A former soap opera actress who became a cook who documented her stages at Alinea, the French Laundry, and Noma on her blog has now taken to Twitter in an attempt to set the record straight about cronuts. Najat Kaanache, who's the chef of Private Social in Dallas, says that not only did she invent the cronut, but she also wants the world to know she was serving them as far back as February, Leslie Brenner of the Dallas Morning News reports. That's three months before Dominique Ansel started rolling out his custom laminated dough and making the doughnut-croissant hybrid at his Soho bakery.
Kaanache has been tweeting at a lot of journalists (including Anderson Cooper) with urgent cronut-themed messages like this:
@katiebindley Genius, I'm happy for Ansel but I invented "Cronuts"; they've been on my menu for months. Just good 4 you to know the truth.Najat Kaanache(@ThePilgrimChef) June 7, 2013
Finally, also, this:
Which, when Anderson Cooper doesn't get back to her, seems to prompt loopy tweets like this:
TODAY thE tASTING mENU wiLL hAVE thE Sweet Version of Cronuts !Najat Kaanache(@ThePilgrimChef) June 8, 2013
But it turns out that the chef, who specializes in a brand of modernist food that looks to be somewhere on the spectrum of a Rube Goldberg fever dream and a rough draft at Alinea and is "frequently likened" to Frida Kahlo, also happens to be speaking the truth sort of. Leslie Brenner writes that she ate a few iterations of Kaanache's cronuts earlier this year, and while the paper's scathing one-star review did not mention them by name, the Morning News critic says they were called "cronuts" on the menu. However, she writes, "I can tell you with absolute certainty that Kaanaches cronuts have nothing to do with the cronuts that are making such a huge splash nationally."
The similarities end with the name, apparently. Brenner found the cronuts at PS weren't really sweet or savory; more than anything, she writes, they resembled "cake-like fritters." Kaanache laced a wire through her "cronuts" and served them dangling from a hook. (You can check that out here to get a better sense of the presentation.) The cronut was crawfish-flavored on one visit. Another time, they were served with a curry cream made with honey.
The restaurant has overhauled and replaced the modernist format after the review, Brenner writes, and Kaanache's cronuts are no longer served every day. They live on in legend, however, and on Twitter. So what's next for the chef's quixotic quest for restitution? "I will continue to make them and sell them with full protection of the law regardless of any subsequent trademark attempts," the chef tells Side Dish, adding:
There is only one original. I dont allege plagiarism against anyone Im just protecting my right to market and sell my creation. I will be happy to make a batch for you. I already offered to send some to poor Anderson Cooper who so publicly missed out on the NY cronuts for his birthday:)
How sweet. But it's more like a chicken-curry-honey sweet, not an arguably more adept lemon-maple one.
Letting the air out of Najat Kaanaches cronut scandal [Dallas News]
Private Social in Dallas Chef Najat Kaanache Claims: I Invented The Cronut! [Side Dish/D Magazine]
Related: Bustling Cronut Business Spawns Copycat Doissant Industry