Inside Staff Meal at Dominique Ansel Bakery: Sweet and Savory

by Deanna Dong
Antoinette Bruno
July 2012

Biography

Staff Meal Details

Chef Dominique Ansel weighs in.

Staff meal food costs:
I don’t have exact figures.

Size of staff meal:
12 people.

Time of staff meal:
10:45am to 11:45am for lunch; 4pm to 5:30pm for dinner.

Worst staff meal:
That was not here at the bakery. I’ve had some bad staff meals before.

Favorite staff meal ever:
In one of my first jobs in the kitchen in France, my chef made me a croque monsieur one night. He showed me how he would soak the bread in milk and seasoning so that it was almost custardy and [like] French toast when we made the final sandwich. It was really good, and it’s what inspired the way I make our croque monsieur here at the bakery.

Sample Ansel's pastry prowess during his hands-on workshop at the 7th Annual StarChefs.com International Chefs Congress.

Unlike traditional restaurants with lulls between service, bakeries and other sweets-focused retail establishments rarely organize staff meals. Instead, chefs routinely fend for themselves, often nibbling on homemade snacks or takeout from neighboring restaurants.

At Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York, however, staff meal is not only a part of the daily routine, it's a priority. Traditionally, staff meals are a cost-effective strategy for using scraps and leftovers, but Pastry Chef-owner Dominique Ansel believes in cooking with fresh ingredients to feed his team. "I think it's important that we serve [the] staff good quality food, and not just leftovers," says Ansel. "It's important for their health and also for developing their palate[s]. You can't cook good food unless you also eat good food."

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Pasta, Mixed Greens Salad, and Garlic Bread

When the bakery first opened last October, the Roasted Pork Club, a customer favorite, was often requested for family meal. But the team's dishes have since moved beyond menu items. Cooks rotate through the stations, and whoever is working the savory station is responsible for cooking family meal. Typical dishes include pizzas, fried eggs, and merguez sausages ("from a really lovely butcher just a block away on Sullivan Street"), and kimchi-fried rice.

Inspiration often comes from the various products the kitchen is testing (the bakery's menu changes every six to eight weeks). "If a supplier sends us some chicken to try out, we may braise it in a stew or sear it up with some olives [for staff meal]," says Ansel. On our recent visit, the kitchen had received a large batch of bread from a new supplier and some tomatoes for gazpacho soup. Those goods turned into a staff meal of pasta, salad, and garlic bread.

While the staff may fuel up on these savory dishes, sweets inevitably make an appearance in their diets. The team tastes new dessert items every week, and cake is served on every staff birthday. "We just made what we call 'The World's Biggest Ice Cream Sandwich,' which has four flavors of homemade ice cream inside a macaroon shell. We all had that for an afternoon picker-upper," says Ansel.

Savory staff meals with pastry tastings? The staff at Dominique Ansel Bakery has the best of both worlds.

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