You may not think a baker and a fitness trainer have much in common. But that’s exactly why Gunnar Peterson, Hollywood’s hottest fitness trainer, and Dominique Ansel, a world-class baker, make a tremendous team. Peterson is known for sculpting the bodies of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Hugh Jackman, while Ansel created and sculpted the glorious and highly coveted Cronut. To generate unconventional thinking, Hyatt Regency hotels paired up this unlikely duo to brainstorm ideas on how to make the hotel experience even better for business travelers.
Despite coming from different worlds, Ansel and Peterson have a shared identity: entrepreneurs who’ve elevated their fields through hard work, discipline, and a devotion to creativity. Here, they show how they approach their work and where they get their best ideas.
Dominique Ansel: No one can prepare for the kind of success we experienced with the Cronut. It was so special and so sudden. At the time, I only had four employees at the bakery. I was the one cleaning the dishes, mopping the floors. It was overwhelming. I tried to step back, stay calm, and remember what’s important–being mindful and respectful of my staff and my customers. It’s not about the volume or cashing out; it’s about growing slow and steady. You have to stay yourself. You have to be humble and kind, and not get distracted by everything else.
Gunnar Peterson: Sometimes I’ll read about someone in my industry climbing up the food chain, and I’ll worry about being passed by. But I remind myself what they say in golf: You’re not playing against the other golfers. You’re playing against yourself. And against the course. The only thing I can control is how good I am. Anyone who’s made it to the top, whether you think they’re great or terrible, they’ve worked hard to get there. I take inspiration from them. I don’t steal from them or covet their successes, but I see what’s good about what they’re doing and ask what I can apply to my own world.
Ansel: My best ideas come from traveling. I get to step back from daily operations and open my mind even more to different people, different ideas, and different cultures. It’s important to be flexible in learning and also to connect with people locally. Before I opened my Tokyo shop, I traveled a lot around Japan trying traditional sweets, which are so different from what we know. I wanted to learn–what makes this food special to people? Whether I’m in Japan, New York, or London, it’s important for me to get to know the culture. It’s not about just eating food, but understanding what about it makes that emotional connection.
Peterson: Fitness, like a lot of industries, is very trend-driven. I don’t dismiss trends. I keep an open mind–everything is worth looking into. I’ll read any article, listen to podcasts, go to seminars. I’ll read about anyone’s journey or transformation. I ask why a new trend is on the radar right now. Does it work? I look to see what sticks around. At the end of the day, it’s about results and what people will actually do. When trends fall off, there’s a flight to quality, and you see what’s tried and true.
Ansel: In business, culture is everything. I grew up in kitchens that were very tough. But I want people to be happy to come to work, to be learning and growing. We’re part of a new generation of chefs who can make changes. In my kitchens, there is no swearing, no yelling–it’s forbidden. Anyone can ask any question at any time. There’s still discipline and organization, but when people are excited and feel a part of the growth, they become better chefs and stronger people. It changes the energy of the entire business.
Peterson: Discipline comes down to choices. You have a choice, as my dad always said, between two ways of doing things: right or over. When you get to a point in your life or your career where time is an important commodity, discipline can lend a big hand in time management. It becomes crucial to do things right the first time, instead of spending the time doing them again. Even simple things at home matter. The time it takes to refold a shirt or put something away that was left out adds up over a week or a month, and that’s time I can spend with my kids or catching up on sleep.
Ansel: I push for a world that’s beyond what people think about food. I make a point to remember that there’s more than we know today. I push for innovation, I push for creativity. There’s always more we can challenge ourselves to do, to see, to discover. It doesn’t happen in one day. When people eat our food, they smile, sometimes there are even tears, which is emotional for me too, to see how much you can affect someone’s life and thinking when it comes to food. We are not making food just to feed people. We’re making an experience.
This article was created and commissioned by Hyatt, and the views expressed are their own.