Having a small kiosk in South Park Mall has opened new doors for pastry chef Sadruddin Abdullah and his wife, who started their own baking business, Dessert Specialists (www.dessertspecialists.com) six years ago in Charlotte. One stroll past the couple's Café Ganache kiosk and you'll be stopping to peek into the glass display case that looks like it should be housing jewelry. Interior mirrors create an illusion of more goodies than there actually are in each compartment of the three-sided case that's filled with gems like cronuts, — a combination of a croissant and doughnut — macaroons, flaky pastries and other baked goods.
Abdullah, a culinary school graduate of University of Alaska and Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island, taught at Johnson & Wales (both in Providence and Charlotte) before opening his own biz. While he creates monthly twists to his cronut staple, there are always plenty of originals available to take home.
"I'm the kind of person that likes vanilla ice cream and chocolate ice cream. I want to see what you got," says Abdullah. "To me, the best cronut is the plain cronut because you get to see it without all the extra garnishes and fillings and glazes. You really get to the essence of what a cronut is."
Creative Loafing: Cronuts are one of your best selling products. How did you come across them?
Sadruddin Abdullah: My wife came across cronuts in a magazine and went to New York and bought a couple and brought them back. She waited in line for four hours and all of the stuff that you have to do in New York City to get a cronut from Dominique Ansel [Bakery]. She brought the cronuts back and we dissected them and figured out how to make them. There's just no limits to what you can do with a cronut, which is one of the things that makes it so exciting.
Was there anyone who inspired you to become a pastry chef?
I met a guy who is a chef. His name is Frenchy and he competed as a sugar artist at a national level up in Anchorage, Alaska. We became friends and I started helping him prep for his competitions. If he was going to do a flower bouquet, I would help him make the flowers or maybe I would punch out the leaves or whatever it was that had to be done. Over the course of time, I became really interested in blowing and pulling sugar. So I started by making sugar sculptures. I did that for about a year before I ever baked anything. I didn't know how to bake a cake or cookies or chocolates or anything. I was just helping Frenchy at competitions. I continued to work with him and from there I got into the kitchen and started baking. Frenchy was really my inspiration and mentor and the person that motivated me to get into pastries at the time. I was 43 years old and had never baked anything in my life and he encouraged me to go to culinary school.
What was the biggest challenge in bringing your pastries and sweet treats to a small kiosk?
The challenge here was, since we don't have refrigeration, how do we sale cakes that can be kept without refrigeration? That was our mission here [pointing to a section of the kiosk filled with cakes, cookies and other items]. We had to create cakes or something that fits in the cake family that doesn't need refrigeration and doesn't have a lot of eggs, cream and mousse and stuff like that. Our solution was the tea cakes/coffee cakes, apple streusel tart, brownies, carrot cake, pumpkin cake and on the weekends we usually carry flourless chocolate cakes. We created a cake concept with large, medium and small things that don't need refrigeration but are also things that are attractive and something that someone would want to buy.