James Mallios is the managing partner of Amali restaurant, a Mediterranean restaurant in Manhattan. He spent five years as a plaintiff-side lawyer for aggrieved employees in the securities business before turning to a career in restaurants. In this column, "The Restaurant Insider," he plans to demystify the restaurant experience. His opinions are his own and not associated with Amali and its sister restaurants.
I want to be Dominique Ansel, inventor of the cronut.
In fact, every restauranteur at this moment wants to be Dominique Ansel. There is not a restauranteur in New York with a pastry chef that isn’t kicking themselves right now for not thinking of this item. I can envision David Chang throwing pans at the Milk Bar test kitchen yelling, “CEREAL MILK! CEREAL MILK! WHAT &##$%#$%@! HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?" (As an aside, the Milkbar crack pie (which I enjoyed this weekend) can be described in my best Queens vernacular as “stupid good.” Cereal milk, on the other hand, will just never do it for me. I am convinced that no one really likes cereal milk. They like the idea of it. The two times I tasted it I thought of warm Saturday morning, Hanna Barbara, a sink of dirty bowls and warm, grey milk.)
Before the backlash begins (wait for it, wait for it. Yes, there we go) Chef Ansel should be commended. First, there is nothing to critique. It is a $5 pastry. It doesn’t warrant substantive review or comment above “delicious” or “eh - its ok.” Second, he managed to take two iconic pastries with a low food cost and combine them in a way that takes technique but still has mass appeal. This is no small feat. Third, he did it for a low cost food item. Brilliant. I have not had a cronut. I do not have time to wait three hours on line for a cronut, or for any food for that matter. No one who works in a serious management in the restaurant business has that time. That is the privilege of trustafarians in Williamsburg and investment banker foodies. If I couldn’t do it to see Plant and Page, I can’t do it for a pastry.
Critiques of the cronut remind me of when students criticized Jackson Pollock in my AP Art History Class at Bronx Science. “Anyone can throw paint at a canvas” was a critique, a common one heard in response to modern art. Mr. Schussel responded (with no small amount of flair). “Yes, but you didn’t think of it, did you?”