual stores might differ a little.

The chain will spend the next year rolling out the changes at the Southern California locations, testing to see if they resonate with customers. After that, its U.S. franchise locations outside of California will follow, and then possibly the company’s franchisees in Asia, which has the company’s second-largest concentration of stores, according to its website.

Staff reporter Caroline Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or (323) 556-8329.

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