//Written by Swara Saraiya//
Perhaps the most irritating part of my job as a barista/cashier at Dominque Ansel Bakery is answering the constant question of “Do you have any Cronuts left?” The reply is always no, followed by a suggestion of coming back the next day between 6-7 AM and waiting, to which the reply always is “Is it worth the wait?”
Now that’s a harder question to answer. The idea of having to wait for your food is not a foreign concept in New York, or even America. Most people can recount a tale or two of having to wait thirty minutes, perhaps even two hours for a table on a busy night. However, I doubt many people can say they’ve waited that long at say, Dunkin’ Donuts. In a sense, that is exactly what is happening at 189 Spring Street; over two hundred people are lining up daily and waiting two to three hours before the store even opens for a glorified donut.
So what is it? Simply put, it is the lovechild between a croissant and a donut. To be fair though, the making of a Cronut is innovation at its finest and a culinary breakthrough invented by Chef Dominique Ansel, involving a three day process which includes frying laminate dough very precisely. But the average customer is not lining up to admire a work of culinary brilliance. Customers are lining up only so that they can say they’ve had a Cronut.
It is the first designer food. People are waiting, and buying the Cronut because of its value as a social status symbol. It is the food equivalent of a Chanel handbag, but for a fraction of the price. For $5.44 a piece and a bit of patience, the average man can partake in what has celebrities and the media going crazy. They can say they were a part of a phenomena that has literally taken the world, from Japan to France to even the most remote parts of the United States, by storm. By doing so, they can tap into a culture that was previously only reserved for the elite, become trendsetters and elevate themselves among their own social/friend groups as having tried the elusive Cronut. And that’s its charm. It’s not the taste –– Dominique Ansel could literally buy Krispy Kreme donuts and resell them under the moniker of Cronut and as long as they were sold in the trademark gold tulip boxes, customers would stay happy. Most customers have already decided their opinion on the baked good before they’ve even tried it. Some buy into the hype that it was “soo good” to validate themselves, while others will claim that it wasn’t that great because of either a desire to feel above what is mainstream, or it is literally impossible for any dessert to live up to their expectations. You have to remember, this is a baked good, not the cure to all of your problems.
The idea of a designer food is a trend that has been growing for some time; a few summers ago Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes had lines stretching for blocks as the world sought its cupcakes. Magnolia arguably started the idea of the cupcake as an “it” dessert. A few summers before that, it was Pinkberry’s frozen yogurt. It was the favorite lo-cal snack of celebrities and soon became the favorite of Weight Watchers, and people who could not appreciate the glory of fat and sugar everywhere. These never reached quite the level of hype that the Cronut has received though. That’s because they just weren’t exclusive enough. The Cronut is only sold at one bakery in the entire world, because it’s trademarked. Yes, like any designer good, there are knockoffs like doughssants or croissant holes and so on, but a knockoff is not the same as having the original. Nobody would say a Louis Vuitton bought off a shady dealer on Canal Street is the same as one bought in the Fifth Avenue flagship store. Similarly, while you may not have to wait for a doughssant, you can’t brag about it in the way you can brag about a Cronut.
This isn’t as horrible as it sounds. I’m not writing this to be a negative commentary on consumerist culture; while it does have its downsides, the Cronut craze is kind of exciting and interesting to observe. People have gotten insane about them: a few days ago a woman cut in line and lied to me to get Cronuts. The truth came out, and she was refunded and they were returned. Yes, there are many stories about people paying over $50 for a single Cronut, but there are good stories, and acts of kindness too. A week ago, I sold the day’s last Cronuts to a family with two young children around 9:30 AM. Right after, I had to tell a couple that had flown in to New York from Toronto on a private jet that we were sold out of Cronuts for the day. The family decided to share their Cronuts with them so their trip would not be in vain. The Cronut, like all food, has this mystical uniting quality. It brings people together from all parts of the world and all walks of life to try this popular baked good. The other day, Martha Stewart came in for Cappuccinos and a preordered set of Cronuts. Earlier that same day, a janitor from the building next door came in and had the same thing.
So, is it worth the wait? It’s not worth it if you don’t like food. It’s not worth it if you’ve resigned yourself to believing it can’t be worth the hype. Similarly, it’s not worth it if you’ve completely bought into the hype. It’s not worth it if you’re going just for the food. It is worth it, however, if you’re going for the experience–– going to try something new, to perhaps meet a few people and partake in a new cultural phenomena. So, I always smile and say it is, just in case that customer is one of those people.