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The Cronut inventor is in town tonight, with (non-Cronut) samples

Photo of Dominique Ansel by Dimitrios Kambouris (Getty Images for Dominique Ansel)
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Dominique Ansel could discover Atlantis, cure cancer and marry a Kardashian, and he’d still be known as “that Cronut guy.” But the New York City-based pastry chef is no one-hit wonder. His new cookbook, “The Secret Recipes,” is full of recipes ranging from easy (hot chocolate) to nearly impossible (baked Alaska). Ansel will talk shop, sign books and dish out samples Thursday at a Smithsonian Associates event.

Where did you get your culinary start?
I was very young. I was barely 19. Fauchon [an acclaimed chain of gourmet markets in France] hired 20 people the same day and told us only three of us would be hired after the holiday season. After a few weeks, they decided to keep only one. It was me.

What set you apart from the others?
I’m a quick learner. Very early on I was asking a lot of questions and working hard and being fast and clean. After a few months, I was in charge of six people, all older than me.

Daniel Boulud wrote the foreword to your book, and you list him as “Papa” in  the acknowledgements.
I was with him for six years [at Daniel, Boulud’s fine dining restaurant in New York City]. I was one of the longest standing pastry chefs there. Daniel is a nice guy with a big heart.

Describe a typical line at Dominique Ansel Bakery.
There are usually 100 to 200 people lined up before we open the door. Last year we had 7 inches of snow, and all the businesses and transportations were closed. It was the longest line of the winter. Everyone assumed no one would come out in the snow.

Brave souls!
For me it’s important to take care of my customers when they get to the bakery, not only when they come inside the shop. So we gave them coffee, madeleines, hand warmers. Sometimes when the weather is bad, we’ll come out with blankets. Taking care of my customers is very important.

You include an at-home recipe for the Cronut in your book. Why give away your secret?
I grew up in kitchens where people wouldn’t share their recipes, and at the bakery I don’t want to work like that. My staff has access to all the recipes. Everything is out there, you just have to know how to be a good chef and create.

What are your thoughts on all the Cronut impersonators?
Every respectable chef will not do anything like this. It’s better to be creative on your own.

S. Dillon Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW; Thu., 6:45-8:45 p.m., $30. More information here.

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