Courtesy of The Balvenie

It's part of Bourdain's newest series of Raw Craft

Noah Kaufman
October 18, 2017

Anyone who has spent time watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservation or Parts Unknown, knows that the chef, traveler, raconteur and semi-professional curmudgeon often digs into the story behind his subjects.  In those shows, he also takes a keen interest in those people who have dedicated their lives to making something and making it well, be they chefs, butchers, winemakers or whoever else. So Bourdain is a natural fit as host for Raw Craft, his collaboration with whisky makers The Balvenie, exploring craftsmen who often work beyond his usual purview of food, drink and travel. The series recently launched its third season, which follows Bourdain as he meets Brooklyn tattoo artist Takashi Matsuba, Los Angeles motorcycle builder Max Hazan, Massachusetts drum maker SJC Drums and, here, the youngest person ever named World’s Best Pastry Chef, Dominique Ansel.

Ansel is, of course, best known for unleashing the Cronut on the world, but in typical Bourdain fashion he’s not really interested in the lineup of viral, trendy desserts Ansel has created over the last several years (besides the Cronut. Ansel has also made headlines for his milk and cookie shots, his frozen s’mores and plenty more). Instead, Bourdain focuses his energy on what he calls, “the sleeper hit” of Ansel’s menu—the DKA. It’s Ansel’s riff on the classic Kouign-Amann, a flaky, caramelized pastry that looks sort of like a squished croissant. Ansel himself told Food & Wine that he thought the DKA was the best pastry he has on offer. And watching the video you get a real sense of how much work really goes into making just a single round of DKAs. If you have never tried to make flaky pastry before, this will either make you run out and try it immediately or get you to swear it off forever. Once Ansel mixes the dough, he must rest and chill it before bringing it out and “folding” it—making layers of dough and butter by rolling the dough and butter on top of each other repeatedly. Bourdain looks a bit winded trying to keep up with the pastry chef. Then there is another round of chilling followed by shaping and finally baking. It’s why Ansel still wakes up before 4 A.M. every morning.

While they’re sharing a cup of coffee Ansel says he remembers when Bourdain told him that his tombstone would say Dominique Ansel: Creator of the Cronut. “It got to me and haunted me for a long time,” the star pastry chef says. But even as the lines continue to stretch out the door each day for Cronuts, watching Ansel coax Bourdain into what he calls a little bit of pastry “magic,” shows you how much more Ansel contributes every day to the food world.

You can find more episodes of The Balvenie’s Raw Craft With Anthony Bourdain at rawcraft.us and, if you’re there early enough, you can find a DKA at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho or order them online.